Saturday, November 17, 2012

College football redraws the map

I must admit: It seems kind of wrong for West Virginia to be in the Big 12 conference with teams from Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. That northeastern state seems too far away from the southern middle states. However, looking at a map, the distance from, say, Manhattan, Kansas (home of Kansas State) to Morgantown, W.V.--981 miles--and comparing that to the distance between Los Angeles (USC, UCLA) and the Seattle (Washington)--1,135 miles--it's actually closer than those universities who have been facing each other as part of the Pac (now) 12 for decades, and they don't seem odd.

Thus, it's probably more a matter of getting accustomed to the Mountaineers facing the teams from the flatlands. Years from now a rivalry with the Red Riders of Texas Tech may seem perfectly sensible, despite the 1,465 mile trek.

Things that we consider the standard now at one point were new and weird. Take how in the NFL the Cowboys have made their rivals teams from even farther to the east than West Virginia; in the pros, Dallas is an "eastern" city, and after 42 years no one blinks an eye.


Of course, if schools in the Big 12 keep abandoning the conference for the SEC (Texas Tech) or Big 10 (Nebraska) or other conferences, and they scramble to cobble together whatever confederation of universities from anywhere they can get (such as what happened with West Virginia), it won't seem that strange. It's only because most schools are in the three adjoining states and there's one outlier that it comes across as weird.

And given that air travel is so commonplace, there's no reason why schools that are geographically close must be the way conferences align themselves it's not necessary to stay within a train ride of each other. It's traditional, certainly, but to pretend the importance of the conferences is the same as it used to be in the pre-BCS era is living in the past.

People like longstanding rivalries, but only if there's some consistent competitiveness. Realigning conferences to maintain parity makes a certain amount of sense. It will take some getting used to, but if it makes for actual entertaining, non-blowout games, I'm sure fans would accept it.

I have to imagine that what college football fans want is to see the best teams square off, and that happening prior to January might shake up the BCS rankings all season and although that would make crazy the powers that be (who have a vested interest in the BCS system), it would make the whole season into essentially a playoff worthy of the viewership, even if the alumni who get excited for the traditional rivalries aren't that excited about this.

They will be eventually.

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So, what do you think?