Tuesday was my earthquake day, literally and figuratively. While driving to Lynchburg for a college football roundtable, I learned that not only had an earthquake struck Virginia but also that the epicenter was in Mineral, an area I would soon be passing.
Journalistic duty and plain ol’ nosiness demanded that I detour briefly and chat up some folks near the quake’s center. Ryan Hagelen, an auto mechanic, had a car up on a lift when his shop started shaking. He hit the “lower” button and got the heck out of Dodge.
With no visible damage to his shop, Hagelen headed for his house about two miles away. He found his chimney cracked and kitchen cabinets spilled onto the counter.
“My cats,” he said, “were having a field day.”
Detour notwithstanding, I made it to Lynchburg on time, with three minutes to spare. Local sports anchor Dennis Carter moderated the event, with Virginia Tech radio analyst Mike Burnop, Charlottesville Daily Progress columnist Jerry Ratcliffe and me joining the panel.
There a primary topic was another earthquake: possible conference realignment that would truly bring seismic change to college athletics, especially football.
Conventional wisdom says four 16-team “super conferences” are inevitable for major college football, and with Texas A&M and the Southeastern Conference playing footsie of late, some wonder whether the quake is imminent.
Comrade Fairbank, the consummate cynic, wonders in this blog post if Miami‘s impending infractions case may cause the big dogs to split from the NCAA and form their mega leagues.
One gentleman attending the roundtable suggested the 16-team leagues could be split into four-team divisions. The winners of those 16 divisions – four each in the four conferences – would then comprise the field for the playoff system most reasonable fans appear to prefer.
The bracketologist and playoff advocate in me love the concept. A 16-team field would pare to 8 to 4 to 2. Perfect, right?
First, good luck getting the 16-team conferences to agree on their four divisions. The turf wars there would be endless as schools lobbied to preserve some annual rivalries and avoid others.
Second, as configured, the six major conferences total 66 teams. Notre Dame makes 67. Who gets dumped from this 64-school set-up? Utah? The Utes JUST joined the Pacific 12, for goodness sake. That would be cruel and unusual. South Florida? The Bulls are better than many more established programs and figure to improve under Skip Holtz.
If convention prevails, what of Virginia Tech? We know Virginia would stick with the ACC in some form, but might the Hokies be tempted by more dollars in an expanded SEC?
As Burnop pointed out during the roundtable, within 5-7 years, Tech president Charles Steger, athletic director Jim Weaver and football coach Frank Beamer are likely to retire. Will the new regime be as wedded to the ACC as the current?
And we haven’t even mentioned Boise State, Texas Christian and BYU, programs from outside the big six conferences with a history of national prominence. Shouldn't there be room for them?
Just as Butler, VCU and George Mason with basketball’s Final Four, the Boises and TCUs have brought an underdog’s charm to the Bowl Championship Series. I recall little of last season’s national title game between Auburn and Oregon, but I’ll never forget Boise State’s overtime conquest of Oklahoma in the January 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
The hook-and-lateral late in regulation; Broncos tailback Ian Johnson proposing in the end zone to his girlfriend, a Boise State cheerleader, after scoring the winning 2-point conversion on a Statue of Liberty play.
Does college football really want to discard such programs and moments? Let’s hope not.
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