Thursday, August 18, 2011

TWIOT: SECession Needs Help

Yesterday, I linked to a pretty meaty idea by Dan Shanoff (written in his totally-opposite-of-meaty style) where he advocated that the SEC should bloat to 16 teams, break off from the BCS and have its own playoff tournament to crown a Champion. If you didn't catch the vibe from my blurb linking it, I totally love the idea. Destroying the BCS isn't going to come to fruition through the NCAA, it has to come from external sources. The SEC is the only conference that has the power and the cache to start a revolution such as this, although in theory, the system benefits them the most. They almost always send a team to the title game and a secondary team to an ancillary BCS bowl. Then again, a playoff system of three or even seven games where 3-8 teams from the conference play extra games and generate extra revenue would be too juicy to pass up.

But I'm not really here to write about the economics of the situation. After all, my view on college football fiduciaries is that the schools make too much money off the student-athletes for them to have such a restraint on what they can do to make some pocket cash for themselves even if they are getting a pretty sweet deal in the process. I mean, free college education for playing a game? Score. I'll leave it at that, because that's for a whole different post altogether, one that requires more nuance and seriousness than I'm willing to go for here.

Rather, I want to look more into this radical idea of SECession. Specifically, can it work if it's just the SEC pulling out? I want to say yes, because again, the SEC is such a burgeoning powerhouse of college football, and at least 10 out of their 12 fanbases are all cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs about their programs (Vanderbilt is the token academic school/doormat and Kentucky is the outlier that lives for basketball season). However, I can almost see an SEC-less NCAA/BCS structure, even if they do import Texas A&M, Missouri, Clemson, West Virginia or whatever other schools are rumored to go there, as a microcosmic alternate universe where the South won the Civil War and stubbornly exist as their own entity, even after eventually giving up things like slavery and agrarian living. I'm not entirely sure that the SEC leaving would collapse the BCS, because now, other conferences have shots at that crystal football as well as getting more of their teams into the BCS cabal.

Shanoff had it right in his original idea, that the SEC and another conference, in his view, the Big 12, should go rogue. Right now though, the Big 12 is punchless, as one of its powerhouse programs doesn't need the conference (Texas) and the other could show up to any other conference and have them BEG them to get in (Oklahoma). What other conference or conferences could help the SEC pull this off then? Not the Big 10+2 at this point. Well, actually, they COULD help the SEC a lot by seceding, but at the same time, they have the most to gain out of the SEC pulling out. I mean, they're about as close to an "East Coast" conference as you can get without scraping the bottom of the barrel (Big East, looking in your direction). Also, the ACC is certainly not going to rock the boat because they just seem happy to be there, especially if the SEC comes calling to poach their teams in a bid for hyper expansion.

That leaves two options: the Pac-12 and an agglomerated coalition of teams from the Mountain Time Zone (not just saying "Mountain West" because BYU and select WAC teams are still appealing as well). Each has its cache. The Pac-12 obviously would be the more appealing option from a practical standpoint. If you want an ally, you pretty much need to have a strong ally. When France and England were under attack in World War II, they weren't beating down Guatemala's door for help. It was America they really wanted. The Pac-12 is America in this situation. They have four teams in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay combined. They have Seattle, Denver and Phoenix wrapped up. With the SEC, they'd make this awesome pincer combination that would put so much pressure on the NCAA that it would have to scrap the BCS in order not to lose USC on top of the six or so marquee programs they'd be losing from the SEC.

That being said, there's something about taking in the disenfranchised schools that would give the SEC so much public goodwill, even from fans who have grown to loathe the conference for its dominance and perceived fan arrogance. Granted, the mid-major darling pool has dwindled substantially with Utah going to the Pac-12 and TCU inexplicably going to the Big East. But there's still BYU. There's still Boise State.

Maybe that's where the real key is. Granted, I don't think that getting the disenfranchised Mountain teams as the only move would be a coup at all, but getting them in no matter what? The SEC would then be ironclad in the court of public opinion. It wouldn't matter if Boise as the lead team in the SEC Mountain Division or the Independent Mountain Conference or whatever, got creamed in the first round of the playoffs every year. The fact that they'd get a chance, a chance they NEVER got in the BCS system, would be enough to groundswell a sentiment for change.

In essence, I feel that the answer lies in a combination system. Thirty-two teams, the current SEC and Pac-12 conferences along with Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Boise State, BYU, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Nevada, for example. Four 8-team divisions. An 8-team playoff system. Once even the idea is bandied about as something legitimate, the NCAA would have to answer with appeasement to save its unified front, right?

Even if they didn't... and hell, even if the SEC decides to stay put and stay within the system (which again, benefits them more than it benefits any other conference in America), it won't affect my enjoyment of the actual game on the field. While it is grossly unfair that a team can go undefeated and be "rewarded" with a sham bowl game in a sham system, there's really nothing wrong with the game itself. But just because one part of a system is good doesn't mean you should stop wanting to strive for perfection, or at least something as close to perfection as you can get without really compromising any of the important parts. And honestly, a revolution, a shakeup to get rid of the BCS, would be as good as anything.

So yeah, I support SECession, but I hope that if that does happen, that the South isn't the only place where rebellion foments. There needs to be some kind of support from the West too, or else we'd end up with two systems and a system even more broken than what we'd have started out with.

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