Envy and jealousy: what hath realignment wrought edition

I don’t always see eye to eye with him politically, but, man, do I love reading Charles Pierce.  He’s angry, funny and insightful.  But more than anything, he’s a brilliant, brilliant writer.  When he’s not posting on politics at Esquire, he takes the occasional foray into sports at Grantland, where you shouldn’t miss him.  His take on the sad demise of the Big East in the wake of its losses from conference realignment may not break any new ground, but it’s undeniably eloquent.  For example,

The Big East is losing big teams and replacing them with smaller ones, because, as is the case with so many colleges in so many conferences around the country, the administrations of some of its members have let their greed eclipse both geography and common sense. Pittsburgh is leaving for the ACC, and West Virginia is joining the Big 12. The latter is a perfect measure for the silliness of the whole affair. The West Virginia fan base is famously fervent, and more than willing to travel, but the state’s median household income is $38,000 a year, and now, instead of trips to New Jersey and Philadelphia, those fervent fans will have to haul that fervor to Lubbock, and Waco, and Stillwater, Oklahoma. It is absurd, but conferences are nothing more these days than the staging areas for extended television programs, and the Mountaineers are simply moving their show to another studio.

That captures some of how I felt when I first heard about the end of the Oklahoma-Nebraska series.  I’m sure many find all this movement exciting, but it makes me more than a little sad to think about what we’re losing and what they’re replacing it with, even if they won’t come right out and say it.

… But most of the dynamic is propelled by the merciless drive for profit and the soulless imperatives that are engaged when sports becomes about “producing content” rather than playing the games. None of this is reversible anymore. None of this is escapable…

Rick Pitino, of all people, as a metaphor.  Make sure you read the whole thing.



Filed under Envy and Jealousy

18 responses to “Envy and jealousy: what hath realignment wrought edition

  1. TennesseeDawg

    Yeah, but they are doing it for the children.


  2. G Marmalarde

    At least Tex am and missou are southeasternish.


  3. JasonC

    I can see the Big12ish’s attendance numbers taking a tumble this year.


  4. Irishdawg

    I had similar feelings of dismay at the end of OK-Nebraska. That was a rivalry that was of major importance when I was a kid and just becoming a football fan. I always liked the Nebraska style of play and always rooted for them when I wasn’t watching Georgia play. Now that rivalry, as well as another great one in Texas-TAMU, are dead because of money.


  5. Faulkner

    I think Texas-TAMU and Kansas-Missouri are dead because of hurt feelings in the Big 12/10/9 (I can’t keep track). Those games are sell outs. Absolutely no reason they can’t keep playing them at the end of the year.


    • Exactly Faulkner. Who says an SEC West team can’t have a big year end out of conference rivalry where Texas plays A&M, and Kansas plays Mizzou, just like Ga/Ga Tech, Fla/FSU, and SC/Clemson, or even make it a season opener ala UK/Louisville.


  6. Adam

    Pierce is a good writer but like all things Grantland, the article is overdramatic and makes me want to gouge my eyes with a spoon. “Oh what has come of sports! Greed eclipsing geography and common sense the horror the children.”

    Presidents of (most) of these universities involved in realignment are seeking security, not short-term money. It’s not immediate dollars, except in the case of Texas (and they maintain security by way of invitation to any conference they want at any time), but security that has driven Nebraska, Colorado, Pitt, and Cuse into other conferences. All of these moves include more money, sure – but they also ended up in significantly more stable places where they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to play their sports and market their universities in the coming years. Regardless of everyone’s opinion of the ACC’s quality of play, they’re going to be a conference in 20 years. The same cannot be said of the Big East of Big 12 for 5 years.

    The SEC pays more than the Big 12, but money wasn’t the driving factor for A&M or Mizzou. They had a fractured relationship with their conference and wanted the hell out to a conference that provided stability. A&M in the SEC seems like a good fit to me and Mizzou was looking to go to the Big Ten or SEC, whoever wanted them. Pierce can point at how each program that moved will be paid more in their new conference as an indicator that greed was the cause of realignment but then he’s just another journalist that doesn’t follow college football closely enough to know what he’s talking about. It’s like saying Justin Timberlake left N’Sync for more money; sure, he’s making more money now, but it was also because he realized his boy band sucked and he couldn’t do that forever. The Big 12 and Big East are boy band conferences. I probably lost all credibility (if I had any) with my analogy there, but I thought it fit.

    Also, why the hell is Pierce talking about travel and using West Virginia as his example? It’s really so much tougher to get to Big 12 locations than Big East? Call me skeptical because Tampa (USF) and Dallas-FW (TCU) seem about the same to me. Lawrence is Kansas City (re: big airport). Have fun flying to Boise, Big East fans (re: tiny airport). East Carolina and UConn? Not quick drives from West Virginia in the first place. So according to Pierce they’re losing a short drive to…Rutgers? Mountaineers fans were screwed; at least they ended up in a higher-profile conference that’s good in the sport that matters.


  7. Mayorof Dawgtown

    “…none of this is escapable…” Sure it is. You just have to have conference leadership and university leadership that puts sportsmanship, integrity and intellectual honesty ahead of filthy lucre. That is where Mike Slive, Mike Adams, etc. fall short in the SEC and leadership in the Big East, Big 12, et al fall short as well.


  8. JRsec

    The shift in demographics is an indicator of the shift in wealth. Companies moved South, before they moved overseas. Therefore, jobs starting leaving the North thirty years ago, just like jobs started leaving the South about 15 years ago. There is always a lag time between paradigm shifts and population response. Now we see culturely locked Southern institutions considering moves never before imagined (acceptance of Pitt, Syracuse, and Mizzou) and culturely locked Northern institutions accepting changes never before imagined (Nebraska, Penn State) which only now look acceptable becaue of a couple of lapsed years.
    The really scary part of this is that there is no new fertile ground in the United States for producing liveable wages for the educated middle class. There are no independent business people who make enough to give large sums to their Alma Maters. There are only corporations from which giving has to be analyzed by teams of lawyers to find where ownership to intellectual property for the grant recipients may be forfeiited if the grant is accepted by the University, professors, or students.
    I submit that all of these moves in football are out of fear, even Longhorn Network. With the destruction of middle class jobs, the advantages granted corporations over independent businesses, the tax breaks given to corporations to locate to produce low paying jobs, and now the outsourcing of jobs, two terrible factors are forcing this change. 1. The loss of the ability to generate income sustainable for the population to thrive and support higher education. 2. The decline in the number of students who can afford higher education without the guarantee of sufficient employment to make that investment worthwhile.
    In the next two decades we are not only going to see further restructuring in our society, but you are going to witness the downsizing of education as a whole in this country. There will be University closings starting with Junior Colleges and ending with the dismantling of larger institutions. Small schools and private ones may be scrambling to get into the Big East today for football, praying that increased television revenue from sports will help them, but tomorrow they will be scrambling to get in anywhere there might be a share of grant money. After that they will be gone! No my friends these moves are not out of greed. I wish they were! I don’t condone greed, but I understand it and can cope with the greedy. These moves are out of desperation and I’ve never been able to cope with panic. It usually precedes destruction.