“Big money goes around the world, big money give and take. Big money done a power of good, big money make mistakes.”
The date was September 12, one calendar day after the most devastating moment in our nation’s history.
ESPN’s Michael Wilbon was the first to mention it on air, or at least the first person I heard do so. Notre Dame had just joined the Atlantic Coast Conference; it was all any sports reporter could talk about. During a commercial break, the cameras panned back to the studio. Wilbon quipped to his partner Tony Kornheiser, “They just should just rename the conferences. They shouldn’t even have geographic designations. Just name them Cialis, Levitra.”
Ingenious… or foreshadowing? After all, big money has taken over everything else in sports. Bowl games, race cars, entire arenas and of course every NBA uniform starting in 2013. Upon overhearing Wilbon’s words, some marketing intern probably salivated, a light bulb beaming bright above his head. In a matter of time, he’ll become CEO, recalling the day he barged frantically into his boss’ office like he had just discovered the cure for cancer. I hope he gives Wilbon a percentage. But I don’t blame Wilbon, or the intern for that matter. The wheels for this were put in place long ago.
The Shell Big-12. The iMac Pac. The IBM SEC. These conferences, and everything about them, brought to you by Brand X. And still the college athlete won’t receive a dime, but the big wigs will, handsomely.
If major corporations can make money off a meaningless December bowl game between SMU and Eastern Carolina, imagine what sponsoring an entire conference would bring, other than the sad realization that everything has its price.
Perhaps we should just embrace this change. After all, if there’s one thing private industry has shown it can do that the NCAA cannot, it is properly run a business. I guarantee if we put the nation’s top execs in a boardroom together, they’d have this whole BCS/conference realignment thing worked out in time for lunch.
Who knows what the future holds when it comes to conference realignment. College football has become a fast-paced, multi-billion dollar game of musical chairs with the most, plush Barcalounger going to the highest bidder. The inequities within college football have never been more evident.
When the sport realigns for the final time, with big money behind the steering wheel, let us not complain. We’ll have that playoff system we always clamored would be more favorable than its predecessor.