And by "them," of course, I mean the federal government.
All of the shifting around of colleges to different athletic conferences seems to be headed in the direction of creating three or four "super-conferences" that combine the elite teams of college football with whatever teams they want to hang around with, and then everyone else can join up with whoever they want and be seen on a 3 AM cable rebroadcast.
These moves happen because of money. No other reason. Coaches may want to join up with other powerhouse teams so that their teams can compete with other elite teams, but the ultimate deciding factor is money, and how much of it can be made with the changes. Which is really interesting since the actual participants in all of this mess are technically non-profit institutions that aren't supposed to be about making money. At least one congressperson told The New York Times that his institution, which is right now a non-profit outfit but which would like not to be, would be verrrry interested in the results of these realignments. In the same way, a local mob boss is verrrry interested in whether or not a shopowner has fire insurance.
All of this comes on the heels of the Jim Tressell resignation and the allegations by a University of Miami booster than he gave a lot of players a lot of money. The Miami allegations, of course, remain to be proven.
And The Atlantic magazine once more makes me glad Andrew Sullivan left it and enabled me to read it again by printing a nice long article about how the modern NCAA may make a lot of noise about amateurism and student-athletics, but it operates as a cartel designed to deflect criticism from and protect the actual state of college sports. Which involves schools, coaches and a whole lot of other people getting rich while the people who make them rich get three hots and a cot. That does not remain to be proven. In fact, the nearby university today announced it'll pay its head football coach $34 million over the next seven years. It will continue to pay its players nothing, even though they are the ones who do the work and risk the injuries that could leave them unable to earn anything like what their coach earns.
Although athletic directors, university presidents and the NCAA may see these new super-conferences and their associated television deals as great sources of new revenue, they may yet turn out to be the source of the system's downfall if the feds really do think there's some money to be tapped. Because while there are many things the federal government does poorly, finding money and separating it from its previous owner is not one of them.
(H/T The Sports Economist)