BRAD LOCKE: Conference expansion solution: Just say no

TUPELO – Judging by my waistline, expansion is a pressing issue in my life. It also seems to be a pressing issue among the college football talking heads.
Understanding that my two cents will quickly be drowned in the raging fountain of opinion on this topic, I offer a solution I’ve not heard discussed that often.
Leave it be.
College football is in as good a shape as it’s ever been, both from a financial standpoint and a quality of play standpoint. The SEC, Big Ten and ACC all have TV networks shamelessly making it rain like Pacman Jones in Vegas. And the game’s as popular – and as competitive – as ever.
Yet the beast wants to grow.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has talked big about expansion without committing to a dang thing, and that’s caused SEC Commissioner Mike Slive to start drawing up contingency plans should Delany let greed get the best of him (and you know it will).
The Big Ten, which actually has 11 members, could grow to 16 teams (unlikely) or certainly to 14 (quite possible). Then the dominoes would begin tumbling, with the SEC adding two to four teams, the Big 12 and Big East getting plundered in the process, and the ACC probably winding up OK through it all.
Oh, and the Pac-10 … well, who cares. They’re playing JV ball out there.
Bigger not always better
Anyway, I’m all for capitalism and making money and improving on an already great product, but as recent events have taught us, some folks just can’t be happy with what they have and will probably foul things up in their quest for something new and more exciting.
That’s how we got an expanded NCAA basketball tournament field. Thank heaven it only went to 68 and not 96. That decision was about one thing and one thing only: money.
Forget the quality of competition, which will now collectively be lowered. Forget the kids and academics, which would’ve been a big issue had the field gone to 96.
The NCAA expresses concern, with a straight face, that a football playoff would cause academic stress for student-athletes (sorry, but I cracked a cynical grin when I wrote “student-athlete”).
To paraphrase Doc Holliday from “Tombstone,” the NCAA’s hypocrisy knows no bounds.
All these Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday games, the adding of a 12th game a few years back, a plethora of completely forgettable and regrettable bowls – someone please point me to the underlying principle behind such ideas.
Hint: It ain’t the so-called purity of amateurism.
I’m afraid I’ve gone off track a bit – OK, so I ranted – but my point is that sometimes the current situation is the best situation. Sure, you’ve got to look to the future and be ready and willing to change when times demand it.
But before Delany brought up conference expansion, it was not a hot-button issue like, say, the BCS system.
And there’s a fine example of people quickly souring on something. For years fans demanded a clear-cut national champion, which is exactly what the BCS gives them. Now, of course, people whine about how flawed it is, as if human beings could ever contrive a perfect system for something like this.
Listen, I’m no fan of the BCS, and a playoff would be nice. The contrarian in me – and he’s an awfully strong force behind my opinions – wishes the loud proponents on both sides of that debate would just hold hands … and leap off a cliff.
Mr. Delany, feel free to join them.
Brad Locke ( covers Mississippi State for the Journal and blogs daily at

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

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