Monday, May 19, 2003

Would-be ACC schools seeing green



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Reading too much of this conference-hopping speculation makes your eyeballs hurt. Following the potential moves of the University of Miami, Syracuse and Boston College - and maybe indirectly UC and Xavier - is the adult version of Where's Waldo? Your head spins. Just like the odometer on the plane from Pittsburgh to Minnesota.

That's one of the possibilities: Pitt from the Big East moves to the Big 10, which is really the Big 11 and would be the Big 12 if that name weren't taken, so who knows what they'll call it?

UC is way ahead of this curve. The Bearcats already play in a bloated, made-for-TV geographical absurdity. Conference USA is a 14-team, 12-state, two time-zone road to everywhere. Marquette to TCU: How'd you like to make that roadie? How'd you like to pay for it?

What would C-USA be without the legendary UC-Houston rivalry? Buckle up for that incredible UAB-East Carolina tilt.

Here's all you need to know about why schools are poised to change partners like Liz Taylor:

Money. Money-money-money. They like to spend it. They recommend it.

The best things in life are free/But you can't get 'em in Division III.

"Anybody running intercollegiate sports programs recognizes how expensive it is," Miami athletic director Paul Dee said. Here's something frightening: Despite playing in the BCS title game the last two years, Miami's athletic department lost more than $1.5 million in 2002.

Miami, BC and Syracuse would put the Atlantic Coast Conference at 12 schools, perfect for two six-team divisions and a league title game worth an estimated $10 million. Additional BCS bowl bids would make everyone even more cash.

On the face of it, there's nothing wrong with this. Somebody has to pay for Bill and Sue to be scholarship jocks. You try funding 20-odd sports when only two, football and basketball, have a chance to make money. Title IX has made things worse some places.

This looming tectonic shift in conference affiliation doesn't do much for the, um, student-athlete ideal. Of course, neither does much of anything else the NCAA does. But this stretches the credibility line brave new distances.

No one has explained how the mass rearranging will make life better for the average student. Will the added TV money attract better professors? Add a wing to the English department? No one has said how Boston College athletes will benefit in the classroom by making multiple trips to Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Maybe they could have their professors lecture in the aisle of a 747.

At the same time presidents are pushing for reform, supposedly, by seeking to tie scholarship numbers to graduation rates, athletic directors are cruising the streets at midnight, wearing Spandex, looking for more cash. Remedial spellers might call that h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y. What about fans? Does the unholy alliance of money and realignment leave you a little disoriented? Wasn't it just a few years ago Xavier was playing Evansville? Now the Muskies could share a league with ... Providence?

Once, conferences existed because of proximity and like philosophies. Now, they're assembled for money.

Can't wait for that first big Pitt-Wisconsin game.

E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




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