Let’s do a preseason Top 25!

This is some mix of how I rank the teams now before the 2017 season, and how I see it ending up … which should line up more than it sometimes does in these kinds of lists. Some folks will be like, “I rank Clemson No. 1 because they’re defending champs even though I predict them to lose five times this year.” This is not that … I want this to reflect this year, not last.

Anyway, here’s how I see it.*

* Most of this will be comically inaccurate, but that’s part of the fun. I know this going in.

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Don’t Do It … Unless …

In the wake of the recent round of firings at ESPN, I see plenty of hot takes.  Some are better than others (anything saying ESPN had this coming for its liberal agenda immediately goes into the “shit take” category), some are well meaning and some aren’t.  But it’s a public business, so invariably people want to sound off on it … regardless of how much understanding of the situation they personally have.

I can relate to the folks who’ve been laid off, the people who survived and have survivor’s guilt, the ones who received the extra special “gift” of demotion, and even the fortunate climbers who might somehow benefit from these moves.  I can relate because I “enjoyed” each of these experiences throughout a 15-year run in the sports communications business.

And this isn’t a woe is me tale, because for whatever it’s worth, I’m very much at peace with where I am right now (which is out of sports entirely).  I don’t blame any former employer or hold any grudges, because that would be stupid (and I really, really don’t believe in burning bridges … finding work is hard enough).  Moreover, I feel as though I’ve been more fortunate than most.

But I’ve seen one particular refrain in the aftermath of today’s carnage that I thought I could and should address, because maybe my own experiences in the business can help someone.

That sounds nice.  And it’s a convenient thing to say to someone if you want the conversation to last 140 characters or less.  But as with most things in life, the reality is much more nuanced than that.

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Some Thoughts on the Draft

Let us be clear: the NFL is very “ugh” right now.

But I still find it hard to hate the thing completely.  For one reason, I hear rumors that the New Orleans Saints are still very much a part of the league (even despite the absurd punishments handed down during “Bountygate”).  For another, the good flavor of the Falcons blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl is still fresh.*  And finally, the draft itself is always going to have some merit even for people who hate the NFL because it’s one last chance to see their favorite college players paraded in front of the camera before they’re officially professionals.  So, yay.

* This is one of the more improbable things I’ve seen in my sports-watching lifetime.  Like, the Falcons literally had to have everything go completely wrong for them to pull it off … and they did it!  And my enjoyment of it was fueled by a persistent Falcons hater laughing at them and dancing around my living room throughout the proceedings.  It was truly a memorable and enjoyable experience, even for someone disillusioned by the league and basically anything that it tries to do.

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Could a 14-team Big 12 actually work?

As the Big 12 meanders its way toward an expansion that may or may not be inevitable (per “sources”), fans of the affected institutions continue to wait for some measure of resolution.  The good news for the eager applicants is a move to 14 is apparently still on the table.

I still think 12 makes more sense.  And if you read this, you’ll find out why.  But 14 has its advantages, including the more money thing, but more importantly (to me anyway), the opportunity to rebrand away from the toxic Big 12 name.  Yes!

If 14 is still a realistic scenario, let’s look at how it can actually work.

Once again, I don’t have any particular insider knowledge on any of this, which is pretty much useless right now anyway. The amount of misinformation out there at present is significant.  For that reason, trying to predict how expansion unfolds is equally pointless.  What’s perhaps more useful is attempting to apply logic to the situation to offer a recommendation or two.

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Big 12 Expansion Makes Sense: Here’s Why…

Trying to read the tea leaves and interpret/predict Big 12 expansion is mostly pointless in principle, because one is most assuredly going to be wrong.  And not just wrong, but often times spectacularly wrong.

Since I have no fear of being spectacularly wrong, you’re in luck!  You’ve come to the right place to read a few words on the subject.

First off, a primer.  That link should give you some decent insight.  And this one.  And maybe this one too.  If you don’t want to read all that, the short version recap is this:  The Big 12 is a conference that suffers a fragile ego, due in large part to its having been raided by other leagues earlier this decade.  Stuck at 10 teams and stuck with a TV contract that is by no means terrible but which still lags behind that of its competition (in particular, fellow “major” conferences Big 10 and SEC), several schools in the conference are seemingly unhappy and pushing for expansion.  Or maybe they’re just sort of mildly concerned.  Or maybe this is all an act and we don’t know.

This is the part of the process that I think confuses people the most:  They can’t predict what the institutions will do, and they can’t do that because each institution is subject to the whims of multiple individual people.  Presidents.  Boards of directors.  Powerful boosters.  Athletic directors and coaches (not really, but it’s best to be polite and include them anyway).  The point being, what if one of these people has a louder voice than the others?  What if said person is having a bad day?  Or is just a generally irrational person?  And what if the media and common layman can’t predict who might wield the most influence, what they might think on a given day, or even what they might think today?

You’d be served up a nice helping of “fuck if I know” ice cream, which is what all the reporting on this topic reveals.  The best one can do is try to approach this from a logical vantage point and guess at the things that seem to make sense.  That doesn’t mean the key figures in this play will act rationally at the end of the day, but it does give the observer a better understanding of perhaps what *should* happen.

And thusly, I’ve written well over 300 words without getting around to talking about expansion, which is what this article is supposed to be about.

Continue reading Big 12 Expansion Makes Sense: Here’s Why…