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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Greed to shake up college landscape


By Ferd Lewis

The Southeastern Conference reaps a reported average of $102 million a year just from its television contracts, inspiring envy and action.

So, the Big Ten, which has its own sports channel, says it will look into further expansion, pronto, lest it lose ground and moolah.

Not to be outdone, the Pac-10 awakens after 32 years as the longest-untouched major college conference, and said last week it, too, is "seriously" considering its own expansion and sports channel. Serious as a loan shark.

Gentlemen, start your cash registers. And, everybody else across the college landscape, duck for cover and keep an eye on your membership flocks for the next six to 12 months.

What we have the potential to see is a grab to make the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 look orderly and proper. A rustling to, perhaps, make a mockery of geography.

It was one thing for, say, Louisiana Tech to find itself in the Western Athletic Conference by default. But the Big Ten poach Texas from the Big 12? Missouri skip out on the Big 12? The Pac-10 bag Texas, Colorado or Utah or a combination thereof?

But, then, the institutions that make up the storied Big Ten have been operating as a band of 11 for years now, so nothing, it seems, is out of bounds when there is a bigger profit to be turned. If Notre Dame ever puts itself up for auction, "holy war" would become a sports term, too.

If Vanderbilt, by virtue of the SEC contract, is raking in more conference TV bucks than Texas, which tops Forbes' list of most valuable college football teams, well, who is to say a market correction isn't in order?

One thing we have learned from past expansion is that when there is lucre at stake even college presidents and chancellors are not above throwing punches at the bottom of the pile. Not when there are 90,000-seat stadiums to be expanded and multi-million dollar coaches to be wooed.

Collegiality? That ivy towered concept went out with earlier rounds of conference scavenging and demolition. Remember the Southwest Conference? The "old" WAC?

As soon as the Supreme Court let the powers that be bolt the College Football Association, it became every Tech and State for itself.

But maybe the schools and conferences intent upon on hitting the jackpot are missing the gold bullion, blinded by the silver dollars.

The most entertaining drama they have to sell isn't what will be on the field but the cut-throat action in the board rooms, the diabolical schemes and conspiratorial machinations in out-of-the-way meeting places.

Gordon Gekko of "Wall Street" had nothing on some of these folks.