The night after the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, when Boise neighborhoods were still whooping to the sky in the aftermath of the most significant win they’re apparently going to get their hands on for a minute, my friend and I imagined a world where the Pac 10 expanded and our city’s heart finally got out from under the tyranny of the BCS and joined a conference where SOS is discussed as a strength rather than a weakness, and where the tv money flows like milk and honey. Where the football program pays for student parking because it has a SURPLUS of funds and nobody bitches that the team didn’t have enough style points on ESPN.
Well, that pleasant bit of fantasy died a couple of days ago, at the sharp chip of a golf ball out of a bunker.
Oregon and Washington are Big 10 bound with UCLA and USC. Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah are headed down the dusty trail to the Big 12, hot on Colorado’s heels.
The specifics of the media rights deals and contract negotiations are out there. Brett McMurphy’s Twitter/X is as good a place to start as any. The entire online space discussing any of this is filled with shitty memes and no-name accounts that act as if they’re more well-sourced than the actual media. It’s toxic and hilarious and I am locked in, even though it sucks. Why? Because I am on the outside of the college football bubble. If this was The Big Short, G5 fans would all be Mark Baum in the middle of the discussion with the shitbag broker and realizing again that almost everyone they’re dealing with is a wildly questionable person with objectively bad ideas.
But it’s college football, not the whole world economy. Right?
For athletic departments like Memphis, Boise, Oregon State, Washington State, SDSU – the ones on the margins who roll out great teams across multiple sports and get to just figure it the fuck out somehow, it’s tough. Moving goalposts is the right idea, but like if they moved them out of the stadium and then still insisted that everything is normal, of course there are goalposts. We’re definitely still going to give you 3 points if you kick it thataway.
There’s a pattern. A quick eight-step plan to financial irrelevance for any school it is pointed at.
- They don’t play nobody.
- Okay you beat somebody but it was early season/neutral site/senioritis/bad weather/bad reffing/bad coaching/ugly uniforms so it doesn’t count.
- Oh. You did it again. Dumb luck.
- *silent treatment/media blackout*
- It’s academics.
- It’s research dollars.
- It’s the tiny, little, eeny weenie, cutesy wootsy media market.
- Repeat 6/7/8 as needed forever. Deploy 4 in case of emergency, such as undefeated seasons.
It’s been wild to watch it happen to an entire conference again. Thought we were done with that at the Big East.
It also leads me to wonder – every attempt at one of these huge conferences has failed. Do the fans and admin of schools who were lucky enough to end up a member of the resource bourgeois through no factor of media market size or quality of play, but out of being in the right place at the right time, think they are safe? That their 3-9 team won’t be staring down an AAC or MWC invite once interest rates rise again or ND joins a conference finally and sets off another shuffle? Ask Oregon State and WSU about being left behind. Ask SDSU and Boise about having your chain yanked by media conglomerates. Ask Idaho and Montana about what comes after that.
The snow globe got shaken hard and is teetering on the edge of the shelf. Will football in the West settle into a pretty scene where high-quality, fun football is played every weekend against teams that make sense, or will it just be endless non-FB sports teams making silly flights like from Berkley to Tally and doing their homework on the red-eye?
The teams outside of the blue bloods have never really asked for more than a chance to excel. To be seen, to play, to win. That chance inches further away every moment. Sometimes a team makes the leap and secures their bag. Sometimes a team gets pushed out and sent to the kid’s table. But everyone needs to remember that the bag came from somewhere. If only it was coming out of Bob Iger’s pocket rather than Hawaii’s.
College football is dead. Long live college football.