Monday, June 14, 2010

The Great Big Ivy 8

TigerBlog thinks it was Chuck Yrigoyen, then with the Ivy League and now the commissioner of the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, who came up with the idea of changing the official name of the conference that Princeton is in to either "The Big Ivy" or "The Great Ivy."

Ultimately, that name was expanded to "The Great Big Ivy 8." Jokingly, of course.

TigerBlog always thinks to that exchange when the subject of conference realignments in college athletics comes up. While chaos reigns all around, there is no place more stable than the Great Big Ivy 8.

Let's see if TB has it all straight.

Nebraska has decided after 103 years of affiliation with the same basic core group of schools that it is clearly a much better fit for the Big 10, while Colorado has decided it would rather be the easternmost team in the Pac-10 rather than the westernmost team in the Big 12.

Texas, apparently loving its role as kingmaker, is at the center of the rest of what will happen. Will the Big 12 survive? Will Texas bolt with Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-10? Texas A&M feels it's a better fit for the SEC, so will the Aggies go that way?

And where does that leave Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri? And Iowa State?

And what about Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville? Will they end up in a supersized Big 10? If so, what happens to the Big East? Will Army and Navy end up in the Big East, at least for football?

And why is all of this happening? Why are schools willing to walk away from existing stability and decades-old rivalries and conferences?

Money, of course.

The Big 10 has hit it big with its TV network. The SEC just signed a mind-boggling TV contract. The Pac-10 is on the verge of going the Big 10 route.

As an aside, you can blame the Yankees for all this if you want, as they were the first to create their own network, which they then used to completely distort the entire economic balance of Major League Baseball.

TigerBlog can't believe how easily all of these schools are willing to change everything, all to pursue the last dollar out there. Is that what college athletics are about?

In the case of Nebraska, the school has said that it had to act before Missouri, which openly lobbied for the Big 10, did. This would be the same Big 10 that is trying to get to the minimum number of 12, which would allow it a football championship game.

All of this is driven by football, which is where the dollars are. The problem, as TB always says, is that college athletics may appear on the outside to be all about big-time football and men's basketball, but in reality there are, as the NCAA so rightfully boasts, a few hundred thousand athletes who are going pro in something other than sports.

The conference realignment is based on football, but it's going to affect so many athletes in so many other sports. In an age where most schools are trying to figure out ways to save money, most of these schools will now have fly their, say, cross country teams and soccer teams, all over the country for every away league competition.

Then there's the Ivy League, which has been an official athletic conference (since 1954) for a lot less time than the Big 10 (1899), SEC (1932), Pac-10 (1915), Big 12 (1907).

There are eight Ivy League schools, and there are going to be eight Ivy League schools no matter what else happens around them in college athletics. The stability is, quite frankly, reassuring, given that people at schools like Kansas, Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State - not to mention every non-football playing Big East school - have no idea what to expect in the near future. The idea of staying as a "BCS" school isn't set in stone for all of those schools.

Beyond just knowing what league you're in, though, the great beauty of the Ivy League is that football (and men's basketball) don't drive the entire mechanism. In many ways, that's what TB's favorite part of being part of the league is.

Yes, football outdraws every other sport on campus, and yes, basketball gets to play in the premiere NCAA tournament for men and women if they win the league.

But the emphasis here is on broad-based athletic participation. The football coach doesn't make millions and millions of dollars per year, and the entire University doesn't revolve around one athletic program.

It is, after all, supposed to be college sports, not professional sports.

Here at the Great Big Ivy 8, it seems like that message still resonates. Hopefully the rest of college athletics won't completely lose it soul.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What about when Cornell gets invited to the Big 10 or the Big East like their fans are always talking about?