"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

6 months after DJOs dagger, Syracuse’s coach travels to Bama

NY college football fan?PopulationFollow Coll FootTVs on for BCS
New York20 million2.9 m (14%)600,000
Chicago9 million1.8 m (19%)300,000
Birmingham, AL2 million1.7 m (85%)500,000

Isn’t it ironic that after being told for months that expansion was all about getting to college football fans in New York, it was Syracuse’s BASKETBALL coach that spoke at the Birmingham (Alabama) Quarterback Club meeting on Monday.

Since I don’t believe anyone in Alabama knows the name of Syracuse’s football coach, Jim Boeheim was the speaker just 6 months after both he and I were in Cleveland watching Junior’s drive (56-55), Jae’s trey and Jimmy’s steal (59-59), and DJO’s dagger (62-59, Sweet 16).

The irony struck me. Dad was from New York, where 8% of people watched the BCS championship, while Mom was from Alabama, where 67% watched the BCS championship. The only time I remember seeing any college football fans in New York they were filing out of a sports bar as LSU was blowing out Notre Dame 41-14 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.

But to be more scientific, Nate Silver at the New York Times Sports Blog did an incredible study that estimated the number of people in each TV market that follow college football, noting there is probably no other sport that is so regional in nature.

If expansion was ALL about football and nothing else, the ACC would have grabbed West Virginia. Silver estimates West Virginia football is followed by 959,000 people in the US, while only about 769,000 “follow” Syracuse football. I assume that means accidentally flipped past a game before realizing it was still Saturday and the Jets and Giants weren't playing yet.

ACC’s basketball pride was hurt - need protection from SEC
Tuesday I was up in Virginia on business (the compromise state Mom and Dad settled on to raise my 8 siblings and I in ACC country), and made a point of throwing out expansion as a topic as we were wrapping up business with some folks who were pretty well-connected.

Their take was that coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams did not like the fact that the conference watered down basketball by adding Miami and Virginia Tech, and in the process toppled the ACC as king of basketball by creating the modern Big East. They wanted ACC basketball back on top, and they are the two most powerful voices in the conference.

When I landed back in Atlanta early Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. it was too early to start business calls so I cut on sports radio only to hear the coach again talking to a local Atlanta station. Boeheim said that if you asked 10 Southerners whether they would rather go to Greensboro or New York for a basketball tournament, 9 would say New York and “the 10th would have to be the Mayor of Greensboro.” Love it.

Is expansion MOSTLY about football? Of course. Is it about expanding TV markets? Yes. But with the boards apparently taking control away from the Athletic Directors, don’t underestimate the pride in ACC basketball, and how much it hurt to watch the 10th place team in the Big East win the national title and the 11th place team in the Big East go to the Sweet 16, while Virginia Tech ironically had emerged as the 4th best ACC team IN BASKETBALL over the course of a few years but still was not making the tournament.

A further conversation today with someone who had spoken to a VERY well connected individual in the SEC confirmed to me that it had been assumed in the SEC as well as the ACC that Florida State and Virginia Tech were on the way over. Whether or not that still happens with the $20 million buyout and Syracuse and Pitt I do not know, but in the midst of all my anger at the ACC we should remember that their top goal was to protect themselves if poached by the SEC.

With some good news this week in West Virginia apparently NOT going to the ACC or SEC, and things stabilizing for the moment, I looked back at my wish list from last April 25, 2010 of teams I’d like to see added when we were raided again. I have to admit the list was a pretty wild guess that was ridiculously off.

I didn’t even have TCU in my Top 20 – though I’m thrilled they signed up. Just didn’t believe we’d reach that far georgraphically back then.

I did actually have Navy in at #20, and it appears now they are at the top of the Big East wish list along with Army and Air Force as football-only members.

The report is if the Military Academies will not join, then the next choice is Central Florida (who I did have at #8 on my list last year) and East Carolina (who I did not).

I had the dream of Boston College coming back as my #1 wish in hopes that they were just to isolated up there, but now obviously they are not with Syracuse going the other way.

If we do resort to basketball-only, certainly my #5 and #6 pick of Butler and Xavier stay up there.

However, I still maintain that:

1. I would like to see the conference remain half football and take any shot possible to stay BCS, but

2. I also believe that we are in much better shape NOT being weighted down by a new football team that would actually deter Marquette’s attractiveness as re-emerging basketball power.

I know many disagree on one or the other – wanting us to have football or to just get in the best basketball-only conference we can, but whatever our different perspectives, we are all on the same boat and we’ve been through much worse times than these as an Independent in the 1980s. This weekend was a shock, but the work week has been pretty good so far. WE ARE MARQUETTE!

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