Sorry, but schools frantically chasing money isn't a new thing

by | National Columnist

Ahh, the innocence of college athletics? The traditions? The natural rivalries? The welfare of the students? The honor of the universities? The waves of nostalgia for a bygone time?

We'll wait while you hurl vegetables, auto parts and invective at all the whiny old-timers.

Then again, let's be fair. The death of a completely mythical world defended by people who have always known the truth but liked swaddling themselves in the myth is a sad occasion.

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In fact, the Great Land Grab of 2011 is the first truly honest thing the college athletics megabusiness has done since it began a hundred some-odd years ago. It's the first time people in the game said clearly and loudly that all they really give a damn about is grinding out cash.

Not commonalities. Not shared visions. Not helping teenagers find joy through competitive sport. Not even taking money while wearing a ski mask and giving it a phony name. This is college athletics finally showing how the magic trick is done, and showing that it wasn't actually pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but filling the rabbit with silver dollars and throwing it into a bag.

And now that the process is so far gone that it no longer can be undone, now we're hearing people sniveling about the good old days, when the lies were told with a straight face and the students were hosed in only subtle and sanctimonious ways.

And the people we're hearing from are longtime coaches and older fans who remember the good old days and think they were the only days.

Well, these are our childrens' good old days, and they're the ones who will be bringing the next generation of cash to this ravenous hell-whore called college sport.

In short, when people like Jim Boeheim speak of the sadness that comes with the undoing of one system of shakedown sport for another, as he did in Birmingham on Monday, he is really speaking for the end of the system that made him rich, successful and famous, and the beginning of a new one that will doubtless do the same for his successors.

Well, not necessarily doubtless. There is something oddly unsettling about the theory that there is all this money running around just waiting to be swallowed. I don't want to alarm anyone here, but does anyone hear the initials "AIG" lilting softly in the background?

But even if there is all that money everyone says is out there, hearing and reading all the postmortems about the new moneygrubbers has reached a tedious place. Every generation should have its own moneygrubbers, and these are the ones for the adults of tomorrow.

The fact that schools are running around like ants on a dessert cart looking for cupcake frosting isn't the off-putting part. They are acting as they have acted for decades -- on their own behalf.

It's that those who have been chronicling realignment didn't understand that this was the end product, and the only product there could be. It's taking new money and giving it to fewer people, which is not new, but it's giving it to newer people too.

Newer commissioners. Newer athletic directors. Newer coaches. Let the spinning wheel spin, kids.

And that's the real issue the newfound conscientious objectors to realignment are complaining about. It's the passage of time. Texas-Texas A&M? Syracuse-Georgetown? Kansas-Missouri? Those are VCRs, or are about to be.

But if you oldie-timers need some consolation, consider that in 20 years this will happen again, and the 70 survivors will be whittled down to 45, or 32. The rich get richer because they are more adept at screwing the not-so-richer, which is what happened when the ACC grew from a regional conference to a full-fledged player, and before that when the Big East was mashed together from old defunct conferences.

And if that isn't comfort enough, maybe the Mayans will be right and human life will be dramatically altered or destroyed by the change in the planet's magnetic field.

Sure, you may go with the other 7 billion people, but the BCS goes with you. And frankly, from what we hear, most college fans would consider human extinction a small price to pay.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay


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