Rooting for Nick Saban feels icky and scuzzy and wrong, but Lord Almighty, would it feel good to watch Alabama drop 60 points — heck, let’s make it 70 — straight onto Bevo’s behind.
The Longhorns are snatching the money and walking away from the Big 12. Texas and Oklahoma, buzzards in arms, took a machete to college football as we know it by announcing their intention of joining the SEC. And loved it. Or tried to, anyway.
“I don’t know how the Big 12 continues,” offered former CU coach Gary Barnett, who coached the Buffs to division titles in that league and played in its predecessor, the Big Eight, at Missouri.
“(Texas and Oklahoma have) just sort of taken me out of the nostalgia and concern for what it used to be. It’s just gotten so radically different.”
Forget loyalty. Forget alliances. Forget geography. Forget common sense. It’s all one giant cash grab. Global pandemic? Sorry, kids. We got contracts.
“College presidents ceded lots of control to the conferences and, by extension, to ESPN,” noted Dave Ridpath, a longtime advocate of NCAA reform, Ohio University professor and CSU alum. “And none of those changes are best for education or the athlete, in my view.”
With the Horns and Sooners leaving for the SEC the Big 12 just got one huge step closer to joining the great beyond. It’s dog-eat-dog. Logic and tradition are secondary to covering your backside. And your coffers.
When you bring up the premise of the CU Buffs exploring a move to, say, the Big Ten, you expect Barnett to laugh you off.
Only he doesn’t. At all.
“Whichever one of those conferences is going to survive, if you can get in it, get in it,” the former Buffs coach replied. “So I would say, if you look at the Big Ten and say, ‘Is the Big Ten more likely to survive at a higher level than the Pac-12,’ then I would say do what you can do to get in there. Because once you get that brand, you can keep it.
“It’s getting it that’s hard. It’s like Missouri going to the SEC. They made a move. They were just lucky to get in there because they moved into the best brand in college football. And now they’re going to be able to stay (stable) through this (realignment), no matter what. And that’s critical.”
Then again, these are crazy times. Anything that gets the Buffs playing Nebraska in football again on a regular basis would be good for college football. And beyond great for CU, whose fans, especially those over 35, miss having somebody to hate.
Buffs-Iowa could be insanely fun, for Front Range transplants as much as anybody else, a series that bridges The Sports Column West (LoDo) and The Sports Column East (Iowa City). Imagine road trips to Chicago for Northwestern and The Barnett Bowl. Or reliving Kordell Stewart’s Miracle at Michigan any time you visit the Big House.
Plus, two words: Mel. Tucker.
And yeah, yeah, we know where the Buffs’ financial bread gets buttered. Roughly 1 in every 10 out-of-state CU undergrads hail from California. Denver may be a petri dish of Midwesterners and Pacific Coast types going nowhere on I-25, but Boulder’s soul and donor base lies to the west.
But know this, too: If it’s about money, if it’s about the brand, if it’s about survival, the Big Ten is the only yacht left that can seriously keep up with the SEC. It’s not going anywhere.
Since the tail is officially wagging the dog these days, and FOX may be looking to counter ESPN’s SEC gambit with a super league of its own, merging the Pac-12 with the Big Ten into some NFL-style, multi-division giant, given their shared football and academic alliances, isn’t the looniest schematic on the table.
“I think from afar, the Big Ten looks like it has a greater chance of surviving than the Pac-12, and that’s from afar,” Barnett said. “I think with general (comparison) of those two, you would say the Big Ten would have a much better chance — Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, all that tradition — of surviving, based on what the Pac-12 has done over the last 10 years.”
The Buffs can’t be afraid to poke around. Make calls. Protect their own backside. History may be written by the victors, but the checks are still signed by Mickey Mouse.
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