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Collegiate Super-Conferences Are a Matter of When, Not If

By Akiem Bailum, host of TRST’s “10 Minutes on the Clock”

Twitter: @Li495Akiem

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The classic Yogi Berra line “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” has been repeated time and time again in the sporting lexicon.

This is where the specter of conference realignment in college sports enters the picture.

Yesterday, this became true when the University of Maryland announced that they would be jumping ship from the ACC over to the Big Ten. Rutgers also announced similar intentions to ditch the ACC in favor of the Big Ten.

It wasn’t an entirely bad day at the office for the Atlantic Coast Conference, though. The University of Connecticut announced themselves that they are planning on leaving the Big East in favor of the ACC. This same conference is said to be in conversation with Louisville, South Florida, and Cincinnati (two of which are basketball schools) about replacing Maryland.

And if that wasn’t enough, Boise State, BYU, and San Diego State are now reconsidering the Big East to remain in the Mountain West Conference.

Let’s face it, though. The only way Boise State, BYU, and San Diego State should be considered east is if the NCAA is considering adding a conference for any schools in the Pacific Ocean. We already have the Pac-12. What about the Poc-12?

There’s even talk of Georgia Tech and North Carolina leaving for the Big Ten.

Conference realignment is like the significant other whom you just had a bad breakup with and don’t see for a year. And then, you see that person out the corner of your eye for about 10 times in a month. Then it becomes obvious that the person with whom you broke up with is stalking you to try and get back in your good graces.

Or, it could be to even get back and start anew with a new relationship.

Conference realignment is back and it’s not going anywhere until all of the pieces are in place. It may not be the rumoured mega-shift that was supposed to happen last year when the Big 12 was supposed to be absorbed into 3 conferences (Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC), but these colleges are looking at one thing and one thing only.

Green. As in dead presidents with green faces.

This whole thing is all about money. Let’s take why Maryland is jumping ship to the Big Ten. There hasn’t been much money stashed away in the turtle’s shell as of late, so the Terps have been cutting back on sports recently. This is a money-chase for them as they go wherever the money is.

There’s a truckload of it in the Big Ten. Why? The answer is easy—The Big Ten Network.

This network, while much maligned for its seemingly shoddy coverage of the Penn State scandal from last year, has been a gold mine for the ten (plus 4 now) schools that occupy this conference. Unlike other conferences (notably the Big 12) that disproportionately share money between the schools, all of the Big Ten money is shared equally between the respective schools. The Big Ten Network was priority #1 in Nebraska’s decision to join the conference and it is clearly Maryland’s as well. The same scenario rings true in the case of Rutgers.

Also, with the Big Ten Network, this conference is now a media conglomerate in addition to being a conference based on competition of student athletes. Adding Maryland and Nebraska opens the Big Ten Network in two new markets—Baltimore/Washington and the New York City area.

The Big Ten (and by proxy, its network) now will get major coverage in two of the top 3 markets in the country as it already has Chicago locked. The Big Ten Conference & Big Ten Network are both headquartered in the Windy City.

It has even been suggested by some that the move is a preemptive strike by the Big Ten aimed at Notre Dame. The reasoning behind this theory starts with the fact that the Fighting Irish will be moving all sports (sans football) to the ACC and that the majority of the Fighting Irish’s football games will be in the ACC.

If the ACC is seen as unstable because of Maryland and Rutgers leaving the conference for the Big Ten, it could make Jack Swarbrick (Notre Dame athletic director) reconsider the ACC for the B1G.

The bottom line is that if this doesn’t convince college football (and college basketball) fans that conference realignment will lead to Super-Conferences, nothing will. It is an inevitability and not a probability. Conference realignment will not end until we are stuck with either 4 or 5 “super-conferences”, each of which with 16-20 teams. The casualties from all of this will likely be either the (not so) Big East or the Big 12.

I’ve always maintained that Texas’ Longhorn Network was only the equivalent of applying a band-aid on a gash on your forehead after being bashed in the head repeatedly with a lead pipe. Slowly, but surely, that wound is starting to open itself up again. Last year, the Big 12 was within an eyelash of closing up shop for good as the Pac-12 had its eyes on virtually every Big 12 South school not named Baylor.

The only reason the Pac-12 didn’t pull the trigger was because it wouldn’t expand without Texas. And they didn’t want the Longhorn Network interfering with their own Network(s) they launched just recently.

It’ll still happen. It may not be the so-called “seismic” shift we were supposed to see, but this is something that will happen in small drops before the ceiling collapses with water falling on everyone’s heads.

The shame of it all is that there’s a real threat to some longstanding rivalries that would result from all of this. But in a college athletics landscape that still tries to find ridiculous reasons for not paying the players, ESPN, Fox, CBS, and NBC television monies are now the preferred commodity in what was supposed to be amateur athletics.

Except the money in 2012 NCAA is anything but amateur.

Maryland, see you in the Big Ten somewhere.

UConn, see you in the ACC somewhere.

Big East (or Big 12), see you….under the grass somewhere?

Buss & Kupchak Just Teased Laker Fans…Twice

by Akiem Bailum

On Twitter: @Li495Akiem

And as we know, no one likes to be teased, especially this much.

Remember back in your school days when there was someone you had a huge crush on and really wanted to talk to that person. Surprisingly, that person starts talking to you first and things start to go extremely well for about until you find you that he or she’s already taken.

Heart. Broken.

Laker fans can now relate.

A few days ago, we found out that the Los Angeles Lakers had indeed parted ways head coach Mike Brown after only their first 5 games. The Lake Show had become a boring infomercial as they had lost 4 of their first five in the regular season and went 0 for 8 in the preseason (if it means anything).

Laker brass had all but admitted that Mike Brown’s implementation of the “Princeton Offense” that involves continuous ball movement and spacing out was not compatible with this star-studded Laker squad.

With the unceremonious Brown-out taking place in LA, all eyes and indications seemed to turn to Phil Jackson. The number one question was did Phil even want to coach anymore. After numerous reported conversations Mitch Kupchak & Jim Buss had with Phil, the vibes were positive that Phil was preparing to come back. He even cancelled a speaking engagement in Chicago to prepare to return to the Laker bench.

Of course, when you are an 11-time champion in Phil Jackson, you come with a rather hefty price tag. Reportedly, he demanded $10 million a year, full power over basketball decisions, and the ability to take off the majority of road games (most likely to those games contested east of the state of Texas).

Phil clearly wanted the job. The fans were preparing for Phil to take the job. Reportedly, Dwight Howard even wanted Phil to get the job.

Phil didn’t get the job.

Instead, that went to former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni. The entire Southern California region spat out their morning coffee as they heard the news. So was Phil himself.

D’Antoni’s price tag isn’t as hefty as that of the 11-time champ. He’ll only be paid $12 million over 3 years (3 years guaranteed, 4th year being a team option).

Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, for whatever reason, just teased the entire Southern California region into believing that Phil Jackson would be returning to run things once again. If it’s one thing you don’t do, it’s tease Laker fans. Los Angeles is first-and-foremost a Laker town with no professional football team (for now) in that city. Many in Laker Nation are ticked enough that not all of the team’s games are available on TV in the region because not every cable company has agreed to carry their new network.

There’s been much speculation as to why Phil Jackson didn’t get the job. It could’ve been because the Triangle Offense was incompatible with Steve Nash. It could’ve been because his demands were too high.

And let’s not forget that whole thing about him dating Jeanie Buss. Even when he’s not visible, he’s still very close to the team.

If they felt the Triangle Offense wasn’t compatible with this cast of characters on this team, why even talk to or interview Phil? It’s clear that his relationship with the Buss family is so close-knit that they don’t know how to move on from him even if they want to. If they’re trying to move on from the Phil Jackson era, it’s admirable since he won’t want to coach forever, but the 11 championships are hard to pass up even if he wants more money.

Also, if Jim Buss didn’t give him the job because Jackson wanted to control the basketball making decisions, it’s clear that Jim Buss is nothing but a son playing with daddy’s toys.

Anyone who heard the Laker fans at the Staples Center on Friday Night knew that they had already made their choice with the chants of “We Want Phil”. Every indication was that they were going to get Phil. Given his track record in LA, that’s what makes this such an egregious tease.

That was only the first. The second is just around the corner.

Mike D’Antoni’s track record as a head coach is most remembered for his Phoenix Suns teams flaming out in the playoffs after having great regular seasons. D’Antoni was Nash’s coach in Phoenix. In 2005, they lost in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs—a team that actually did practice defense that year. In 2006, they’d lose in the postseason to the Dallas Mavericks.

D’Antoni’s style is to turn every basketball game into a track meet. The word “defense” is a foreign word to Mike D’Antoni.

That’s where’s the tease comes in. Every Laker game for the rest of the year just became the All-Star Game. D’Antoni’s style of ball will bring excitement, it’ll create highlight reels on Sports Center, and it will put fannies into the seats at Staples Center.

But, Laker fans are similar to fans of the Yankees or Manchester United. Anything less than a championship ring for the purple and gold is considered a failure of a season. D’Antoni’s track record does not exude much confidence that it’ll change in LA especially when he had those Phoenix Suns teams that looked like the league’s best team.

Plus, Kupchak and Buss have a bigger problem looming this summer if they fail to hoist a championship banner. Dwight Howard can leave Los Angeles after this year and they could find themselves in the exact same fix that the Orlando Magic did after this year. I saw when the media talked to Howard about the hire today and his body language didn’t look like that of someone who felt the team made the correct hire.

To make a long story short, if Howard doesn’t feel the Lakers are where he’ll win a championship, the Brooklyn Nets (where he really wants to be) are right there waiting.

Let the Showtime begin! Lights…Camera…Action! Take 1!