Friday, September 23, 2011

'Driving Force on Realignment' a Farce

As college football moves into the fourth week of its season (and after a week of off-field turmoil that again included major changes in conference alignments), one major player in the ongoing saga unsuccessfully tried to wipe its hands clean in the controversy.

All-powerful ESPN, the funding agent for all this change -- most recently Pitt and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference with Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech staying put in the Big 12 Conference (for now) after a flirtation with the Pac-12 Conference -- issued a statement this week that put the onus for all the change on the conferences and schools.

Said ESPN: "The driving force on realignment lies with the conferences and universities. The Big 12 determined in 2010 to grant each of its schools the ability to create their own networks. As a result, the Big 12 stayed together and University of Texas made the decision to launch its network. ESPN subsequently won a competitive bid to become its media partner. We have since seen Kansas State and Missouri create opportunities while Oklahoma is exploring its media options. The concept of LHN remains the same as it was 15 months ago."

Uh huh, sure. None of the changes would be happening without TV money, big TV money, and for ESPN to distance itself from the matter rings just as hollow as big tobacco companies insisting they're not marketing to children or drug cartels shrugging their shoulders about deaths along the border.

Despite the PR message and spin (specifically in reference to the Big 12 and the Longhorn Network, which was launched as a partnership between ESPN and the University of Texas), ESPN and television networks are the ultimate driving force in what's happening.

Because of the TV income -- monies that provide an addictive kick for athletic departments as well as jock-sniffing academics and well-intentioned administrators -- big-budget colleges and universities cannot find a reasons to stay put. Everyone keeps looking for a bigger payday to fund on-campus building projects and stadium upgrades that are inevitably part of the arms race in intercollegiate athletics. Or, the schools simply used the money to pay bills related to the costly endeavor of intercollegiate athletics. That includes everything from coaches salaries to transportation costs.

It's a never ending cycle, with many willing participants. For ESPN to claim it's not part of the problem, though, is simply wrong -- and the networks leadership, as well as its PR posse, has to know better.

1 comment:

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