2020-07-03 sp-emigblog realignment

Head coaches Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State (left) and Philip Montgomery of Tulsa shake hands after their teams’ nonconference game on Sept. 14, 2019. IAN MAULE/Tulsa World file

Got an email from Kevin this week alerting me to Pat Forde’s SI.com column proposing ... you ready? ... college football realignment.

Here we are juggling hatchets, chainsaws and torches, and Forde figures: “Why not toss in a Samurai sword?”

If you can summon the energy to take it on, Forde’s premise is interesting. He uses the sudden need to save money and limit travel amid the pandemic as a basis to redesign 10 12-school conferences. Geography and frugality are the guiding principles, although tradition and egalitarianism are in there, too.

Forde’s plan lumps Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in a Southwest Conference (SWC 2.0?) with Texas, Texas A&M(!), Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, Houston, SMU, North Texas, Rice and Tulsa(!!!!!).

TU’s inclusion is what got Kevin’s attention.

“It appears to be a great idea, one that would make me want to go to more TU football and basketball games,” he emailed, “not to mention those schools’ fans would come here. I think there’d be sold out crowds. TU would get better athletes to compete against those teams and have more revenue for their athletic program.”

All of the above is true, which is why TU interim president Janet Levit and athletic director Derrick Gragg would swim the Arkansas River to make it so.

The trick would be the football Hurricane avoiding the SWC basement, but then that has been the trick the past three years in the American. Might as well reap more of a windfall while winning 2-4 games.

It’s a fantasy, at any rate (no offense, Kevin).

Forde’s plan can’t be initiated on an NCAA level since, as he recognizes in his piece, there is no “centralized leadership” when it comes to decision-making.

That leaves the conferences to carry a proposal that mixes Power 5s with Group of 5s to the point we do away with both labels. Does anyone really think Big Ten and SEC royals would cohabit with MAC and Sun Belt commoners?

Or narrow this down to Big 12 terms ...

Remember four years ago when the conference was floundering and expansion appeared to be its remedy? It didn’t even find Houston attractive enough to invite.

Now that it has stabilized, it’s going to suddenly be cool living with private schools with low enrollment, attendance figures and athletic profiles (no offense, TU, Rice and SMU)?

The coronavirus has taken a bite out of the world we once knew, but in sports terms this is on another level.

Clearly presidents and athletic directors must move forward with the new world in mind. Schedules must be changed and travel restricted. Costs must be cut.

This is a problem for OU, OSU and TU.

The Sooners and Cowboys would feel better about a controlled conference environment were West Virginia not in the picture. It isn’t the Mountaineers’ fault, but they have made a mess of what could be a more manageable geographic situation.

The American is a hot mess. TU’s 2020 football schedule includes two trips to the state of Florida in October, plus a visit to the Naval Academy in November.

Something should probably be done about that, for the safety and sanity of TU administrators, coaches and players, and to help sew up the hole in the university’s savings account.

Imagine how much easier it would be if all the Hurricane was doing was crossing into Texas for conference games.

Imagine how much easier that would be for Sooner and Cowboy teams facing trips to Morgantown. Safety, sanity and savings are at issue in Norman and Stillwater, as well.

Forde imagined it. Kevin noticed it.

It is interesting, I suppose. It does make us think, although our minds are bursting at the seams already.

It does give us something to consider beyond the pandemic. Even as, like everyone else anymore, it is born of the pandemic.

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Guerin Emig



Twitter: @GuerinEmig