BobLee Says

Here Comes The Gang of Five

July 28,’13:  The latest buzzword in Big Time College Sports (BTCS) is “Division 4”.  “Division 4” wasn’t even a term three weeks ago, and it will surely be replaced very soon with a catchier phrase.  “Division 4” is the inevitable emergence of The Gang of Five “Power Conferences” that could have its own logo even sooner than PJ Hairston next laces up his UNC Nikes.... or Jan Boxhill sends her next intra-institutional e-mail.

Like it or not..... The Gang of Five is coming to a big screen TV near you.  A Gang Of Five Summit is already booked for January.  We're not talking "in the sweet by & by someday".

I’m old enough to recall college football’s version of a hot stove league forever discussing "a Southern Ivy" conference of schools really not all that interested in throwing its academic cred out with the BCS bathwater.   Academic cred is now as relevant as the single wing when discussing the future of BTCS.

Construction engineers use the term “water always wins” when discussing how hydrology HAS to be dealt with in building anything.  Fail to account for the inevitable effects of Mother Nature’s water and your project will surely be swept away in a rising tide..... maybe sooner, maybe later but “water always wins”.   The “water” in big time sports is “money”.    If you can’t generate enough $$$$ via TV contracts, boosters, ticket revenue, licensing rights, et al then you simply will not be as competitive versus schools that can.  

A mob of screeching board monkeys DEMANDING that their school o’ choice spend mega-bucks to hire a “big name coach” or install a larger Jumbotron to tickle the bling reflex of the next busload of semi-literate ESPN Top 100 blue-chippers won’t be satiated.  That mindset is “the cockroach of college sports” – it cannot be exterminated.  It can be ignored but at a price.

It takes a lot of money to even try and “be competitive” in BTCS.  However you and your school of choice defines “competitive”.... it takes $$$$.   Hiring a successful coach (and staff)..... Providing the bling that attracts “student-athletes” (wink, wink)..... Providing the bling that attracts spectators to watch those coaches and players.

Whether the objective is to attract 13,000 fans to Elon’s Rhodes Stadium or 100,000 to the 4-5 schools that now have 100,000+ stadia, and ..... it takes mega $$$$ to do it.

The Gang of Five includes the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and ACC.   Everyone else falls into a glob of Northern Ball State Tech whozits that gets what table scraps are left.  For now the discussion just involves Football.  BTC Basketball would remain pretty much the same with “the Davids” still a part of the mix each March.... or will it?

Issues prompting this latest ASAP re: The Gang of Five include:

Paying players..... whatever you call it and whatever the amount, any form of monetary compensation beyond what is now offered is “paying the players”.   Is that a sacrosanct line that once crossed opens the floodgates and forever changes college sports?  Is it simply an inevitable reality?  Will just Gang of Five players be paid?  Will just football players be paid?  ????   Lots of devils in those details..... The O’Bannon Case IS a BFD that probably WILL radically change BTCS as we know it. .... the emergence of un-repentent drug-dealing millionaire rappers as sports agents is yet another BFD to watch develop.

NCAA Rules..... Will the Gang of Five create its own 5x7 index card of “rules” and throw out the infamously voluminous NCAA Handbook?   Would a Gang of Five school be able to recruit under different rules than the whozits?  A kid being recruited by Wake Forest and by AppyState, for instance, would be subject to very different situations.  ..... not only recruiting but eligibility and general behavior rules would likely be different. ...... how could there be any cross-pollination / scheduling whatsoever between Gang of Five and whozits if they are playing under different rules?

The “student-athlete” concept..... THAT semantical silliness is officially dead and buried now.  It has been for a decade or so but it was never official.  It’s official now.   No one in the Gang of Five is even pretending to be interested in enhancing the academic side of BTCS.  I’m not saying The Nyang’oro Plan is going to be the norm, but lets say “emphasis on the classroom experience” ain’t on any Gang of Five AD's To Do List.... other than as a loser’s lament for the bottom third of Gang of Five schools.   There will still be perpetual doormats in each Gang of Five conference.   Doormat fans know who they are.   It’s the muddle in the middle of each conference that will keep crying “we’re a sleeping giant”.  Allowing for the occasional "lightning in a Boise bottle", the same top twenty programs over the past ten years will simply play musical chairs under any new format.

TV Contracts..... There are several new “sports networks” on the immediate horizon that are not headquartered in Bristol CT.... most notably Fox Sports1.   They will all want the most attractive product to air.  More and more Gang of Five conferences and mega-schools are opting to start their own networks.  Whoever airs Alabama vs aTm will always win..... With virtually unlimited access to a bevy of Gang of Five TV options every Saturday, what chance will the Elons have to fill its stadium for any game, much less with marginal weather or a non-competitive team and a whozit opponent?

The Home Theater Option..... you know this is one of my favorite trends to watch.  Every goober with a credit card now has at least a 32” HD flat screen.   If he can watch his choice of 5-6 Gang of Five games simultaneously (with all those terrific screen graphics) on any given Saturday AND have use of his own toilet and refrigerator..... versus spend $100/person to travel ever how far to see Alma Mammy play Whozit Tech in 95 degree heat or a bone-chilling drizzle???  Even board monkeys will figure out those economics eventually..... for the handful of Gang of Five programs that have waiting lists for season tickets there are mucho more Gang of Five programs plus every whozit program that are offering all sorts of mini-package discounts and incentives.   (Including every program within 200 miles of where I am sitting).   Other than the Top 10-12 programs, why would ANYBODY pay face value for a football game ticket anywhere in America?

Howsabout if a Gang o' Five doormat or even a "middle muddle" school choses to "opt out" of this new amped-up arms race?  That would be such a ballsy move by not-very-ballsy admins / trustees as to be ain't gonna happen.  

 I’m not lamenting this approaching tsunami any more than I lament my own passing years and any other form of “progress”.   I love the game of BTC football as a TV spectator experience.  The TV tech guys are forever enhancing my viewing experience with those cool on-screen graphics.  The cable guys are forever offering me more attractive options each weekend.  That 90% of the gladiators are semi-literate "look at me" thug-aletes (and "Johnny Football" YUCK) is simply how it is.  THAT did not suddenly come about this past week.  One does not go from a 34" waist to a 44" waist by eating one doughnut.

There are always 100+ other channels I can choose plus more active pursuits such as gardening, exercising, listening to my audiobooks or joining a political activist faux-pentacostal motley-mini-mob.   OK, maybe not that last option.

Posted: July 28, 2013 at 12:08 PM by SaidWHATMedia | with 11 comments

All Comments To Be Approved By Moderator

Why would Charley Justice be crying?
It's headed back to his era, not away.

Buck for buck...curriculum for curriculum, one could easily draw the parallels.

The strength of overall character may be on a different plane, but that's a different chart.

BL: Single-wing.... Jump Passes.... Statue of Liberty .... and Quick Kicks ..... YEE HAAA!
7/29/2013 7:47:50 PM

There once was an era when all Indiana high school men's basketball teams played in one big tournament. Did you see the movie? Well, it was true -- little schools could, though the genetic lotto and with a good coach -- challenge the big, bad inner-city school down the road, and perchance beat them. Millions of tickets were sold, and for 4-5 weeks a year, it's all anyone in Indiana could talk about.

Somewhere along the line, someone decided that this wasn't "fair" and wasn't like other states, so they broke the thing into divisions. Then they had the champion from each division play in a tournament of champions.

Total attendance of the tournament was previously around 1 million; now it's 40% of that.

I'm just saying... for all of the compliants about BTCS, especially the big football programs, those who demand a fix that involves a proper playoff, paid players, etc etc might just find out that the thing won't play in Peoria. Perhaps, of course, 'cause Peoria's residents will be trying to be excited about U-Illinois and/or Northwestern football after this is done.

BL: OH MY ! Now you've gone and done it. CNR is the World's #1 Authority on that Indiana Basketball-Mania (aka "Hoosiers"). If I recall he both played and coached in it and recalls every ball possession.

There's NEVER been anything comparable in American sports.
7/29/2013 2:05:51 PM

When I was a little boy, my mom and dad and I would sit in our den and watch Carolina basketball on a fuzzy black and white 19 inch Sylvania TV screen..... The games were played in old Woolen Gym ......There was no announcer on the WUNC (Channel 4) production,but you could hear the crowd noise with its intermittent applause or the occasional boos of disagreement over a referee's ruling, but recurring sounds including the dribbling of the basketball and the shouts of players and coaches were distinctly heard in a kind of echo effect reverberating from the hollow gymnasium fit between temporary bleachers .... Sometimes, if there was a radio broadcast,we listened to the Ray Reeve play-by-play as we watched the silent screen......

We 'yoosta' guys tend to remember those kinder, gentler days, the Norman Rockwell painting of our lives as kids growing up, more likely reminiscing the loss of our youth than the way it was though......But today the deadly sins of avarice and sloth have turned Big Time College Sports (football and basketball) into the hoodlum sports that they are......
For me college sports without real student participants (bright kids, literate kids) is simply not worth watching......So I'll take the walks, the afternoon matinee at the Rialto, a good book (reading an old John Le Carre at the moment--his The Spy Who Came in from the Cold)......Haven't read the latest James Lee Burke, and I need to start on Stewart Woods' Stone Barrington......Remember a happy hour with N&O Sports writers at PJ Clarke's during State's 1978 NIT run......Great old historical bar on 55th and Third. Small beer glasses like the PR's in Raleigh.......No Bernie though....

People watch those silly wrestling matches, the ever-popular Ultimate Fighting, and now those silly Big Time College Sports......If we don't watch out we will find ourselves keeping up with the Kardashians......

Being a movie buff: "From What's Up Doc?"
Eunice: Don't you know the meaning of propriety?
Judy: Propriety? Noun. Conformity to established standards of behavior or manners, suitability, rightness, or justice. See "etiquette."

You nailed this one......Now I just read that PJ (not the bar) is at it again--boy crying out for help?
Leaving for Thailand

BL: "Avarice & Sloth" - weren't they a Vaudeville act on the Orpheum circuit?

Ya think these will be "the good ol' days" for The Millenials or whatever the up/coming generation is called?

Yep, I'd say young PJ is hell-bent on playing Russian Roulette with his only career possibility. My DDome sources tell me he has been a ticking time-bomb from Day One.
Ultimately we all must be accountable for our actions.... sigh.

Stone is much more "urbane" than Dave Robicheaux. Woods' novels are easy "beach reads". JL Burke is far more the premier phraseologist.
7/29/2013 8:02:26 AM

Interesting article. Does the author not know that the "Gang of Five" term has already been coined for the conferences outside of the "Power 5"? I guess it would be appropriate for the Power 5 to take that away as well.

BL: "The author" (aka Moi) knows the term "Gang of _____" has been used often. "The Gang of 88" being forever linked to Duke Lacrosse. ..... Alas, only so many words in only so many combinations.
7/29/2013 8:00:14 AM

The universities and Major League Baseball seem to have figured out how to co-exist and produce two very good products, minor league baseball and college world series baseball. Too bad football and basketball haven't done so well. Like you write, change is inevitable.

BL: C'est le vie!
7/28/2013 10:47:24 PM

ken b.
I remember the love of the game guys. I remember Cincy Reds near my hometown selling ins.&cars and working @restaurants in off season to help feed their families. I remember when several sports did not encourage lifting weights. I remember agents were in Hollywood not sports. I remember going to high school or college games with only stats from weekly newspaper in my hometown. Your article reminds me why I love college or most pro(still trying to ignore steroids) and little league baseball (without parents)! Give me Ken Griffey Jr not Barry Bonds. So I really do not care about the changes or if they succeed unless the term "follow the money" means there goes a Brinks truck. Love your site.

BL: Thanks. "Change" can be like Conspiracy Theories - many are bogus.... some are not. All together they shape our society.
7/28/2013 5:24:59 PM

One side benefit of this might be that the Gang of Five conferences will only play each other, creating more interesting non-conference matchups than the usual 2-3 directional non-BCS conference or FCS games on every team's schedule. Of course, this may mean that power and money may move to the "doormat" or "middle muddle" schools in the Gang of Five who may be able to name their price to the highest bidder to fill out the non-conf schedules of the Alabamas, Ohio States, etc. That would be ironic.

BL: YES.... the GoF OOC scheduling will be an issue. The GoF elite programs will be courting the GoF doormats for three easy Ws.
7/28/2013 2:58:02 PM

Have you read Kevin Williamson's "The End Is Near And Its Going To Be Awesome?" If so, you'll understand what I mean when I say that this column makes me think that the future he predicts for the Federal government may very well also be the future of BTCS. But perhaps that's just wishful thinking on my part.

Essentially, Williamson's idea is that the Federal government, and many state and city governments, has gotten so bloated and overburdened by unfunded liabilities that it must soon implode. When it does, he predicts, society will do much better because small, voluntary organizations will arise to take the place of the Federal government for many of those services that the government has foolishly undertaken over the last 75 years for which it is utterly, hopelessly, laughably incompetent, leaving for it only the relatively few tasks for which it was intended by the founding fathers and for which it is at least arguably competent.

Maybe the coming Gang of Five will have the same effect on college sports. Let the thug-a-letes be recognized for what they are--minor league professionals--and make no pretense that they are students. Unhinge them from any affiliation with colleges, etc. and let them earn whatever they are worth honestly and openly. Let our alma maters return to teaching young men and women who wish to prepare for life in an occupation other than professional athletics. For those students who love sports, let them play intramural sports.

One can dream, can't one?

BL: You assume that the option for non-jocks to "go to college to prepare for a lifetime occupation" is still valid. MAYBE at a community college!

Yes, the NCAA's problems do mirror America's.
7/28/2013 2:53:26 PM

BLS--- Today’s Sunday School Revelation regarding the Gang of Five:

As Riley said to Gillis so many years ago, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

Somewhere Choo-Choo Justice is crying...

BL: Not even Choo Choo remembers Chester A. Riley, much less good neighbor Gillis. :-)
7/28/2013 2:26:32 PM

I think you are saying that big time college athletics /pro football farm systems have completely won out over any semblance of a student athlete driven concept.....and that TV programming advances and availability will make being disassociated from the campus/academia side of things so commonplace as to completely void and assuage any guilt or pretense we might otherwise feel. If so, where does the concept of ethics cheating.....come into play?

BL: The Gang of Five essentially becomes the equivalent of AAA Baseball with the whozits being the lower minors.

The ever-diminishing line twixt The Gang of Five and "the pros" narrows to an imperceptible smidgen as regards "ethics" and such. There isn't much difference today. Less tomorrow.

"Cheating" aka LIC will be an early casualty of all this.
7/28/2013 1:53:21 PM

Very insightful piece. I agree there is no point in lamenting the change. There is absolutely no way to go back in college athletics. The lucky ones might the fans and grads of the whoozit schools that to see them play, you have to go the games. They maybe will be left with kids who not quite good enough for big time sports but are willing and want to play and get a college education. They might be more like Division II and III. Lamenting change is a waste of time and mental energy. Also some of the best things about the good old days is that we were young and ignorant.

Ever read any of Tony Hillerman?


BL: No on Hillerman but I am familiar with his Indian shaman stories.

Lot to be said for being young & ignorant (innocent). :-)
7/28/2013 12:27:29 PM

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