Behind the Lines: Madne$$ at State U

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    There will be a lot of “Ns” in this piece. N as in NIL (Name, Image, Likeness), NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) but nowadays more akin to (Nonstop Changing Athletic Alliances) and just the plane old nonsense.

    The third, nonsense is what’s happening to college athletics since NIL, the portal, pay-for-play, and conference alignments based purely on money rather than regional rivalries take the fore.


    If you haven’t paid attention, and I don’t blame you if you have not. The insanity of money-driven conference alignments is astounding.

    Texas and Oklahoma can dream, but they will not be competitive in the SEC. USC and UCLA can’t beat traditional Pac 12 rivals Washington and Oregon so they’re joining the Big 10, along with Washington and Oregon. No, they really are.

    Those conference changes seem logical when you consider that Cal, Stanford, and Southern Methodist are now members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    Cal is on the shores of San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean right down the road. Stanford in picturesque Palo Alto, California is just 30 minutes from the ocean, the other one, not the Atlantic.


    It’s no surprise if you’ve watched the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament the last few years. Originally the four regions were represented by teams from that section of the nation.

    UCLA, Arizona, Gonzaga, New Mexico, Utah, and BYU all competed in the round of 16 in the west, just a few hundred miles from campus.

    Then the meddling began, led by the “major” conferences. The SEC, ACC, Big 10, and Big 12 all thought their sixth-place teams were better than the champions from the Mountain West, Sun Belt, Western Athletic, and Mid America Conferences, so they should not only get an eighth of the 64 tournament berths each, but have their teams seeded against the weakest opening round opponent they could find.


    They didn’t find easy pickings with this method, they found teams like Coastal Carolina, Oakland, Miami of Ohio, and Utah State all heavy underdogs in this and previous tournaments waiting eagerly to play.

    Those opening round “upsets” as they’re called, aren’t upsets at all. The mid-majors play excellent basketball, and the over-hyped “super conferences” can’t compete with their also ran conference members.

    The top dogs in the big conferences are still the favorites year in and year out. Duke, Michigan, Kansas, Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, and Alabama will continue to field competitive teams with their fan base, huge donors, and media recognition.


    But that doesn’t mean they’re always going to beat Utah, Gonzaga, San Diego State, or Creighton.

    Tournaments were created to determine who was the best, not to make the most money possible for a university or a conference.

    We’ve missed the mark on that concept. It is all about money now, and nothing else.

    When was the last time you heard anyone mention the grade point average of a men’s basketball team? You still hear it often when talking about women’s college basketball. The lure of the almighty dollar is just beginning to encroach on the women’s game.

    Caitlin Clark has become the poster child of women’s athletics. Her prowess at the University of Iowa is amazing. It’s as if she is the only woman who ever attained this level of excellence. How soon we forget Cheryl Miller, the USC star who was the only woman ever considered capable of making an NBA team.

    Clark scored more points, than Miller but at a thin 6-0, she could never handle the physical nature of a men’s NCAA team, much less the NBA.

    It doesn’t lessen her story. She is amazing and has done more for women’s athletics than any other single personality in the woke era of allowing men to masquerade as women in sports.

    In a complex dichotomy to the men’s game, Clark is earning more now as an “amateur” at the University of Iowa than entire WNBA rosters. When she does go professional in a year, she’ll take a major pay cut without the auspices of the NIL to generate income for her.

    Sure, she’ll still get shoe contracts, media endorsements, and speaking engagements in six figures, but it won’t pay out like her days in Iowa.

    Should it? Should any of these college kids make money on this scale?

    Should they make money at all while playing? Wasn’t the original intent to get an education, graduate, and become a productive member of society?

    We forgot that part.

    Amid all the dollars rolling in and all the players rolling out each year, college athletic departments are swirling around trying to find new, consistent revenue streams.

    Aside from a handful of schools where wrestling foots the bill, in every other university the football and men’s basketball revenue funds all the other sports.

    Without those super conferences, the elimination of competition from smaller, mid-major programs in basketball, and lucrative television and advertising they couldn’t create the expensive product that collegiate athletics have become.

    One year as I was interviewing the losing coach after the championship game of the Fremont County Shootout he gave me this amazing quote. “We won’t be back next year this tournament isn’t competitive enough for us.”

    My son was listening to the interview, and in that unrestrained intellect that 10-year-olds can possess, he said, “Not competitive enough, you just got beat.”

    Yes, they did but reality doesn’t always trump perception.

    When SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey went on a crusade against mid-major at large bids and automatic bids for conference champions in favor of more big conference schools entering the tournament it was awesome to witness karma smacking him right in the mouth.

    His claim that mid-majors and small conference champions shouldn’t be allowed to compete in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament quickly became ludicrous as the SEC champion Auburn Tigers fell in the opening round to 13th-seeded Yale, yes Yale!

    It didn’t get much better as 14th seed Oakland beat mighty Kentucky, Florida was outgunned 102-100 by Colorado (playing the Buffs naturally in Pittsburgh, the east tournament site), Mississippi State was embarrassed by Michigan State, and the Gamecocks of South Carolina were hammered by the Fighting Ducks of Oregon (the Ducks and Gamecocks were also in the East at Pitt…go figure)

    A final note on our Cowboys. Who are these guys? While I follow the Pokes every game in football, I didn’t bother with hoops at all this season. The portal has ruined Wyoming basketball for me. I went to class with Bradley, Ollie, Jackson, and Bessert back in the day. They were regular guys, a little taller than the rest of us but students.

    Now they roll in via the portal, make a semblance of presence in the classroom, don’t bother to declare a major, get just enough Cs to stay eligible, and then jump back into the portal after a season.

    Who cares? The fans sure don’t, and why should they? This isn’t what college basketball is supposed to be.

    We can do better.


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