Zen and the Art of Conference Realignment

Zen and the Art of Conference Realignment

With Oklahoma and Texas officially heading to the SEC, likely kicking off another round of landscape shifting realignment, we’ve decided to impart some wisdom to get you through these next couple years.

A decade ago, driven by madness, greed and an unhealthy need to keep up with mythical Joneses, the major conferences kicked off a series of domino moves that rebuilt the college sports world. Those same forces have now driven Oklahoma and Texas — two of the richest program in sports — to destroy yet another conference and once more unmoor the known order.

West Virginia fans are, of course, intimately familiar with conference realignment. This is, technically, our third round of it after all. Our first experience dates back to the mid-2000s when we watched helplessly as Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College were given their golden tickets to the ACC. When the ride came around a second time in the early 2010’s, we were far from passive. Then Athletic Director Oliver Luck wisely recognized that we had to get out to survive and parlayed a deal for us to join the Big 12 Conference, which had just lost Colorado, Missouri, Texas A&M and Nebraska to the PAC-12, SEC and Big 10.

This whole experience gives WVU fans a fairly unique perspective. We have both been the one left behind and the one leaving for greener pastures. It is in that spirit that I offer a few suggestions for our fellow Big 12 members — current and soon to be former — to help you cope with what we’re all going to experience over the coming weeks and months.

Some Ground Rules

  1. Twitter is a Dangerous Tool. Not all of it is accounted for. This is probably good advice regardless of the situation but especially during conference realignment. Sports journalists are essentially all access journalists and many of them will just print thinly sourced bullshit.
  2. The Good Shit Happens After Dark. The incomparable WVU beat reporter Mike Casazza coined this maxim during the last round and it’s still true. Sources aren’t likely to leak info to reporters from their offices, but they are likely to do it from the comfort of their home.
  3. No one gives a shit about academics, geography or how many butts you put in seats in the Weedeater Bowl. If someone tells you X school is a lock because of their academics, or isn’t a good fit because of their academics, you can almost immediately ignore that person. All of this is driven by money and how much they can milk out of ESPN and Fox. The only conference that actually gives a shit about academic prestige is the Ivy League. Maybe the PAC-12, but even they only care so much.
  4. bUt wHat ABouT bAsKEtbaLL? No one gives a shit about that either. The only team that can credibly make a case for its basketball program being worthy of an invite to a conference is Kansas, but its football program is almost as leperous as Baylor’s entire university so…..

To Those Left Behind

It’s never easy being picked last in gym class, and this is doubly true in the rational world of college sports fandoms. Yes, yes I know your school has a great history. Yeah, yeah, I know that you have a great record in the Great Value Gasparilla Bowl. No one gives a shit.

That’s my first piece of advice for you. No one cares. They never did. If you open with that as your starting point, this whole experience is going to be a lot more fun, I promise you.

Once you’ve reached that point of zen about the situation and accept that, unless you happen to be [insert conference commissioner] or a major donor, you have near zero agency in what is about to happen to your beloved team, the sting will lessen.

If one of the schools about to parachute out of your league was also a historical — or perceived historical — rival, and you are unlikely to play them again any time soon, I understand your pain. I really do, but remember what we just discussed. No one cares. They don’t. So just cry into your pillow for a bit, and then accept your new rival will be some made for TV special with a team hundreds of miles away in a state you refuse to acknowledge is real.

Again I get that sucks. WVU basically lost all of our historical regional rivalries last time around and, as I wrote a few months back, I will never give half the shits about any of our Big 12 games as I did those in the Big East.

Also don’t take it personally if four or five of us end up in the AAC/ACC/PAC12 and you don’t (Baylor). Actually I take solace knowing Baylor is turbo screwed, and so should you.

That said, you should embrace whatever comes next because ultimately the end result of all of this won’t be much different and you should just enjoy the game and not all the keeping up with the Joneses.

To The Cheatin’ Hoes

Congratulations Texas and Oklahoma! You did it. You finally killed our fuckin’ car. Look I get it. I do. Everything is always greener on the other side of the Bravos, so don’t take this is as sour grapes because it’s not. I am not sad about the death of this conference, especially if this all ends up with WVU in the ACC where we belonged in the first place.

That said, here’s some unsolicited free advice: don’t expect everything to just be rosy. It’s going to be a big adjustment for both of y’all. I think Texas will take the most time adjusting, and not just on the field. Like, Texas hasn’t been good for like a decade and now y’all are about to play in the big boy league every week. Enjoy!

But like I said, its not just going to be on the field. Texas, y’all are used to getting whatever you want, whenever you want and that, my friend, is over. If you think anyone in Birmingham gives a single solitary shit about what you want, well… this should be fun for one of us as they say. Enjoy having to go to Bama, LSU and Georgia or Florida in consecutive weeks at some point in the season! And lol if you think that anyone will flag horns down.

For Oklahoma, I think there’s going to be a lot of adjustment that has to happen. I think there’s a sense around the Sooners that they have parity with the SEC Elite — which is probably true on some level, but bad news, the SEC is such a wringer that you’re probably going to go 8-4/7-5 every so often and still be really good. That’s just the nature of the beast.

So, in closing, I wish you both luck, but careful with the monkey paw wishes.