10 June 2010
In the next 48 hours, the landscape of college football will change forever.
Obviously, conference expansion/contraction/implosion is first and foremost on every fan's mind. But the USC sanctions offer nearly as giant a change. Let's look at both these huge seismic events and how they'll change the future for the Tide in detail.
First, and most obviously, the face (and names) of the other major conferences are about to change radically. Colorado cranked it up this morning, and Nebraska will finish off the old Big 12 tomorrow. Yes, folks, the Big 12 is officially dead. Colorado will move to the Pac-10 (ostensibly to be renamed), and Nebraska will bolt for the Big 10 (ditto, but since they're already 11, who knows). None of this happens for next season - we're talking 2011 at the earliest - but it obviously starts the dominoes falling. And once they start falling, there's no telling what will happen. But it's gonna be interesting...
Texas is the real lynchpin here; what they do probably governs what Texas A&M and Texas Tech do. If they move west, as expected, then the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-16. That means the Big East is in danger of being eaten alive by the old Big 10, and the SEC and the ACC will consider their options as well.
I could speculate all week long, and many many folks have. But the most likely scenario involves a 16 team Pac-10 and a 12 team Big 10. Both expansions allow championship games for the conferences. Although there is a rumor this morning the "Pac-16" will ask the BCS for two automatic bids and forgo a championship game, I think it's unlikely that request would be granted. The SEC, ACC and Big 10 would no doubt fight it tooth and nail. And the conference championship game is too big a money and exposure windfall to give up. And make no mistake, this is all about money and exposure.
So, how does this effect Alabama? Well, immediately it levels what has been an uneven playing field with regard to conference championship games. If all the major conferences (it's safe to ignore the Big East, trust me) have championship games, then everyone has to play an extra game. This is good news, right?
Well, maybe. It does mean that's harder to run the table in the new Big 10 and the new Pac-10. That means more equal footing, which is probably a good thing.
However, as it stands now, a one loss SEC team that wins against another presumably top-10 team in the SEC title game is nearly a cinch for the BCS title game. If Ohio State plays Nebraska (and they're both top 10) or USC plays Texas (ditto), those teams would be tough to refuse as well. It means things are inherently more confusing for the BCS.
Which may mean a playoff... or it could mean just more chaos.
But, an undefeated USC team in 2012 wouldn't be eligible for a Pac-10 title game. Because they've been hit with the harshest penalties since some SEC school got slammed in 2002. It's hard to remember who that was. USC will lose 20+ scholarships and be post-season ineligible for the next two seasons. UPDATE: Make that 30 scholarships over 3 years. The NCAA absolutely destroyed them. Wow.
Tide fans know how hard the road back from the sort of probation staring USC in the face is. Whether or not Lane Kiffin could have made anything out of the talent USC has is largely an academic question now. The best coach in college football today was required to get Alabama back on the national scene, and that was eight years after the verdict. Whatever your thoughts on Kiffin may be, he's no Nick Saban.USC is effectively derailed for the balance of this decade. They're not a factor.
That helps the Tide - there will almost certainly be a west coast power to step up, a la LSU in the 2000's, but they won't be the juggernaut USC has been. And if you're contending for the national title, it helps any time there's one less serious contender.
And finally, these many years later, Alabama's compliance staff may, in fact, be vindicated. It's been argued (persuasively) that USC's violations weren't as bad as the ones Alabama committed in the run up to 2002. Maybe Bama was indeed "staring down the barrel of a gun", and the cooperation from the compliance office was the only thing that saved the Tide. USC, probably thinking they'd learned something from the Alabama case, fought the NCAA at every turn. They didn't self-report, they didn't turn over materials like the NCAA wanted, they effectively hid Reggie Bush. And, the NCAA dropped a similarly harsh hammer for effectively less terrible deeds.
Here's hoping that will be mentioned in the report the NCAA releases on USC today.
These penalties should be no cause for joy among Tide fans; it still shows just how arbitrary the NCAA can be. But could mean that maybe it's time we gave the folks who did the compliance work in 2002 a bit of a pass.
No matter what, it's a huge day of college football news.
This is clearly the biggest day in off-season football news since... heck I don't know. If these aren't the two biggest stories of this summer, then we're in for a crazy summer. No matter what the following months bring, know that we'll be here to give you the lowdown on how it all shapes the Tide's future.
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