Thoughts for the Silly Season
by Jim Alderson, 7/11/01
It seems that in addition to being what I call the Dead Zone of sports, the summer months have also evolved into a Silly Season, as once again message boards bristle with posts concerning that ever-popular summer sport, the discussion of conference realignment. Yep, itís July, all right.
Every message board, it seems, is invaded by posters claiming to be partisans of another school eager to pass along "inside information" concerning high-level and top-secret discussions underway, which just happen to involve the object of the particular posterís athletic affection moving to the conference whose membership includes the invaded message boardís school. I would dearly love to have a dollar for every time I have read "I know for a fact" on a message board. Every time I read one of those posts, my reaction is that the poster has more than a peripheral involvement in what is being sung about on the MP3 currently playing on my Winamp, the Grateful Deadís "Casey Jones."
Today's popular realignment rumor is that Louisville is Big East bound. Does anybody, even those whose blood flows the reddest, honestly believe Louisville is on the verge of receiving a full invitation to the present Big East? The basketball conference is quite full, thank you, and, in case anybody hasnít noticed, the football side of the BE is dealing with the reduced television pie brought by the latest TV contract by reducing the number of slices. Any school desiring football membership will have to bring more in television monies to the table than they will receive. There are only two schools that can do that, and Louisville ain't one of them, and I donít read too many posts from fans of the ones that are, Notre Dame and Penn State, informing us that they will be joining soon. Even putting aside the rightful indignation and hostility even a mention of those rotten, dirty-dealing, two-timing scoundrels brings gushing forth like Old Faithful from Hokies (say what you mean, Atlee), adding Louisville to the current BE does not make economic sense, so there is little likelihood of it happening.
It does seem odd that the Cards would find themselves dissatisfied with their current conference situation, as CUSA is that wonderful athletic home that they went through no small amount of lying and back-stabbing to create. I would think they would be perfectly happy in their hand-picked league, especially since that inclusion in the BCS will probably be forthcoming in a couple of decades or so, certainly no more than five. I would also point out that the Virginia Tech experience in football, where a decade of hard work has resulted in us reaching the verge of inclusion among the nationís elite (obviously our quarterback situation indicates we are not quite there yet, but are very close), shows that there is a little more to it than stringing together a couple of 7-4 records and playing in some obscure bowl game, then suddenly declaring oneself an emerging football power. It also seems to me that while Cards partisans bend over backwards to point out that this is not your fatherís Louisville, with a change in administrations and the retirement of the evil Denny Crum creating a wonderful new environment of trust and potential conference camaraderie, the notion that so many of their fans seem perfectly willing to stab their CUSA fellows in the back indicates it is the same old Louisville to me.
That said, there indeed might be discussions going on between Mikey and Louisvilleís big birds. I would imagine the chief topic of discussion is not the Cards joining the existing BE football teams, but replacing them. Letís face it; the BE these days looks suspiciously like a conference that is sitting around waiting for its marquee football programs to be plucked, and may be planning (although that does seem an anathema to Mikey) for the day when Tech and the Canes may no longer prop up the football side of things.
While I claim no inside knowledge because I possess none, my idle speculation remains that the economics of a football championship game and the necessity to remain a viable BCS entry in a future college football landscape dominated by them will eventually force the ACC sometime this decade to expand to twelve teams, with the major questions being which school joins Tech and Miami in heading to the ACC ( recent scheduling announcements by Notre Dame, who will play a home and home against nearly every ACC team over the next decade, might be bringing that into focus), which of the four NO-voting North Carolina schools cracks first and votes for expansion ( with my money on NC State), and whether Wake Forest can survive the new economic model ( as Duke has a sufficient athletic endowment to continue fielding 0-11 football teams until they decide it is a really stupid activity to maintain, while the Deacons do not).
Be careful what you wish for, Louisville. You once wished to be in a CUSA without Tech, and you got it. My guess is, if you ever find yourself in the BE, it will again be without Tech, and, quite frankly, you need our football program these days a little more than the opposite. There was once a time when you felt our basketball program wasnít good enough for continued affiliation with your high and mighty institution, and our team was wrecked in the A-10 because of it. It is a different sport that is driving things these days, but:My, how things have changed.
Jim Alderson,who first made his mark with his biting political commentary on the A-Line email newsletter, also brings a unique, sarcastic, and well-informed perspective on college sports, particularly (1) Virginia Tech sports and (2) ACC sports. While Hokie fans currently have very little use for subject number 2, Alderson is an entertaining and informative columnist on subject number 1. For even more fun, visit Jim's A-Line home page.