When it comes to change, college football is a river that runs. There’s always a current that pulls one way or the other.
And BYU is trying to stay afloat somewhere in the chop of the white water. Utah is staying dry, securely in a deep-hulled boat.
On one side of those rapids, the SEC’s side, alterations-in-a-hurry are good because what conference wouldn’t want Texas and Oklahoma and the value those schools bring in its fold? Not a single one. And with those programs aboard, along with its already-established success on the field and in its bank accounts, the league is all for a 12-team expanded CFB playoff setup, one that annually could have an overwhelming SEC presence in it.
On the other side, the Big Ten, the Pac-12 and the ACC and their newfound alliance, announced on Tuesday, are looking to slow the SEC’s flow, to create an environment where they are not disadvantaged by the power of the SEC and its partnership with ESPN. They wouldn’t mind more berths overall in the playoff, but they want their share of it, too.
They want the money generated by it.
Hence, you get administrators from leagues other than the SEC talking about the importance of the academic experience and not transforming college football into a professional environment in which too many games are played, too much time is poured into football, too much emphasis is put on the game. All of which is laughable, really, considering how much cash already is generated by the game, and how much emphasis is directed toward winning.
The aforementioned alliance is meant, more than anything, to develop a block in which the Pac-12, the Big Ten and the ACC won’t be pushed around by the SEC, so that those leagues can work together to counterbalance any agendas that might favor in any disproportionate way their rival conference in the Southeast.
An introductory press conference on Tuesday was a bit of dodgeball, lacking specificity and leaving out significant truthful motivations for the new alliance, which is more a verbal agreement as opposed to a signed deal.
Moreover, they all saw what’s happening to the Big 12 now that the SEC … what’s the word? … swiped that conference’s premier programs, stealing away half of its revenues in the process.
Does that sound like the kind of federation that can be trusted by the others to look out for the benefit of all? To consider the greater good? Or does it sound like an evil empire that owes itself to swallow up whatever it can to become better, bigger, richer, more powerful?
You know the answer.
And so do schools like Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas, K-State, Iowa State and the other Big 12 orphans who are left now to pick up the pieces — and, interestingly enough, to be left out by this new alliance in its move for privileges and preservation. Those who have been deserted are on their own, baby.
The funny part of this whole thing — not the kind that makes anyone chuckle — is that the leagues now forming this alliance and those schools abandoned in the Big 12 would have all done what the SEC is doing if they could have.
College football is an environment where it’s every school, every league for itself. It’s been that way for a long, long time, and it’s as much that way now as it’s ever been, illustrated by the actions of those presently gaining advantage, or seeking to do so.
It’s more dog-eat-dog than the NFL, a place where franchises mostly operate under the same rules. New England may want to beat Kansas City on the field, and vice versa, but neither is looking to destabilize or devour the other.
It certainly doesn’t hide behind some highfalutin ideal, projecting a sort of educational honor or integrity by hoisting a banner of academic and educational value. College football has been hypocritical for decades and it will go on being that, as piles of money stack higher and higher.
And what of Group of Five teams, those that would love to be included with the cool kids if they could? Hah. They can remember what Orwell wrote all those years ago — that everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.
That’s the way it’s always been, and that’s the way it will stay.
More a jungle than a farm.
Utah, as a part of the Pac-12, is holding onto what it can.
Where this leaves BYU, a school that, on the one hand, has done its own share of abandoning leagues in the past, but, on the other, has grown used to being more competitive on the field than accepted off it, is a compelling question. None of the P5 — um, P4 — leagues have wanted — or at least been willing — to invite the Cougars in, despite the fact that BYU is more P4-like than a good number of the schools that are already in. Top programs from top leagues have regularly wanted and been eager to schedule and play BYU — the Pac-12 is a prime example — but they do not want to grant it membership.
However, if as a part of this new alliance Pac-12, SEC and ACC programs now are looking to schedule more frequently among themselves, what effect will that have on BYU’s chances to hold hands with teams from those conferences even as it has been unable to consummate any kind of marriage?
In the past, BYU has been happy enough to nudge and coddle opponents as an independent. That way the Cougars can do things their own way — such as not play on Sundays — and still gain the exposure, if not the money, they crave as a legitimate football program, all without the advantages and disadvantages of them being tethered. BYU already has some of those schools booked out on their schedules for a decade or more.
But whether it will be able to go on doing so, or even retain what it’s already got, could be spiraling in the air or floating like a duck, like so many passes and punts at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU has grown accustomed to operating outside the norm for more than a decade now and has made it work. But at some level it must be unsettling to be left in a position where the decisions made by others so drastically could harm or alter what it aims to do. Would the Cougars reconsider joining a league from the G5?
The Utes, as part of the alliance, are all good.
But it makes you wonder how the Cougars would react if the remnants of the Big 12, schools that previously rejected BYU for membership, suddenly so alone and vulnerable, extended an invitation to join them now. There’s no guarantee such an invitation would come, as those remnants could have other options. Question is, is jumping aboard a doomed vessel better than rowing your own boat across choppy waters?
Maybe. Maybe not, as long as a paddle is still in hand.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.