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Sunday's Word: Fragile

It was a tough call as to what this weekend's "Sunday Word" would be. With Colgate's emphatic win over Georgetown and Holy Cross' thrilling win over Fordham, the word "order" was a strong candidate. With Harvard slamming Lafayette and Cornell defeating Bucknell, perhaps "Ivy" would have been appropriate.

But at this moment of time - when it seems like there are earthquakes or aftershocks rocking the college football world every couple of weeks - it's not a weekend to simply discuss the issues that face the Patriot League. It seems like the entire reality of college football is "fragile".

It's been an unwritten rule in years' past that talk of conference realignments, schools moving up from Division II to Division I or from FCS to FBS, or even puff pieces about not having football wouldn't see the light of day during the regular season - mostly because the emphasis of coverage was (and should be) on the exploits of the kids playing the games.

But it's different out there right now, this year. It's "fragile". And as a result, the lies, the fictions, and the polarization is out in full force. (more)

If you follow college football at all, you know it's been an offseason to end all offseasons.

* Nebraska left for the Big Ten, making it the soon-to-be Big Twelve.

* Colorado and Utah jumped ship to the Pac Ten, making the Pac Ten into the soon-to-be Pac Twelve, making the Big Twelve into the soon-to-be Big Ten, and making the Mountain West conference grab Boise State from the WAC to replace them.

* Texas coming oh-so-close to jumping to the Pac Ten, er twelve - until Fox Texas realized that they were better off with a Big Twelve Ten and sharing revenue with anybody else.

Folks thought that maybe the earthquakes were finished after the Texas deal, but the "fragility" of it all was proven further as the revelations kept coming through September.

BYU, seemingly upstaged by in-state rival Utah, sort of quietly dropped a bomb that there were going to go independent in football and join the WAC in all other sports - thanks to their own dedicated TV network.  In a fit of rage, the Mountain West offered invites to two f the top remaining three teams in the WAC - Nevada and Fresno State - in a effort to stop BYU from defecting.  The gambit only sort-of worked: BYU did indeed go independent in football, but instead of joining an unstable six-team conference, they chose to join the WCC instead - which does not sponsor football.

It's worth taking a step back here, and take a breath and look what is happening at the FBS level.  It's "fragile".  Every conference and institution at this higher level is trying to make a giant money grab.  Start with the Big Ten Twelve, Texas, the Pac Ten Twelve, and BYU who were trying to throw its weight around in an effort to.. get more money for themselves.   To do so, schools have disintegrated rivalries they have spent nearly a century cultivating.  For example, Utah State, BYU and Utah have played each other every year since 1922.  Starting in 2012, all three will be in different conferences.  When all the talk of revenue and world domination ends, the reality will be staring everyone in the face that their football product has been made worse.  Utah/Washington State won't ever be the same as Utah/Utah State or Utah/BYU.

That's not even saying how the Big Ten is in the middle of destroying its traditions for the sake of a championship game and divisional play.  In 2012, that end-of-season tradition that everyone thinks of when they think Big Ten - Ohio State vs. Michigan - will no longer be played at the end of the season.  While Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany's financial future is secured, as is the athletic directors at Michigan and Ohio State, will their fans be thankful that these morons took their biggest tradition and threw it on the money altar in order to not "take away" from their precious championship game?  I really don't think so.

What is happening in BCS football shows the "fragility" of the current system - and it's sickening, and sad.  It will take a long time to undo the damage they're all doing to their sport - dismantling local rivalries, carving up team demographics in terms of TV and cable markets, and possibly ending in sixteen-team football monstrosities that will make it harder to crown true conference champions, let alone a national champion through a playoff system.  Athletics directors and coaches at BCS schools are gorging themselves at the money trough, and it's surprising to me that fans of those schools are willing to let this all happen.

When there's turmoil in BCS, it's inevitable that the FBS schools that are not FBS will be affected, too.  No conference at the BCS level have been more adversely affected than the WAC, with the Mountain West conference a close second.  The WAC is currently hanging by a tiny thread, with six football playing schools and its largest remaining school - Hawai'i - mulling over playing football as an independent.  (The WAC's remaining schools have three institutions - Idaho, San Jose State, and New Mexico State - that should probably be downgraded to FCS.  All three barely averaged 15,000 per game in attendance, and Idaho only managed 12,000.)

Normally, all this doesn't concern fans who root for teams at the FCS level.  But as the actions of the BCS conferences affect non-BCS conferences, a WAC desperate for new members now looks to FCS to resupply its dwindling ranks.

And those schools who have dropped FCS football look at the actions in BCS world smile, and try to convert other college presidents to the fiction that cost-containment, FCS-level football is somehow either 1) corrupting our youth, 2) costs too much money to be "profitable", or some combination of 1) or 2), citing the actions of Nebraska - a school that holds almost zero resemblance to the Hofstra's or Lafayette's of the world - as a reason to drop their FCS-level programs.

Overall, though, it causes the lies - on both extremes - that people spit out about FCS football  to be repeated and swallowed as fact.

In a "fragile" world, it's up to people like me to set the record straight.  In a world of lunacy, I see that it's up to one person - me - to tell the truth and to expose all the idiocy surrounding me.  Fox won't do it.  ESPN won't do it.  So I will have to.

And that's what I'm going to do.

Tomorrow: Part One: Montana and the WAC


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