Gorman: Easy explanation of college football

Kevin Gorman
| Friday, July 26, 2013, 11:30 p.m.

So, she said, what are you doing here in Dallas?

“Covering the Big 12 football media days.”

The blank expression on her face begged for explanation.

“It's a college football conference.”

Oh, so there's 12 schools?

“Actually, no. That's the Big Ten. There are only 10 schools in the Big 12.”

Another blank stare, this one even more baffled.

I don't get it, she says.

“Well, the Big 12 used to have 12 schools and the Big Ten had 10. But that was before realignment.”

What's realignment?

This is where I realize I'm trying to explain the state of college athletics to someone who doesn't have a clue.

“You see, there are conferences all over the country, and they used to be composed of schools from their region. But that changed when some of the schools left to join other conferences.”

What happened?

“Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten. Colorado and Utah, neither of which is on the Pacific Coast, joined the Pac-10, which became the Pac-12.

“Then Pitt and Syracuse left the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, even though neither are near the coast. And Missouri and Texas A&M went to the Southeastern, even though Missouri is in the Midwest and Texas A&M is in the Southwest.”

That makes no sense, geographically, for those schools to travel so far. If you're from Pittsburgh, why are you here?

“Covering West Virginia.”

Wait, West Virginia plays in the same conference as schools from Texas?

I take a deep breath. Yep.

So you're writing a story about West Virginia?

“Actually, no. I'm writing about Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who dropped a bombshell when he criticized the NCAA and called for ‘transformative change.' ”

Is this commissioner saying that the realignment of all the conferences wasn't transformative enough?

“The funny thing is, he called for it right after saying that ‘this era of realignment hasn't been one of the real sources of pride for those of us in the business.' ”

Then why did they do it?

“Money. College football generates so much television revenue that the conferences expanded so they could add new media markets, and the schools are making tens of millions of dollars from it.”

Are the schools happy now?

“Actually, no. Attendance is down nationwide because fans are staying home to watch college football games on their 60-inch HDTVs.

“Now, the commissioner said the Big 12 is going to play in-game highlights of other conference games during breaks to draw fans back.”

Is that the transformative change he's talking about?

“Actually, no. The commissioners of the five biggest conferences are talking about forming a new division so they can make their own rules.

“Bowlsby, the Big 12 commissioner, complained that conferences ‘encouraged institutional social climbing,' and those schools are now standing in the way of the NCAA legislative process by voting down proposals.”

What type of legislative process is he talking about?

“Well, the five ‘major' conferences make so much money on television revenue, ticket sales and merchandising that some people believe the ‘student-athletes' should get a cut of the profits.”

Wait, why do they call the college football players “student-athletes?”

“So they don't have to pay them. By referring to them as student-athletes instead of athletes, it gives the impression that they are amateurs.”

Well, why can't they just pay these student-athletes?

“That's the problem. The smaller football schools don't generate as much revenue and can't afford to pay athletes. That's why they continually block legislation allowing the bigger schools, who are affiliated with the BCS, from paying them.”

What's the BCS?

“The BCS was a complicated method that used to be the way college football determined its national champion. But they're going to switch to a playoff format in 2014.”

So the bigger schools want to create a new division and make their own rules?

“Actually, yes.”

That's a vicious cycle, she says, and it doesn't sound like amateurism but big business.

Now, I tell her, you get it.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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