Wondering, Pondering, Meandering

“I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.” Emerson

There are too many questions without answers, that is a truth. This is how it goes with long term strategic planning and why it is exponentially more difficult to accomplish with astounding success than people believe.

This is why no reasonable vision of the future of the CAA exists, and no “realignment” plan is legitimate. We don’t know–we really don’t–because we don’t have the Costanzian Hand. That belongs to the BCS.

This fact is also the driver behind a great paradox: on some level every one of those realignment plans are perfectly legitimate. They may work. The problem is that we won’t know until the first move is made, and it isn’t the responsibility of the CAA or any mid major conference make that move. Certainly there are ongoing discussions–the Tom Yeagers of the world are too smart and too experienced to sit back.

However it is one of our jobs to ask the complicated questions, explore the complexities of the athletics world, openly, in an effort for thoughtful discussion. You see, it’s one thing to show maniacal disapproval for something you watched happen (aka, whining). It’s quite another to participate in the process, at least as much as you are able. We can be part of the discussion, if only to ask the questions.

These questions are designed to be uncomfortable, because anything worth considering is uncomfortable on at least one level: it challenges the way you think.

Here’s the sum: I don’t think that I am alone in believing we are careening down a path to a two-division format in basketball. Call it 1A and 1AA, or make up some contrived nomenclature that is supposed to make somebody feel better about their lot in life, as if not having the same amount of resources equates to a lack of intelligence or ability to be fooled.

But make no mistake, it’s coming, this realignment, so be ready. Quite frankly I believe it could be the best thing to occur for mid major conferences since, well, ever. The challenge is to see it coming so we can all be prepared to address its impacts.

Two-division college basketball will be here before you realize it. We’ll get wrapped up in nonconference scheduling and bracketology and recruiting rules and that day will come and hit us with that fried-egg-eyes look.

And I wonder if it isn’t bigger than convenient geography and university mission similarities. To be clear: I don’t believe this will happen; but I do believe it could happen. We need to avoid wondering what happened, because that would be an injustice.

There will be huge impact on the CAA, but let’s back up for a moment and address the elephant in the room, far bigger than our conference: the NCAAs $6 billion contract with CBS expires in 2013. Related, the BCS contract with ESPN to broadcast the four top BCS bowl games (for $125 million annum) expires in 2014.

“Those in charge” must be in discussions right now about what 2013 looks like for college basketball and 2014 for college athletics: the money is too great, the timing is too coincidental, and the world is too different. It would irresponsible for them to not have begun thinking through scenarios, and we have a bigger problem if they have not.

But the importance of the television contract and the discussions surrounding it also make it the ideal time to realign, and to create 1AA basketball. Momentous change just doesn’t occur. It is well thought out and carefully crafted.

And here’s the question: would it not be an ideal time to draw the line in a place nobody has yet considered: the football BCS conferences plus two sort of new football money conferences, say the Mountain West and Conference USA?

Eight is enough, right?

Let’s say those eight conference quietly offer the chance for a select group of schools to take the step up and join them. You have six BCS conferences. Let’s pretend: ACC (14), Big East (16), SEC (14), Big 12 (14), Big 10 (14), Pac 10 (12). That’s 84 teams. The two “other conferences” both have 14 teams as well and that’s 112 teams.

The BCS adjusts its football allotment of bowl games, and you then also have a nice 48-team tournament for hoops where the top four seeds would get a bye and four teams per bracket play-in to the round of 32.

Then, everybody else realigns as they see fit. Now, what that means for the CAA is anybody’s guess and that is where we get into the 1,384 permutations of realigning.

I just wonder about this: while everybody else is yammering for more equity from the BCS (and basketball major) conferences, are they meeting about how to pull off the complete opposite scenario? Take their television windows and go home?

It alleviates economic wrangling by exclusion. Football and basketball would have a more pure structure to divvy up the television money. The constant whir of unfair dies down because you eliminate the gray areas. Perhaps the scourge known as buy games goes away because the NCAA and BCS adopt some sort of baseball-style revenue sharing where they give the “rest of college athletics” a check each year.

Could that be the real reason why everybody “is waiting for the Big East to move” when talking about realignment, an answer which I’ve always thought to be evasive and nonsensical?

I don’t know and that isn’t even the point. Ridiculous thoughts? Perhaps. But understand that there are significant decisions that need to play out before mapping out Your View of the schools the CAA should take and those that the CAA should jettison.

These are things that need to be out there to be discussed by mid major people, not just BCS people and ESPN media people.


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