Senior College Football Columnist

Need college football changed forever? Call your dentist


The college administrator was frustrated. There were so many things he wanted to tell me this week.

But he couldn't.

This person had essentially been cut out of the conference realignment discussion at his job. The merry-go-round was being guided by forces stronger, more powerful and politically connected. You know, like the ophthalmologist on the Oklahoma Board of Regents or the dentist in the same position for Texas A&M.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a sample of the folks who are guiding/approving conference realignment. Oklahoma's board reportedly is unanimous on going to the Pac-12. A&M is already in hokey-pokey mode (they got their whole self in) with the SEC.

Freakin' regents. You know, those wheelin'-dealin' power brokers who are really plugged in to student-athlete welfare, NCAA bylaws and athletic budgets. They vote on university issues and appropriate funds. In many cases they are political appointees, conjuring up age-old claims of cronyism. But why go there? A&M's board is guided by the wisdom of the dude who owns Speedy Stop Food Stores.

Essentially, the same guy who is giving eye exams in Oklahoma suddenly has a vision west of the Rockies. That Austin, Texas, dentist on the Aggies board is filling cavities while leaving a hole in the Big 12. Don't forget the president of a trucking company or the head of a biotechnology and medical informatics firm.


These are all supposedly smart, accomplished individuals. They're qualified to be pulling teeth, routing trucks and prescribing contact lenses. But are they qualified to be moving athletes, loyalties and millions of dollars from one conference to another?

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"I think you've touched on a very important topic," said an influential former president at a BCS conference school. "They should be acting like a board, and not like athletic directors."

This report says the University of Texas and Texas A&M regents hold fewer degrees than their peers in California, Georgia, New York and Florida.

Apparently, not everything is big in Texas. At least when it comes to pursuing master's degrees.

That's part of the frustration. The administrator above isn't the only one being cut out of conference realignment. The fans, coaches, even ADs don't have a say. The current upheaval is in the hands of those dentists and eye doctors and -- oh, here's a good one -- a Broadway and London theater producer.

Just a guess, but I'm betting Oklahoma's A. Max Weitzenhoffer cares a lot more about the West End than the end the Big 12.

It would be shocking if the first communication between Oklahoma and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was a call from one of these state appointees.

"Kind of alarming when you think about it," said a Big 12 source close to the situation. "The future of college athletics is going to be altered by these volunteer board members who are dentists, convenience store operators and the like. That's amazing."

We used to talk about collegiality and the pursuit of the amateur ideal and actual conference partnerships. There was a time when Nebraska and Oklahoma subtly and softly guided the old Big Eight because they were the big dogs and everyone was OK with it.

In the coming age, conferences will become content farms. Whoever has the most, best football programs wins. Sounds kind of crass, doesn't it? So crass there are questions about where Kansas, a school with a top-five basketball program, will end up.

It's no longer about geographic or (puh-leaze) academic fits. You're either a market or a brand. Nebraska is a brand. Georgia Tech, rumored to be a hot property, brings along the Atlanta market to some enterprising raider.

Southern California, Texas and Michigan are both. Woe to Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State, which are neither. Good to know some university's future is being decided by a media consultant analyzing its Q rating.

It doesn't particularly matter if these revenue corrals even have original content. Oklahoma State in Pullman? Conference realignment has become Manifest Destiny in a bow tie.

Think of these emerging mega-leagues as Death Stars. Big, powerful, impenetrable, each with its own battalion of football stormtroopers. We'll pay to watch what amounts to the next Star Wars sequel because when Texas and Oklahoma are involved we cannot look away.

Feel the Force? We are the Force.

That's what the boom in college football has taught us over the past decade. We're flat-out suckers for the sport. That picture of the dead guy forming the "I" in Ohio State? Ol' Roy Miracle may have wanted it that way, but still ...

Everything else -- how to actually decide a conference champ with 16 teams -- is details. The current awkward, ham-handed conference realignment seems to me like Avatar. Damn the indigenous peoples, full speed ahead with the mining operation. College leagues used to be an assemblage of like-minded universities. Now there is an unholy mix of rights fees, start times, education and nonprofit status.

On that last point, Congress might save us:

Congressional committee hearing chairman: So tell me Mr. Delany, how does Ohio State athletics achieve nonprofit status with revenues of more than $120 million, a 105,000-seat stadium and paying a former coach $2.5 million a year?

Delany: Well, sir, a large portion of that money goes to charity.

Chairman: Charity? What charity?

Delany: Well, er, uh, ahem, the Big Ten Network ... Foundation.

The biggest frustration here is that no one seems to want to actually go through with it. Regents take note: Bevo isn't the only creature being led around by a ring in its nose. I talked to a Pac-12 source this week who told me there are at least eight conference presidents who are against expansion. The SEC presidents would have preferred to stand pat, but when Angelina Jolie, er, A&M knocks on your door you don't turn her/it away.

At least for the moment, the Strength Everywhere Conference seems content with tempting fate. Good luck with that unbalanced, unlucky 13.

By 2012, the state of Texas could be home to schools in the Pac-12, SEC, Big East and Conference USA. That's not a football culture, that's an appetizer plate. Friday Night Lights being replaced by Saturday Afternoon Cable Listings.

There would be no center, anywhere. Silicon Valley would be as close to big-time football as Death Valley. The SEC's footprint would stomp the yard. The Pac-12 could be in ... Kansas. Nothing says Tobacco Road like Texas vs. Wake Forest.

This is what the dentist and eye doc are about to give us. Wonder if they know, or care.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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