Senior College Football Columnist

Know an honorable man running college sports? Give him a minute


Baylor's Ken Starr is aware that the advent of superconferences could draw the interest of Congress. (AP)  
Baylor's Ken Starr is aware that the advent of superconferences could draw the interest of Congress. (AP)  

Just so we all know the ACC is expanding for the right reasons:

Proximity: It's only 1,400 miles from Miami to Syracuse now that the old Big East rivals have reunited. Good luck with those volleyball teams flying back in the middle of the night from midweek matches.

Solidarity: The new 14 ACC band of brothers are so secure in their future that they've set the exit fee at a mere $20 million.

Academics: Don't even go there.

The ACC expanded and once again insulted everyone's intelligence. If I hear "good fit" one more time, I'm going to hurl. A good fit is a pair of Cole Haans. Conference realignment has turned out be a shiv in somebody's back.

"No honor, no trust," Baylor AD Ian McCaw said. "I think there's really a lack of honor and a lack of trust throughout college athletics right now. It's very unhealthy."

That being said, if the Big East -- or whoever -- called tomorrow, wouldn't Baylor have to consider being the latest school to dump a conference?

"That's exactly right," McCaw said.

That doesn't make McCaw's school hypocritical, not after what the ACC pulled off. Baylor holds the threat of legal action if Texas A&M joins the SEC. But if some conference wants to throw Baylor a lifeline, there really is no honor among tweeds, the presidents who are guiding the upheaval of college sports. Educators with elbow patches rule. It's amazing what these otherwise dignified CEOs will do when a dollar is dangled in front of them.

Dodd's Power Poll
1. Oklahoma
2. LSU
3. Boise State
4. Alabama
5. Wisconsin
6. Virginia Tech
7. Stanford
8. Nebraska
9. Texas A&M
10. Florida State
11. Oregon
12. Oklahoma State
13. South Carolina
14. Arkansas
15. West Virginia
16. Baylor
17. Michigan State
18. TCU
19. Florida
20. Michigan
21. Miami
22. Ohio State
23. Illinois
24. Houston
25. (tie) Clemson/USC

However they do it, it's awkward. Commissioners are great at making money; they're not so good at rationally explaining how they make it. Please don't tell us that the latest ACC raid is about academics or proximity or "fit." You're likely to get a Cole Haan in the backside, and not just from me.

College athletics remains rudderless except for the odd scandal to show the NCAA can shove everybody back in line. Penn State president Graham Spanier told me that athletics occupies 1 to 2 percent of his school's budget but 10 percent of his attention. If the ACC presidents are approving another hostile raid of the Big East, you wonder how they conduct real business.

A few weeks ago, ACC commissioner John Swofford, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and Big East commissioner John Marinatto made some sort of pinky swear and promised not to raid each other going forward. They were going to work to stabilize their own conferences without wrecking the other.

"They would protect each other," a Big East source said. "They were all going to work together."

So much for that when Pittsburgh and Syracuse became available. The Big East now teeters on the brink of death. The Big 12 isn't far behind. And it's not even an ACC thing, although the conference did not distinguish itself, again, during the second aggressive attack on the Big East in eight years.

Louisville AD Tom Jurich said both he and Marinatto found out about the ACC's intentions from Brett McMurphy of Swofford disputed the Marinatto part of that on Sunday morning but judge for yourself.

It seems Swofford didn't have the decency to tell Marinatto he was about to once again throat-slash his league.

"I looked at my phone at 10:42 on Friday night," Jurich said of McMurphy's call. "I know he [McMurphy] then called John [Marinatto] right away.

"Regardless of whenever he talked to him, that's wrong. He [Swofford] already raided our league once."

Swofford is a supposedly honorable person and well-respected, but at least in prison, you kind of know danger lurks around every corner. In this ruthless college land grab, the guy you shake hands with today could be burning your home to the ground tomorrow.

Swofford actually spoke these words to in August: "We need to restore confidence and integrity into the collegiate model and that can only be done if and when we as leaders work together in a constructive manner."

No one worked together on this one except Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which slipped out of the Big East like the Baltimore Colts on the way to Indianapolis -- in a furtive and gutless manner.

That integrity certainly was on display this summer when Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg was involved in negotiations with ESPN on a reported $1.3 billion deal that might have saved the Big East. Nordenberg's says some outlets had erroneously reported that he was chair of the Big East presidents. Regardless ...

"Marinatto reports directly to Nordenberg," that Big East source said. "What's John going to do? He couldn't take a piss without talking to Nordenberg."

Nordenberg's school was one of five in the Big East that sued the ACC in 2003 when it tried to take Miami, Boston College and Syracuse. You want to talk hypocrisy?

"This is a case that involves broken commitments, secret dealings, breaches of fiduciary responsibility, the misappropriation of conference opportunities and predatory attempts to eliminate competition," Nordenberg said eight years ago.

The same could be said about his conduct today.

You wonder if these CEOs realize the collegiate athletic model is becoming endangered. Baylor president Ken Starr suggested over the weekend that rapid, unchecked expansion may draw the interest of Congress. Starr speculated that superconferences may run into anti-trust issues and have a disproportionate impact on women's sports. Student-athlete welfare certainly isn't at the top of the agenda. Tulsa and Oklahoma State seemed more concerned about protecting themselves legally than protecting students. Their Saturday game was delayed more than three hours because of weather. Good call. No one wants to get sued if a patron gets hit by lightning. But there doesn't seem to be a similar sympathy for the athletes. The game kicked off at 12:15 a.m. CT. and ended at 3:35 a.m.

Beyond the ACC, it's all of college athletics. It's clear that a sizable portion of presidents at any school would pawn their Rolexes for beer money if he or she was desperate enough.

In a few days, maybe Monday, the next bomb will drop. The Texas and Oklahoma regents are meeting Monday with conference realignment on the agenda. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has been suspiciously quiet, same as Swofford until Saturday. Does that mean a further raid on the Big East or a blockbuster move by Notre Dame?

The ACC's actions may have changed minds among the Pac-12 presidents who, by all accounts, were dead set against further expansion. Swofford didn't exactly quash reports that his conference isn't done expanding with the possible addition of Rutgers and UConn.

"We're very comfortable with 14," Swofford said, "We're not philosophically opposed to 16 [teams]."

"I can say in all my years of college athletics administration I've never seen this level of uncertainty and potential fluidity among schools and conferences," Swofford added. "Schools are looking for stability."

Except the ACC is contributing greatly to that uncertainty because of what -- Baylor might sue Texas A&M and or the SEC? Texas has backed itself into a corner with the Longhorn Network? Oklahoma is thinking about going to the Pac-12?

The ACC has now created a battle royal between the Big East and Big 12 for their mutual continued existence. It's clear one is going to have to poach the other to join the superconference sprint race.

Yes, those same two conferences that were partners with the ACC in self-preservation a few weeks ago.

Now they're in a steel-cage death match for survival. The only certain loser is class.

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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