Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Seeing RED

I've been hit with World Cup fever, so you'll have to excuse my inconsistent posts as of late.

But big news broke in the other football — American football, that is — that I can't ignore. It was something that  made me sick. As in, literally made my stomach feel queasy.

The Pac 10 invited Utah to abandon the Mountain West Conference for a lucrative payday and the abandoning of its principles.

Never mind that BYU (my alma mater) would've been a better fit. Never mind that BYU would've brought more fans, more television sets, and more national viewers than the Utes. Never mind that, despite Utah's most recent successes, the Utes have still yet to match BYU's national title or Heisman Trophy winner. Never mind even that the Cougars have twice as many men's basketball national championships as the Utes — and that one in Utah only came in a year when they failed to qualify for the NIT.

This move reeks of religious intolerance. Sources close to the Pac 10 have admitted that the invitation extended to Utah was influenced by BYU's ties to the LDS church, a church whose members pumped a few million dollars into such conservative grassroots movements as California's Proposition 8. And while USC may be the athletic epicenter of that conference, it is the minds in Berkeley and Palo Alto — two of the most liberal institutions in the NCAA — that really pull the strings of that conference.
It's not just the Mormons, either. Earlier reports had the Pac 10 set to invite six members from the Big 12, essentially dissolving the conference after historical power Nebraska had already bolted to the Big Ten. But the deal that would've brought Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado was dissolved at the last second when the Big 12 offered Texas a greater share of its conference television breakup, as well as the Longhorns own television network. 
So Colorado jumped ship. And the Pac 10 needed a 12th member. The candidates seemed to be Utah, BYU and TCU. But with such a plethora of liberal institutions, why would you invite the Mormons' flagship institution or a Christian university that draws much of the same market (Dallas/Fort Worth) you were expecting from UT and the gang, while both teams have demonstrated more across the board of athletics than the Utes. 
So that's why we see the Pacific 10 conference expanding to the Rocky Mountains. It has little to do with BCS bowls and academic excellence, and as much (if not more) to do with religious snobbery.
"It's religious prejudice masquerading as academic snobbery," one source has told the Deseret News. "They're trying to find an excuse to avoid the real issue, that they don't want a school that is tied to the LDS Church." 

Fortunately, with the inclusion of Boise State in the MWC, the extended proceedings have been a wash. BYU's conference is still on track to receive an automatic qualifying bid to the BCS. TCU and Boise State are still the class of the non-automatic qualifiers, and BYU still draws one of the most extensive national fan bases outside of Notre Dame.
Remember that a conference jump doesn't always signal good things, even in the Pac 10. In 1978, the "Pac 8" invited Arizona and Arizona State, two schools that have a total of three Rose Bowl appearances and have spent as much time as conference bottom-feeders as contenders (unless you count College World Series appearances). And with no prestigious athletic programs outside of the occasional football appearance and a powerful women's gymnastics program, the Utes are on track to be put into the same position.
So enjoy your $9 million soul-sale, Utah. Enjoy your "prestigious" conference affiliation. Enjoy the extra money, which you say will help fund academic research, but that will only come as the 1,000th item on a list of athletic renovations (most of which are probably very much needed, such as an expanded football stadium, a real basketball court, a decent — as opposed to downright putrid — soccer field, and others). 
Meanwhile, BYU, Boise State, TCU and the rest of the MWC (not to mention Houston and Conference-USA) will continue the fight against a corrupt college football cartel, steadying the fight in a battle that may take years, but will be worth it in the long run.

BYU didn't need Utah to obliterate one Bowl Alliance. And they don't need the Utes to do it again.

(Don't?) Let the door hit you on the way out. 

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