National Columnist

Congress: Stop TV-inspired realignment money grab ... like now


John Swofford should be forced to answer to Congress -- under oath -- for his actions. (AP)  
John Swofford should be forced to answer to Congress -- under oath -- for his actions. (AP)  

In normal circumstances, Congress can't stay far enough away from sports for my taste. We don't need steroid hearings on Capitol Hill or federal lawsuits against bulging Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. We don't need Sen. John McCain threatening to have the federal government shut down the UFC. And we damn sure don't need a House subcommittee passing empty legislation, as it did in 2009, prohibiting the BCS title game from being promoted as "the national championship" because the BCS isn't a true playoff.

But we need this.

We need Congress to get involved in the wave of conference realignment that's crashing through the upper levels of college sports, threatening to remake college football and basketball in a way that will benefit nobody, and I mean nobody, beyond the television networks.

How sincere am I on this? I work for a television network, a network that televises college football. Then again, I don't work for the television network responsible for this garbage. When you get angry, college football fans, don't get angry at CBS. I mean, sure, get angry at CBS for favoring the SEC or for allowing Gary Danielson into your living rooms (just kidding, Gary!), but don't get mad at CBS for this, because this isn't our fault.

ESPN is doing this. And ESPN must be stopped.

All of them must be stopped: It starts with ESPN, but it has extended to the other networks. Conference commissioners. The monstrous University of Texas. Pouting Texas A&M. This isn't an anti-ESPN screed -- this is an anti-realignment screed, because everyone involved with this is screwing up college sports. They're rewriting a book that could use an edit, yes, but doesn't need to be translated into some indecipherable new language.

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It's a language that will ruin some schools, by the way. Big schools -- the schools that don't get swept up in this wave of realignment but instead get swept out the door, into the alley with the rest of the detritus of college sports. Schools like Kansas State and Iowa State and Louisville and Cincinnati and South Florida and Central Florida. Huge schools.

State schools.

Wait a minute ... state schools? Ding-ding-ding. That's a government issue, and it appears the government is starting to catch on. According to a story Sunday in the New York Times, "a congressman from a state with a university that could be harmed by realignment said the government might have no choice but to get involved.

"'I think the situation is rising to a level where getting Congress engaged may be unavoidable,' he said, adding, 'Congress has the nexus to engage. These are tax-exempt organizations ...'"

Go get 'em, Congress. Let's have hearings on Capitol Hill. Give us a John McCain sound bite that compares the ACC's treatment of the Big East to "human cockfighting." Put Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and ACC commissioner John Swofford on trial, and throw everything at them but Brian McNamee's bloody syringe. Hammer away at Dodds and Swofford and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott until they have two choices: They can wag their fingers at Congress and lie that "I have never taken steroids another conference's school, period" ... or they can pretend to not know English.

I suppose they could claim to misremember this whole thing -- but not us. We can't forget what they've done, when what they've done is pulverize the college landscape. You do realize that conference realignment doesn't end with conference realignment, right? It ends with the destruction of the NCAA as we know it, with the 64 or 72 biggest schools forming four super-conferences of 16 or 18 schools and then breaking away from the NCAA to keep all that TV money to itself. March Madness? Kiss it goodbye. That's where this is heading.

This could be the point where the self-righteous among you, the quasi-intellectuals who follow rules without ever asking why, tut-tut that "schools have the right to do what's best for them" -- and that would be correct. The most powerful schools and the most powerful conferences do have the right to seek the best possible deals for themselves.

And I have the right to hate it.

And Congress has the right, and even the duty, to stop it.

This is where I admit to having a convenient need for Congress to intervene in sports now, unlike in years past when it wasn't convenient and therefore seemed stupid. I plead guilty on that one, and without shame. Baseball wasn't improved by that farce on Capitol Hill in 2005 when Rafael Palmeiro wagged his finger and Sammy Sosa forgot how to speak English. College football wasn't improved by that ridiculous House subcommittee bill of 2009. But you know what? The UFC actually was improved after McCain compared the early stages of that sport -- when fighters could pull each other's hair and kick each other's testicles -- to human cockfighting.

And college sports would be improved if McCain or somebody like him would step in and save college sports from itself. Right now we have a handful of power-drunk commissioners and athletic directors and TV executives treating the country's biggest colleges like chess pieces, moving them here and there to suit their purposes. Rook to king's bishop six? Nope, even dumber.

Now we have Texas A&M to the SEC, and Texas to the Pac-12, and Pittsburgh to the ACC. We would have Kansas State and Iowa State and Cincinnati and Louisville most likely kicked to the curb because we have the Big 12 going down in flames, the Big East mortally wounded, and several schools -- big schools, state schools -- in jeopardy of losing millions of dollars by getting checkmated right off the board.

College football must be stopped. Enough with the hair pulling. No more kicks to the groin.

Call your congressmen. Tell them to stop this conference cockfighting.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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