Guide to the SEC: Conference Realignment

Hey Y’all,

As promised I’m here to mock Mizzou for you…er well sort of.

I’m about five weeks late.

The thing is, how do you mock a school you know nothing about? After all, many of my war stories and satire of other fans in the SEC comes from personal experience. We all know each other, we all hate each other, but in the end (and this is VERY grudging with regards to Mississippi State), we all RESPECT each other. I’ve had encounters with just about every type of SEC creature out there. There’s always plenty of material. But…what the heck is a Mizzou?

Yes I know it’s the nickname for the University of Missouri just like Ole Miss is what a non Yankee calls the University of Mississippi. But there’s where the similarities end. I’ve never seen Mizzou in person, never followed the old Big 12 North (or Big Eight before that), spent about 5 hours in St. Louis once, and flew over the state a couple of times. I think I watched them on TV once or twice when inexplicably they had them ranked in the top five and after two or three plays lost interest.

These guys…THESE GUYS are in my beloved SEC. I don’t think so.

And I thought the other school in Columbia was suspect.

And I thought the other school in Columbia was suspect.

NOT WORTHY OF SATIRE 

Friends, rather than waste too much southern fried gigabytes on the matter let me just say this. From what I’ve seen of them this past year they are dorks. And I want them out of my league.

Sure, Texas A&M is new as well. Here’s the thing. They’re in the South. Maybe not so much South-EASTERN, but they’re on the right side of the sweet-tea line even if they make barbecue out of cow instead of hog. They have history. They have tradition. They can win a game or two in conference. They even slayed the Tuscaloosa Beast right in Bryant-Denny on their first conference try. They have my attention and they have my respect.

Those other guys? I saw matching school spirit t-shirts, Glee-esque choreography in the student section, Conference USA uniforms, a smallish stadium, trash talk against err…um..Kansas…and although a “border state” a campus a little too close to Iowa for my taste. I don’t like it. No sir.

So why pray tell are they crashing our party? Let me get to the real topic at hand here. An ugly thing called conference realignment.

It’s why I’m forced to write about Missouri.

EVERYBODY REALLY HATES CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT

Tradition.  It’s what makes Southern college football special. Between the Hedges, Death Valley, The Grove. War Eagle, Gator Bait, Roll Tide. Bryant, Dooley, Neyland. Manning, Walker. Cannon. We all know what those terms and phrases mean and we don’t like when they get changed up on us. I don’t know about you but I was just starting to get used to Arkansas and South Carolina.

Tradition. It’s what makes college football special in the rest of the country too. Yep, even those blue state conferences have a little history to them whether you like your helmets with wings  or mini pot leaf stickers on them. And believe it or not some of those Yankee folks are just as upset at realignment as we are down here.

It has to do with putting teams from the wrong geographic area, wrong culture, and wrong playing style into a conference with a very well established sense of doing things. In other words, it may surprise you to find out that there are indeed different kinds of Yankees. And they often don’t understand or get along with one another.

Why on earth would the Big Ten take on Rutgers and Maryland?

Did you know there were different kind of Yankees? Neither did I.

Did you know there were different kind of Yankees? Neither did I.

I mean it’s one thing for the Big Ten to fudge some math take on a school or two past the number ten. Penn State was a good fit. Nebraska…pushing it a little, but still understandable. Scarlet Knights and Terps? Not so much. Really awful when you think about. Totally wrong and evil if you care about the Big Ten (or are pretending to for this article in order to make a point about throwing Mizzou out of the SEC).

The Midwest is Bob Seger country. It’s hard-working, plain, earnest, and about 15 years behind the times. It’s putting on your finest pair of sweatpants and ordering up an extra helping of ranch dressing with your cheese fries darn it while apologizing for saying darn it.  Rutgers and Maryland…they’re the kids dumping the ranch dressing in your lap, and giving you the finger for causing them to do it, while they’re on their way to grind dance against the chick with big hair.

It’s like Sparty went and got a barbed wire tattoo….nay two barbed wire tattoos.

What makes it worse (just like Mizzou), Rutgers and Maryland don’t add anything to your football skill set. It’s not like the bigger Big Ten schools haven’t already recruited out of those areas. In fact, both schools are likely to be cannon fodder on the gridiron against most of their new conference opponents. Nope it makes no sense. Unless…

Yep…TV markets. Maryland and Rutgers brings the conference New York and DC. Lots of television sets tuned in by folks who forgot that the Redskins and Giants aren’t playing until the next day. In return Rutgers and Maryland get to fill their coffers with TV money and also fill their half empty stadiums with alums from Michigan, Penn State, and THE Ohio State University that churns out thousands of degrees but can’t employ them in state.

So the big name schools get a few more easy “home” games, while the Sopranos extras get a chance to wet their beaks in a more prestigious and lucrative market.

Kind of like having to play Missouri and getting to count it as a conference win.

SO WHOSE FAULT IS THIS?

Short answer: Texas and Notre Dame.

Notre Dame for refusing to join a conference for football. They will be joining the ACC for everything else but football. Because lots of people really want to pay to see Notre Dame golf. Good for you ACC. It’s like you went up to the hottest girl in school, carried her books for her and helped her with her homework. But she’s not gonna go out with you because she’s just not that into you. Notre Dame wants to remain friends ACC.

Notre Dame has their own independent TV deal with NBC, and Notre Dame feels it doesn’t need to bow to any authority this side of Rome. In short, I hate Notre Dame but will spend more time pummeling them when I cover the National Championship game in a few weeks.

Texas Greed

Somebody never learned to share

Then there’s the Texas Longhorns. We all knew a kid back in kindergarten who never got the concept of sharing. They always hogged the best toys or the sand box and so always ended up playing by themselves. Did you know that kid grew up to be the school president at the University of Texas?

Do y’all remember when the Big 12 had twelve teams? Do you remember when the Big 12 had a championship game which let’s say made it a bit harder for Texas to walk into a BCS game? Remember how Texas didn’t like nor feel the need to participate in such an extra round of football?

That’s because Texas feels that other schools should be honored just to have the privilege of playing in the same conference with them. Their arrogance and refusal to back conference revenue sharing (which is how Vanderbilt stays profitable in the SEC) caused Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas A&M to seek greener pastures. It got even worse when Texas negotiated their own TV network with ESPN Notre Dame style.

What’s funny is how Texas mocked Texas A&M, predicted their doom in the SEC and lack of relevance without the Longhorns pushing them around. In the end, the Aggies have done quite well, will soon out recruit Texas and will become the destination football school in the state because they play in the prestige conference.

So thanks Texas for giving us the Aggies…

but then again, now we have Missouri.

SO IF WE MUST HAVE CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT…

Okay, I understand why we have to have a little conference shuffling now and then. But why can’t we fix some of the old problems and realign conferences that make better sense culturally and geographically? I used to like the ACC. I grew up in ACC country. And I remember when the ACC game of the week was sponsored by Food Lion and showed  local barbecue commercials and car dealer ads with a bit of a twang to them.  That WAS the ACC…the South’s other prestige conference. The ACC ruled, still ruled, and will always rule the sport of basketball. Southern Blogger doesn’t like the game of basketball but without a doubt that is their thing. Then they tried to compete with the SEC and put together a prestige football conference. They picked up Miami and Virginia Tech in the hopes of giving Florida State a little thing called competition.

Well a lot has changed since 2 Live Crew was getting banned from nightclubs and Russell Maryland was leading the country in sacks. Miami stinks. They’ve stunk for over a decade now and it looks like due to sanctions it’s going to be that way for a while. Miami to me is like getting a great deal on a 1986 Porsche. You’ve always wanted a Porsche and this one is a real classic. You might even trick it out with some custom Scarface graphics. And then you find that the engine is shot because someone filled the gas tank with cocaine. Got duped again ACC.

Then there is my second school (already covered in detail) Virginia Tech. They have a tendency to win in the ACC most years but can’t finish the bowl game. When your conference gets its butts handed to them in the bowl games it’s a sign that your conference really isn’t that tough to begin with. You know…I just don’t hear fans chanting “A-C-C , A-C-C” at the Chick Fil-A Bowl. You kind of have to win to do that.

But then the ACC decided to lose its roots and embrace Yankeedom full on. It was already bad enough having the University of Connecticut at Durham, they had to go ahead and add Boston College, Syracuse, and Pitt into their ranks. As I once said out loud in Blacksburg “you can take the school out of the Big East but you can’t take the Big East out of the school”. Certainly this helps make the conference nearly impossible to defeat in basketball. But first of all, this blog cares little for basketball, and two no amount of championships is worth doubling your quotient of hair gel in the stands. Don’t listen to Nike…just don’t do it.

But wait they have Notre Dame now….oh right except football. Doh!

ACC Football

Must save the ACC schedule…my precious!

So for several years I’ve proposed that the SEC rescue the last remaining unquestionable Southern (and football oriented) schools in the conference; Clemson and Florida State. But every time the SEC had put out feelers to those schools they get rejected. Wouldn’t Clemson and Florida State make sense in the SEC? They have big stadiums, a preference for the Orange Bowl over the Math Bowl, good-looking coeds, good football traditions, and the ability to actually win a game or two.

But that’s just it. A game or two. They really don’t want to risk their cakewalk schedules against Wake Forest and Boston College and replace those games with Georgia and Alabama. And so they drown in a sea of basketballs to save their easy route to the BCS. And I guess considering what happens when these schools play Florida and South Carolina you can’t totally blame them.

Yes I can…it’s another reason why we have Missouri.

SO WHOSE FAULT IS THIS? (BIG PICTURE)

Ultimately we can only blame the real gangsters behind the scenes, the Big conference commissioners. These are the guys who negotiate the big TV deals and levy fines and sanctions against their member schools. These are the guys that ensure that the same five schools seem to curiously keep making it to the end. They are the real powers behind the throne. Nobody really remembers what these guys actually looks like or what their names are (unless you are THAT sidewalk alum that pays $49.99 a month to read recruiting updates) so I will make it easier for you. I visualize the heads of the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, and Pac 12 as Tony Soprano, Boss Hogg, Jimmy Hoffa, and Michael Bay.

Think about it. Do these men care about the consumer…the fans, alumni, and students of their respective institutions? I doubt it. What they care about it’s the increasingly gray area of the professionalization of college sports. I blame these guys for screwing up all the traditions and classic schedules of our regional conferences.

And Notre Dame and Texas too!

And of course now we have Missouri.

Comissioners

I give thee your big conference commissioners


WILL IT EVER END?

I think the reality of the last decade or two of college football shows me that this conference realignment is far from over. Who knows how soon it will end? On a positive note, it will likely give us a de facto playoff system with the winners of a few mega-conferences duking it out. But in the end we will be lest with a less Southern SEC, and ACC spreading west of the Atlantic, a less Pacific Pac 12, and a Big Ten that really doesn’t add up. There will be winners and losers in all of this. Certainly one has to blame the SEC office for being the cause of much of this, as well as the other big conferences. They don’t seem to care about the very people who love their product. It’s just going to be too hard to accept some teams in the regular season chase.

The winners will be the big conferences who will get ever-increasing revenue and TV deals and ensure their teams championship success. The losers will be the smaller schools that will have to either drop down a division or drop college football. The poor Big East will be forced to have teams on the West Coast, Gulf Coast, Appalachia, as well as the northeast. Travel costs will soon make this arrangement unprofitable and the conference will go the way of the old Southwest Conference (which Texas also screwed up). Every time they get that twelfth team Charlie Brown style, another conference swoops in and picks up the football.

And that is why we have Missouri.

Big East

Poor Big East, just when they think they’re getting on track

We’ll cover more familiar football topic in the next few weeks with my guides to the SEC championship game, and of course the showdown between Alabama and Notre Dame aka Revenge for Gettysburg.

– Southern Blogger


Mississippi Stories: It Just Ain’t the Same

Hey Y’all,

Sorry I’ve been remiss in my postings as of late. I kind of picked up this bad habit lately called working. You see, when I first began this blog I was “under” employed. So I had plenty of time to cartoon and satire to my heart’s content. Now I’m nearing the sixth month anniversary of my new job and I’ve been quite busy receiving congratulatory calls, texts, and emails. Or rather, I’m just receiving a lot of calls, texts, and emails asking me to do stuff. The nerve right?

Nevertheless, my site stats have begun to climb on auto-pilot, being that this is now college football season. So, I had to give the people what they want. We all know that 75% of Southern culture is SEC football, 10% is the Civil War, 10% beauty pageants, and 5% bourbon. So SEC football it is to start the new season of blogging.

But then I had another problem; writer’s block. Haven’t I already blogged all my SEC stories? After all I’m one of the few Ole Miss alums who graduated in less than five years, so I don’t have but so many football stories. But then a friend reminded me that I often go on rants about how other schools, conferences, and game day experiences fail to live up to the SEC. And there you have it…perfect topic. And while some of my closer friends reading this will have heard these stories before, that’s true of about everything I’ve blogged about. At least this time there’ll be new cartoons.

And that was the other problem; Cartoonist’s block. You really can get out of practice with cartooning. But, once the first one was completed, the mental storyboard kicked in and this post took off. So without further ado, here’s my rant about how my other college football experiences have never lived up to my SEC ones.

Believe it or not I have other duties besides blogging about the South

For those of you new to this site, I didn’t grow up in SEC country. I’m a native of Virginia. So while my birthplace is not as football crazy as points south, it does make me 64% more likely to be president and 78% more likely to win a Civil War battle. That is to say, every Southern state is known for something. But the “southern” portion of my state is rapidly shrinking. Our universities seem like Big East schools (more on that later), and even the “in-state” kids can seem like they’re from out of state. And while I grew up safely entrenched along the south bank of the James River my region of the state is in the minority. So I fled to Mississippi.

You can read in several of my earlier posts how my time at Ole Miss shaped my identity. It especially shaped how I view the Saturday religion of SEC football. And like all things religious in the South, we tend to be evangelical, devout, and rather fundamentalist. Lukewarm college football gets spit out of our mouths. It was in the Bible I think… Bryant 14:5.

So fast forward a decade. I’ve been back in Virginia for awhile actually working in my major. For advancement in my field of work it became necessary to obtain a Master’s Degree. It made financial and professional sense to stay in state. In other words…it was free. And I wanted to get my degree as quick as possible. So I ended up at Virginia Tech.

Well that won’t be so bad right? That’s a football school. “You’re going to love it!” everyone tells me. Just wait until I see my first tailgate and game and it’ll be just like my SEC days…

WRONG!

Now don’t misunderstand me. I made some great friends at VA Tech. And indeed it has advanced me professionally as promised. The team was okay but…the football culture was rather lacking. Not their fault. They just don’t know no better.

I tried my friends. I really did try. I bought some Hokie paraphernalia and decided to give ACC football a shot. I even got season tickets and toned down my game day wardrobe a bit…you know the casual polo and khakis look of a successful land grant student.

Well when I entered my first tailgate I saw a shocking site. I believe I said something out loud to the effect of “well you can take the school out of the Big East but you can’t take the Big East out of the school”. Backwards caps, “alternate” Oregon style jerseys peddled by Nike, a sea of cargo shorts where there should be sundresses, and lots and lots of cornhole. Where I come from (collegiately speaking) the only time you should be watching cornhole is if you get sent to Parchman.

I guess I just never got used to the idea of tailgating on asphalt.

But then I realized It’s not really them, it’s me. See it began to dawn on me that the college football culture that I experienced as “normal” was actually very unusual, and that what I was witnessing in the parking lot was the norm for 95% of the country. So, I took that to heart, realized people were just having a good time supporting their school, and then I took a deep breath and decided they were all wrong!

Heathens!

Once you’ve gone Groving you never go roving.

But wait…I haven’t gotten to the game yet. The first game was against Marshall. I don’t remember much of it. I know they kept blaring a turkey call, and two dudes in front of me were “celebrating” with miniature shots of Wild Turkey from miniature airline bottles. And they were doing so in a way that I think is still illegal in Montgomery County, VA. But I wanted to give it a chance and I stayed until the bitter end of the 3rd quarter when the crowd did the Hokey Pokey. Then I left. The ACC was foreign.

I went back to two more games to at least see the in conference opponents. Maybe that would get better. The UNC game was better, I think because I got along with the UNC fans very well. Then there came the NC State game. That was a dilemma let me tell you. Ole Miss was not awful yet. In fact, that was a Cotton Bowl season for us. Yeah yeah, go ahead and laugh Bama fans, but to us, the Cotton Bowl is our version of the BCS championship…or at least as close as we’re going to get. I had a bet going with my LSU friend (and what does that tell you about the state of the ACC fan base that my best friend at grad school had gone to LSU?), and it was the CBS game of the week at 4 O’ clock.

Meanwhile in Blacksburg I had my ticket to the Wolfpack-Hokie matchup. I wore my Ole Miss t-shirt under my Virginia Tech fleece and headed to the stadium. Along the way I had a chance encounter with a fellow Ole Miss alum. We did the Hotty Toddy cheer and we’ve remained friends since. So one positive…

But still but the time the game starts in Hokie-land I swear the whole time I’m watching the scoreboard for the Rebel-Tiger score. I think they gave two updates. The first update it was announced as zero-zero. In the meantime I had to listen to Hipster Northern Virginia Hokie kids trash talking clueless computer geeky NC State kids. I wanted to plug my ears and sing the “Ballad of Archie Who” but it wasn’t going to work. There would still be an ACC game on the field and an ACC student section surrounding me. When the second score update was finally announced Ole Miss held a slight lead at halftime.

That was enough for me. Surely Ole Miss would blow this lead and I would lose my bet if I didn’t rush home to watch the game in person on TV. Now, normally I’d never leave a game at halftime. The 4th quarter is my earliest, and only if there is a blowout. But this was different. This was life and death. This was the SEC on CBS. I exited to the gates. The nice lady reminded me that I wouldn’t be allowed to re-enter. I replied “that’s okay; I’ve got a real game to see”. I quickly unzipped my maroon  jacket, and proudly displayed the shirt emblazoned with the name of my true love and sprinted home.

Like Superman, my appearance in front of the TV saved the day in the nick of time.

And I made it in time to see the 4th quarter. Ole Miss barely held onto the game, but not before nearly tearing my heart out, causing me to shout obscenities that would make a sailor cover his ears, and make several bargains with my maker. And thanks to Les Miles not understanding the concept of time….we won. About a minute passed. The minute that Ole Miss fans expect the referee to reverse a call to cheat us (see whenever we play Alabama close), or for Vern Lunquist to yell “PSYCHE!!!!” But no, we really won! And I went outside the house, right when all the ACC faithful were walking and driving home from their mundane game that had mercifully ended, and I yelled, and jumped, and danced, and screamed, and yelled filled with the spirit of Johnny Vaught.

The next day I sold the rest of my tickets to fund a trip to Oxford, MS. Four games were worth the price of one. Even though the game I attended in Mississippi was a loss, and I was told upon my return that I missed an exciting beat down of Boston College, I really didn’t miss anything. They missed it.

As another LSU friend of mine says “a bad game in the SEC beats the best game anywhere else”. See, different denomination, but same religion.

But that’s just the ACC. What about a football powerhouse conference?

Lemme guess? The Big Ten?

Let me tell you about the Big Ten folks. Not the same. Nope. Been there, done that…twice even. That’s enough evidence.

The first time was when I went to a Penn State-Iowa game in 2003. Now, I always knew something was wrong with that school and in the end it was the cult like mentality of the place…

“Now wait a minute Southern Blogger” you’re saying….isn’t the SEC a cult? No, we are the true religion. See, we choose to be fans and students of our SEC schools and when they don’t live up to expectations someone pays. Like a bad minister we will send an inadequate coach packing as quickly as you can say Houston Nutt. And we boo our own teams. The girls boo too. Heck, they’re the meanest ones. Our school cheers are complex, and we also have the complexity to dress ourselves without the aid of the student body president. The “white out” nonsense, “we are Penn State” banal cheer, and inability to criticize team and coach when they gave up an easy game to an easy opponent was lame to say the least. But the worst of all was the pre-game announcement that “Beaver Stadium is a smoke free, alcohol-free environment, and we thank you for your cooperation.” No sarcastic cheers from the student section, no boos… (No booze?) and no middle fingers of youthful defiance. Just pre-approved cheers, school-approved signs, and school-sponsored team spirit. No thank you. Not impressed.

And then there was the famous time I infiltrated the University of Michigan. Now that was a lot more fun. Mainly because I decided to dress up in costume to infiltrate Midwestern football. I came as a Gerald Ford era Michigan Wolverine. In fact, I dare say my Midwestern costume was more Midwestern than the other Midwesterners. In true Globe Trekker fashion I went “native” and did what the locals did including: participating in a Climate Change Awareness Rally, spinning a post-modern Art cube, playing beer pong without beer (that was the oddest thing of all), learning their fight song, playing nerf football with strangers while making Heisman poses, and eating copious amounts of cheese fries with ranch dressing. Perfect infiltration. Except for one problem.

As I had no hickory cane handy, I had to intimidate with a cheese fry.

During my munching of the cheese-ranch fries at the bar, a friend of my friend, a hardcore Wolverine got into a conversation about the “overrated SEC”. The apostasy included rants about the “unfairness of playing bowl games in warm states, the easy non conference opponents the SEC faces, the quality of Big Ten NFL draft picks, media bias…yada yada”. And then, in full costume, in the middle of Ann Arbor, after all my successful infiltration…I blew my cover and went full on cheese fry to cheese fry Preston Brooks mode calling out Yankee lies. I couldn’t help myself.

By the end of the evening I was in a room of people who were watching the Minnesota Michigan State Iowa Purdue Indiana game. Or something like that. I couldn’t tell. What I could tell was these foreigners were watching a crappy game and cheering loudly when a real SEC game was on on CBS. It was awful, just awful. So I did what any good Southerner would do in the midst of a pagan ritual. I began preaching.

I began sharing about the promised land of Southern girls in pearls and sundresses, the smell of fried chicken, fall leaves and bourbon, the utter hatred you have for anyone else in the visiting student section, the rules of said combat, the battle scars, the joys, the defeats, the best damn football conference in the land. Amen and Amen.

It is indeed a heavenly place…I have seen it.

In the end there’s only one school for me. You grad school can give you a nice resume and an extra diploma on the wall but it is not, nor can it ever be your alma mater.

I know which one mine is. Hell yes, damn right! You finish the rest…

-Southern Blogger

NEXT TIME: I will show the Show-Me state how to properly behave in their new neighborhood. So long as we’re stuck with them. I’ll try not to be so late this time.

Something tells me the Mizzou folks are gonna have a tough time grasping this.