No Big 12? Then why watch college football?

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, June 15, 2010

That’s it. If the Big 12 disbands, I am done with big-time college football.

If you don’t know, Nebraska left for the Big 10, which now totals 12 teams, and Colorado left for the Pac-10, which now has 11. Now everyone is watching what Texas and Texas A&M will do.

If the conference disbands, sure, I’ll still follow my Iowa State Cyclones, but I won’t watch other contests. If conference hopscotch is the game college football is going to be, then I just don’t care anymore. It’s such a messed-up sport already. Now it’s even more messed up.

Email newsletter signup

1. There are no playoffs. The people who don’t want playoffs say they don’t want to keep students out of the classroom longer, yet at the same time these people were instrumental in the addition of a 12th game to the college football season. No, it’s about the bowl money, though I don’t see how playoffs wouldn’t be more exciting than bowls.

2. It has a screwed-up, never-right, always-controversial points system for determining the rank of teams and whether they get into the top-level bowls. Fans know I’m talking about the BCS, or Bowl Championship Series. This non-fan-friendly system makes perfect nonsense. It’s another reason for playoffs.

3. A 1984 U.S. Supreme Court ruling still haunts the game. TV money has clouded college football since the first broadcast in 1939, but the NCAA — founded at the behest of President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 — had sought to spread the wealth and let the money do the most good for all its member schools. The ruling freed individual schools and conferences from the NCAA’s oversight when it came to broadcast rights. Eventually, schools wanted to increase their bargaining power, and many conferences realigned. That is why the Big Ten sought Nebraska and the Pac-10 sought Colorado.

4. The same darn schools tend to win all the time. In pro football, even the lowly New Orleans Saints have a chance to win the Super Bowl. And they actually won it this year. In high school sports, some programs are better than others, but a turnaround of a program can lead to state titles. In college basketball, Cinderella teams make deep runs in the tournament. Think of Butler, Gonzaga and George Mason. Turning around a Division I college football program is a task of Herculean proportions. Getting a team to sort-of good is considered great coaching. But look who gets in the BCS Championship Game: A powerhouse versus a team from Florida. Boring! Where is Cinderella? Or even her step-sisters? The title game is a ball only for royalty.

5. College football is only just a farm system for the NFL because, unlike basketball, baseball and hockey, pro football doesn’t have farm teams to develop talent. It would be nice to have college football players that actually were scholars seeking degrees, rather than contracts.

I followed the Big Eight Conference football and basketball teams for all of my youth. I’d watch Big Eight action whether the game was Iowa State against Missouri or Nebraska against Oklahoma or you name it. I rooted against the other teams all season, then rooted for the Big Eight teams in bowl games.

The Big 12 Conference began in 1996. The conference doesn’t acknowledge evolving from the Big Eight Conference, but we all know it did when four teams for the defunct Southwestern Conference joined the former Big Eight teams. So really this conference has been around since 1907, with Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas and Washington University in St. Louis as the founders. It was called the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association back then.

In 1908, Iowa State and Drake joined. In 1911, Iowa bolted for the Western Conference, which then became the Big Nine and eventually the Big Ten. By 1928, it was Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and they had the nickname of the Big Six. Colorado joined in 1948. Oklahoma State, which had been a member for three years in the 1920s, rejoined in 1958. These eight schools became the Big Eight Conference.

Iowa State fans have been following this conference for more than a century. ISU officials have shown loyalty toward the group. I am saddened that Nebraska and Colorado up and left, showing such disloyalty to the opponents that made the storied programs storied.

Frankly, Nebraska fans always were a bunch of arrogant jerks anyway when they came to Ames. Now they can meet the arrogant jerks who follow the Iowa Hawkeyes. (Yes, I said it.)

I’m glad Iowa State beat Nebraska 9-7 last year — at Lincoln, no less — in the Huskers’ last normal year in the conference. (Next season will just be weird.) And ISU beat Colorado 17-10 in Ames.

It is my hope the Big 12 survives, and it seems like it will. But I will forever root against Nebraska and Colorado.

Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every other Tuesday.