The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 2, 2012

Collegiate landscape makes for crazy geography

By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle

— If your child is having difficulty with geography or math you may want to keep them away from what is happening in the world of collegiate athletics. If those subjects vex your kid now, the damage done by the recent spate of conference realignments would only further hinder the learning process.

We now live in a collegiate sports world where 10 is really 14, 12 is really 10, San Diego is now considered East and Louisville has found its way to the Atlantic Coast.

I feel for today’s kids if they learn geography like I did, which was studying up on the collegiate conferences and getting to know geography by which schools played in the Big 10, the old Southwest Conference, the Big 8, the Pac-8 and the Southeast Conference.

Of course back then the Big 10 actually had 10 teams and the Big 8 and Pac-8, had, you guessed it, eight teams. It all made perfect sense, really. Just as you could rest assured Bo Schembechler’s Michigan teams would lose on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl, you knew just by the name of the conference how many teams they had and/or where they were located. It made learning geography a lot more enjoyable than studying maps.

But those days are gone in today’s high-stakes, big-money world of collegiate athletics.

Just over the course of the past week, we have seen the Big Ten, which currently has 12 members, add Maryland from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Rutgers from the Big East, bringing its membership to 14 by 2014, and further losing its identity as a Midwest conference.

Meanwhile, the Big East continues to become less and less relevant as it hemorrhages schools, while adding teams as far as away as Boise State and San Diego State in a desperate effort to maintain relevance.

How strange have things become in the Big East? The only team remaining of the original football members is Temple. However, the Owls just re-joined the Big East this past season after being exiled by the conference for several seasons while the Owls played in the Mid-American Conference and rebuilt their program.

The Atlantic Coast Conference just announced Louisville (once thought to be heading to the Big 12) from the land-locked state of Kentucky, is coming on board.

But the biggest mess belongs to poor Conference USA, which is being picked apart by a desperate Big East that has swiped Houston, SMU, UCF and even Tulane from the C-USA ranks. In response, C-USA is adding Middle Tennessee along with Louisiana Tech, FIU, FAU, North Texas, Old Dominion, Charlotte and UTSA.

At least C-USA is living up to its name, but one wag wryly suggested changing it to the Statue of Liberty Conference as in “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses ... the wretched refuse ...”

Right now the smartest players appear to be the Big 12 (even though they remain at 10 teams), the SEC and the MAC, which have maintained a core of schools with a geographical and traditional connection, providing some semblance of stability in a very unstable collegiate landscape.

But, while the conferences have shown difficulty with lower math, they have no problem counting into the millions in TV and bowl revenue that is at the heart of the maneuvering. That is the real lesson being learned.

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at