And now, class, it’s time to catch you up on college football, the sport that brought you the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. Please open your textbooks to “Madness.”
That’s right. Starting in 2024, the Big Ten conference, longtime symbol of the hearty American Midwest, corn ice cream and 400-pound kickers, will now be playing teams full of surfers, lowriders and guys in hair buns.
Big Ten teams are now conveniently located near their banks, not each other. Take USC, which is near Hollywood, and their new conference foe Rutgers, which is somewhere near “The Sopranos.” This is going to be such an exciting new rivalry. One team has six Heisman Trophy winners, can claim 11 national championships and over the years has spent 91 weeks as the No. 1 team in the country. The other is Rutgers.
Then you have the University of Maryland — a Midwest-by-the-Chesapeake Big Ten team since 2014 — soon to be taking on UCLA, which is a six-hour flight away. The winner of the game will take possession of the coveted Dead Polar Bear trophy. Imagine that: The flyover states they’ll be flying over are where their conference resides. College football really needs to get Google Maps.
Why did UCLA abandon the traditions of nearly 100 years in the Pac-12, the conference that has more national championships in more sports than any other? Because its athletic program was $103 million in debt, according to USA Today, and stands to make about $60 million more per year in TV money with the Big Ten than it was with the Pac-12. What good are traditions if the repo man just took your blocking sleds?
Not only did the Pac-Whatever lose its two biggest schools, there’s a rumor the conference could lose four more (Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State) to the Big 12, which last summer found out it was losing its two biggest teams — Oklahoma and Texas — to the Southeastern Conference, which needs two more good teams the way the Kardashians need more selfies.
Without the Sooners and the Longhorns, the Big 12 is left with a lot of teams such as Texas Tech and Iowa State, which don’t fluff up anybody’s pom-poms. Two-four-six-eight! Why’d we leave the tailgate?
As for talk of a possible merger between the Big 12 and Pac-Whatever … fine. You can make a tofu and wheatgrass smoothie. There’s still no meat in it.
And if you think those once-respectable conferences now suck like the Dyson factory, imagine how the lesser conferences look. Their membership changes hourly, as do their names. Tell you what, I’ll list a few and you try to tell me which one’s fake: The Big West. Mid-Central. AAC. Sun Country.
Just kidding. They’re all fake. Nobody knows anymore. Nobody cares.
All anybody really cares about is college football’s Godzilla, the SEC, which has won 12 of the last 16 national championships — six of them by Alabama alone. One SEC team or another has been in the final game for 15 of the past 16 years. Put it this way: The SEC just rejected the New York Jets for membership.
Next earthquake up is Notre Dame, which is somehow still an independent, but not for long. It will almost certainly soon jump to the Big Ten or the SEC — the Big Ten can pay Notre Dame $65 million more per year than it was getting out of its creaky old NBC deal. Do you know how many golden domes that would buff?
Meanwhile, if you’ve seen the NCAA anywhere, will you have them call the office? They’re supposed to be in charge of all this insanity but can’t seem to stop it. Reminds me of the time we came home to find our kids running crazy inside the house and the babysitter locked out, sitting on the porch — crying.
But don’t fret, college football fans. None of this is permanent: It’s going to get worse, until what we’re left with is two superconferences — the Big Ten and the SEC — with maybe 40 teams total. The superconferences, controlling all the watchable college football in the country, will then put the NCAA out of its misery, take over the game and hold their own national championship.
And the egghead teams that aren’t at all watchable, such as Vanderbilt in the SEC and Northwestern in the Big Ten? They’ll get kicked down to one of the JV conferences and eventually become accountants for TaxSlayer.