Game Time: College Football Realignment: A 2003 History Lesson

Big East fever: Possibly catchable (Not shown: South Florida)
To sit down and type up a piece about college football realignment, specifically the (choose one) maintaining of/realignment of/annihilation of the Big 12, knowing that said piece would be set to run nearly 24 hours from now feels almost futile.

The bombardment of Tweets and updates about this topic are virtually hourly at this point, so as the sun sets on the Minute Maid Park press box (that's right, Astros, I'm typing a college football blog post on your turf) my hope is that the athletics directors, school presidents, and chancellors will take Sunday night to breathe a little bit, maybe even watch an NBA Finals game with their kids. (I know, not bloody likely...)
One man's Beelzebub

Depending on which square you choose to place your chips at the "college football realignment" roulette table, we're on the verge of one of the following: 

1.) A small handful of major players shifting conferences by themselves (Notre Dame to the Big Ten, Texas to the Big Ten or Pac Ten, Florida schools to the SEC)
2.) A small handful of major players shifting conferences and bringing friends with them (so would they call it the Pac-16?)
3.) The complete overhaul of college conference structure as we know it (Hey, four big conferences! Playoff time, bitches!)

If indeed there were a "college football realignment" roulette table and I were the croupier (that's official casino-speak for "dude that spins the wheel"), one tip I can give you with virtual certainty -- it ain't landing on the green "0" or "00" pockets. Something is about to happen. "Quo" is a dead status walking.

Conferences expanding, contracting, and expiring are nothing new. Go read the history of any of the big conferences, and you'll see -- rare is the conference that doesn't go through some sort of surgery every decade or so. Sometimes it's minor and voluntary -- a tuck here, a tuck there (think TCU moving to the Mountain West in 2005). And sometimes it's major reconstructive surgery.

Like 2003, when the Atlantic Coast Conference basically went into the Big East, raided their refrigerator, made sweet love to their women, and didn't even leave a "thank you" note.

As "dog eat dog" as it gets, the 2003 defection of Miami and Virginia Tech (and eventually later that year, Boston College) to the ACC is the closest template we have for the threat level rapidly careening toward "RED" for the Big 12's very existence. In my efforts to get as educated as I possibly could on the possibility of this armageddon before us, I came across an article from CBS Sportsline that ran right around this time in 2003. It outlined the ACC invasion of the Big East, and the challenge that then-Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese faced in trying to hold his league together.

In short, in a week where the release of the Karate Kid remake is set to hit theaters, we also appear to be on the verge of a remake of the Great Conference Shakeup of 2003, with Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe in the 2010 role of the beleaguered Tranghese. For those who lived through the ACC-Big East turf war of 2003, let's go back through the Sportsline article (which ran May 19,2003) and see just how much history is on the verge of repeating itself...

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese won't let his conference fade away without a fight.

Admitting the Big East is in crisis, Tranghese claimed Monday that a move by Miami to the Atlantic Coast Conference would "be the most disastrous blow to intercollegiate athletics in my lifetime."

That line was the highlight of the commissioner's bombastic 30-minute news conference, a whopper of a show designed to sway public opinion and put pressure on Miami president Donna Shalala.

Difference number one between Big East Raid '03 and Big 12 Raid '10 right out of the chute is the relative demeanor and tone of the two conference commissioners. In 2003, Mike Tranghese was very public in his anger over what was transpiring with his league, to the point that he was practically painting University of Miami president Donna Shalala as a disloyal, money-grubbing whore who may or may not have been a direct descendant of Satan himself.

In 2010, Beebe has been more measured in his approach, sounding more hopeful than defiant this past Friday when he talked in generalities about keeping the league together. "I am comfortable," Beebe said as four days of meetings wrapped up. "There's still a process we're going through but based on the conversations we had I think we're in a very good position."

Tranghese came across as more desperate back then than Beebe has so far this time around, probably for three reasons -- (1) At the point Tranghese made the statements in this article, the cat was totally out of the bag as far as the ACC's plans to pilfer his league; to this point, all of the "moving parts" of the Big 12 discussion have been revealed through strategically placed leaks to the media; (2) Tranghese was Dave Gavitt's right-hand man in creating the Big East back in 1979. If the conference wasn't his baby, at the very least it was his nephew. If you're fighting for a blood relative, don't you fight a little harder and a little more maniacally? Beebe's history with the Big 12 dates back only to 2003; (3) Tranghese's on-field crown jewel (Miami) was more inclined and receptive to leaving than Beebe's (Texas). In a perfect world, the Longhorns would stay in the Big 12, maintain all of their rivalries, and finally get cracking on their own television network.

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