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Rise of the South, decline of Irish at heart of conference realignment


OK, here's the idea. Greece leaves the EU and jumps to the SEC. Bingo! With all the TV and bowl money it would get, Greece would be solvent again, and the Southeastern Conference would get that big Athens TV market.

You see, everybody talks about how colleges are all switching conferences, but, essentially, they all just want to jump to the SEC or whatever best emulates the SEC. It's the solid south in college football. Once the South used to control Congress. Now, y'all: the gridiron.

Especially, northern Big East schools are seeking southern comfort. They all can't get into the SEC, so they'll settle for the Dixie next door -- the Atlantic Coast Conference: Boston College left first, now Pittsburgh and Syracuse. West Virginia is the only one that didn't get the memo. The Mountaineers want to leave the Big East for the Big 12. Hellooo, West Virginia: you're like ditching Michelle Bachman's campaign to get on the Newt Gingrich Bandwagon.

But the poor Big East. When it was first created in 1979, it was a stupendous basketball conference, loaded with all those northeastern Roman Catholic inner-city colleges like St. John's and Providence and Seton Hall that didn't field big-time pigskin combines.

But then college football became everybody's moneymaker, and basketball went into decline because all the good players drop by for one year, attend a class or two and hop to the NBA. Nobody knows who anybody is in college basketball anymore. It's like drone warfare. Anonymous slam dunks.

College basketball now consists entirely of, No. 1: the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels down together in Carolina. ... No. 2: wherever it is that John Calipari has taken his portfolio with this year's bunch of transient freshmen. ... and No. 3: UConn, if it can keep anybody eligible. Plus, of course, Dick Vitale.

The Big East is more like a commune now than a conference. Everybody does their own thing. Some teams, like pretty soon, one that's all the way to the far East -- in Idaho -- only play football in the Big East. One just drops in to play lacrosse. Others, though, play in lots of the conference's sports.

Then there's Notre Dame. It plays most sports against its Big East brethren, except it won't deign to play Big East football. Geno Auriemma, the UConn women's basketball coach, says if Notre Dame won't compete in Big East football, it should get its Irish derrière out of league basketball, too. But Notre Dame still thinks its too good to be in anybody's football conference. Notre Dame is still under the illusion that it's China, when everybody else knows that, really, now, it's just Taiwan.

You see, the SEC is what Notre Dame used to be. The Irish ought to wise up, lower their academic standards and go plead to get into the SEC before Greece does.

Over all this, the NCAA pretends to preside. The NCAA is to college football in 2011 what the League of Nations was to Europe in 1935.