ACC commissioner John Swofford. - Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE
UConn may wind up in the ACC, but that doesn't mean this was an enjoyable ride.
I'll tell you what, if I wasn't a UConn fan since right about the time my voice broke and I realized girls were the exact opposite of "icky," I would have a real hard time embracing college athletics at all right now.
Is there anything more sickening than watching almost EVERYONE associated with college sports, from the media to the athletic directors to the school presidents, try and convince the world this industry -- and that's what it is -- is about college kids and a good education when, at every turn, they literally chase every single penny they can?
Of course, I'm responding to the news that Maryland and Rutgers are in "serious talks" to join the Big 10. Now, nothing is official but, let's be honest, when is the last time we heard the news that such and such team was in "serious talks" to leave a conference and it didn't happen? Usually this info gets out when the negotiations are pretty much in the final stages and the involved schools don't mind letting the cat out of the bag. So, even though it seems ludicrous that Maryland would pay the ACC $50 million for the trouble of going someplace else, and even though it continues to defy logic that market value is so coveted by these conferences that Rutgers is actually a hot commodity, I would bank on this going through.
That means the massive game of musical chairs that is conference realignment will start up again.
In the end, everyone who reads this blog cares about one thing: what happens to UConn? I honestly believe the Huskies will end up in the ACC. It just makes the most sense. By all accounts, Duke (Coach K) and UNC (Roy Williams) were pushing for UConn when Syracuse decided to jump ship last year, and we know that was derailed by our whiny little friends to the north in Boston. At this point, where else would the ACC go? It's unimaginable they would take South Florida or Central Florida or ANY Florida program not already in the SEC. That leaves UConn and...who? Louisville?
Let's be honest, would anyone be shocked if Louisville was having super secret meetings with the Big 12 for the last few months? That would seem to be the more natural fit for that school and, if all of this does go down, I wouldn't be at all surprised if, in a few weeks, we heard about the Cardinals having "serious talks" with that conference. That would seem to leave the Huskies and the ACC as the most likely suitors.
As college athletics as we know it crumbles before our very eyes, that is ultimately the best possible scenario for UConn.
And I hate it.
I understand it, and if this is the final nail in the Big East coffin, I will be rooting for UConn to find a comfortable landing spot, but everything about this makes me sick.
First, I have grown up hating the ACC. I hate their flopping style of play. I hate how everyone from Dick Vitale to Digger Phelps fawns over them like a 15-year-old girl at the opening of one of those brutal Twilight movies. I hate the arrogance of their fans who, despite having only two legit teams in the conference every year (Duke, UNC) still continue to demand they are the "best basketball conference in the country."
Now, UConn will be joining THAT conference?
Second, I HATE the fact that, if UConn goes to the ACC, their Big East pedigree is all but wiped away. Look, ultimately what matters are National Championships and Final Four runs. I get that. But I don't think I am alone in valuing those Big East Championship trophies almost as much as I do the national ones. For two decades they were the beasts of the East. I loved that.
Now, if the Big East no longer exists, UConn's dominance over it matters less. Do you know how many Conference USA titles Louisville has? Neither do I. You know why? Now that they are in the Big East all that matters is what they do in this conference. The moment UConn goes to the ACC they are no longer the dominant program of the Big East but simply the really good program with no ACC titles.
Third, if the Big East does blow up, I don't know what it does in terms of conference championship play at Madison Square Garden, but can you even imagine playing for the conference title anywhere BUT MSG? Even if the ACC were to hijack that venue as well, it would probably be for an every-other year setup, or maybe for the northeast teams to battle it out on their side of the bracket, but you know that, ultimately, the championship would be played somewhere down on Tobacco Road. Just thinking about that makes me taste a little bile in my mouth.
Finally. I just hate the feel of conference realignment all together. Obviously, if the doomsday scenario plays out for UConn it is truly a nightmare, but even if they end up in the ACC, with access to better football, more money, and the undisputed best basketball conference in the country (it would almost be too good, which is another potential problem), it would still mean other programs are left out in the cold for no other reason than they don't fit the money-making criteria that drives this whole thing. I know, I know, who the hell cares about Temple or Cincinnati or South Florida, right? Well, if UConn ever ended up in that grouping, we would all rightfully be screaming about the twisted priorities of college athletics and the subversive politics of it all. At least the Huskies appear to be a valued commodity. I can't imagine what someone from Bearcats country is thinking right now. They have actually built a good football program AND basketball program, and might be forced to either return, tail between legs, to Conference USA or join whatever weird zombie conference that forms out of the wreckage of the Big East.
Obviously, I'm a fan. If UConn ends up in the ACC and is battling Duke or UNC for a conference title in four years or so, I'll be into it and, eventually, a fan of the ACC, bragging about it's basketball prowess and trying to convince everyone that the football is "just as good" as everyone else. That's what fans do, we adapt.
And I'm certainly not blind to the benefits. As much as I have hated the ACC, they have a great brand (the best in basketball now) and the opportunity to offer UConn a stable environment that isn't breaking apart at the seams every few years like it's a doomed planet in a Sci-Fi movie. Staying in the Big East always means you're waiting for the next earthquake to hit.
But I'll be honest, a little part of my love for college sports will die if the Big East dissolves and UConn trades games against Georgetown and Villanova for ones against Georgia Tech and Wake Forrest. I'm going to be a little less passionate about a conference title game in North Carolina than I am about one played at the "Greatest Arena In The World."
UConn to the ACC appears likely and, quite frankly, necessary. The alternatives are ugly. But, when it comes to this entire situation, everything seems ugly. I guess that's what college athletics has come to now - shades of ugly.