What Big Ten expansion isn’t about: Cultural fit, shared values or even football

The conference realignment going on across the country has everything to do with TV money — gobs of it.

SHARE What Big Ten expansion isn’t about: Cultural fit, shared values or even football
Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti speaking to reporters during a conference media gathering July 26.

Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti speaks to reporters during a conference media gathering July 26 in Indianapolis.

Darron Cummings/AP

It’s always entertaining when college football tries to tether itself to the loftier aims of higher education. It’s like a 500-pound pig trying to get into a tuxedo.

A recent ESPN article suggested the Big Ten might be more comfortable with North Carolina and Virginia joining the conference than it would with Florida State, which might not have the ‘‘cultural fit’’ Big Ten presidents and chancellors covet. That’s rich — ‘‘rich’’ being the perfect word. College football is in the middle of a seismic conference realignment, and none of it has anything to do with culture, education or even football. It has to do with TV money — gobs of it.

You don’t need to be blessed with extraordinary vision to see the irony in the Big Ten’s insistence on talking about values while one of its members, Northwestern, is in the middle of a hazing scandal. Nothing says enlightenment quite like older players dry-humping freshman teammates, one of several allegations made against the football program that cost coach Pat Fitzgerald his job.

You can argue the NU mess is bad timing for the conference as it expands, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s still a reminder that kids are the basis of everything involved with realignment, even as TV rights are being negotiated, money is being added up and new stadiums are being envisioned. That’s one way of saying nobody really cares about the kids. Or, if we do care about them, it’s only in terms of how much they can entertain us on Saturdays — or whatever other day of the week is for sale.

If the Big Ten hierarchy can tear itself away from looking down its nose at Florida State, it might want to look in the mirror.

The guess here is that, although the Big Ten presidents might consider the Seminoles a ‘‘football school’’ and, thus, an uncomfortable fit, the athletic directors and TV networks understand how important it would be to get a foothold in Florida. They breathe football there. They grow football players there.

College football is a pro sport. If there was any doubt before the current spasm of realignment, there shouldn’t be any now. This is about money, and it’s about survival. You’re either in the Big Ten, the SEC or the Big 12, or you’re not. You’re either breathing or being buried. There’s no in-between. There’s no Pac-12, may it rest in pieces.

The logical next step for college football can be found in the words of UCLA coach Chip Kelly.

‘‘Put 60 of us in the same division,’’ he said. ‘‘Do it like the NFL, where there’s NFC West, NFC North, NFC South. I think we should all be in, there should be one conference in all college football, and then just break it up like they do the professional game, based on geography. That makes the most sense. There’s your travel question. There’s all those other questions, but no one asks me.’’

I’m not sure how many Big Ten traditionalists are left or even what that designation means anymore. The conference your great-grandfather knew didn’t have Penn State in it. He probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you what a ‘‘Rutgers’’ was. But whatever the Big Ten is now has nothing to do with whatever warm, fuzzy notions you might have about rivalries, marching bands or crisp autumn mornings. The conference and its schools are a business entity. Wisconsin has about as much history with newcomer Oregon as it does with the Holy Roman Empire. But now they’re best buddies, joined at the hip pocket.

While everyone else runs around like mice with the lights on, there sits Notre Dame, without a worry in the world. The independent Irish aren’t above the fray. They want money, just like every other school, but they don’t have to take part in the palace intrigue that’s going on with realignment. They get to determine their future, thanks to a brand that apparently will survive the Apocalypse.

They don’t need a conference; college football needs them. For the moment, they really are better than everyone else.

The rest are scurrying after the money while trying to say the right things about shared culture and student-athletes. My favorite quote from a few months ago has yet to be topped.

‘‘Ultimately, the Big Ten is the best home for USC and Trojan athletics as we move into the new world of collegiate sports,’’ USC athletic director Mike Bohn said. ‘‘We are excited that our values align with the league’s member institutions.’’

The only values applicable here are numerical. Everything else is just talk.

The Latest
The Chicago Botanic Garden’s urban agriculture and jobs training initiative has graduated 264 graduates with a 91% job placement rate six months after graduation since 2009 through its apprenticeship program.
Aunque muchos elogian el sistema canadiense de Entrada Rápida (“Express Entry”) por considerarlo más rápido que la espera de meses para obtener un permiso de trabajo en Estados Unidos, los inmigrantes tienen dificultades para encontrar sueldos y puestos de trabajo equivalentes a los de sus países de origen.
Pritzker, who has made early education a focal point of his second term, said the state agency is intended to help simplify an over complicated process for parents.
The Invert undergroud development has enormous economic potential. Plus, a reader from West Ridge has no sympathy for Ed Burke, given his role in 1980s ‘Council Wars.
Canadá es conocida por su postura amigable hacia la inmigración, pero también se encuentra con obstáculos a medida que se desplaza un número récord de personas en todo el mundo.