ALDLAND Podcast

Aldland is back with another podcast, talking about all of the hottest issues in the sports world. On tap this week is discussion of a possible new football league to rival the NCAA and a discussion on what impact David Beckham has made on soccer in the United States. Get at it, and tweet at us with ideas for discussions for future podcasts so I can stop browsing Reddit more than I already do.

_______________________________

Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

Rutgers and Maryland to join the Big Ten

Rutgers and Maryland have joined the Big Ten conference.

From the Big Ten perspective, what a stupid idea. What an obviously stupid idea. Just because everybody’s jumping off the sinking Big East ship as fast as possible doesn’t mean the Big Ten needs to act as a refugee camp for below-average escapees. Already in a bad spot heading into this fall, the Big Ten has made itself worse this week, and no comment about “Maryland basketball” or “Rutgers and the New York market” can change my mind.

ALDLAND Podcast

Here we are with yet another edition of the ALDLAND Podcast.  Chris Cunico is off making bad decisions in Nola, so the task falls to blog founder AD to talk about a wide variety of sports-related topics with me, from the exciting finish to the English Premiere League season to the impending change to the college football postseason.  So take thirty minutes out of your work day and check out this awesomeness.

_______________________________

Download the ALDLAND podcast at our Podcasts Page or stream it right here:

The conflagration of conference realignment hits the coolest game on Earth

ESPN reports:

NHL officials approved a radical realignment plan Monday that will give the league four conferences instead of six divisions and guarantee home-and-home series among all teams.

The Board of Governors authorized commissioner Gary Bettman to implement the proposal pending input from the NHL Players’ Association. It could be put in place as early as next season.

The board opted to go with the more dramatic switch, creating four geographic conferences — two with eight teams and two with seven.

The new format will increase overall travel in the regular season, especially for Eastern Conference teams who will now have more trips West. But it cuts down on travel for some Western Conference teams, which was a critical issue for teams like Detroit, Dallas, Columbus and Nashville.

This deal isn’t finalized– the NHLPA still have to approve it, and players seem confused (“‘I don’t even really get it,’ Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said”)– but it seems like it will be without substantial changes. The new conference alignment would look like this: Keep reading…

The de facto national championship

One of college football’s biggest challenges, from an institutional perspective, has been its ability to crown a consensus national champion at year’s end. The first memory I have of controversy in this regard was the 1997 split championship between Michigan and Nebraska that precipitated the implementation of the BCS in 1998. (I don’t know if that decision actually precipitated the BCS, because that system may have been in the works already, but it felt that way at the time.) The BCS did not bring peace and happiness across the land, however, and the criticism that started then– I recall writing an editorial on the arbitrariness of BCS outcomes as sports editor of a newspaper in the early 2000s– has only grown in scope and volume, even reaching the halls of the U.S. Senate and the Department of Justice, and the favors it grants upon certain athletic conferences certainly has been part of the fuel for the conference realignment conflagration that burns to this day.

By some magic mix of scheduling, on-field performance, coaching, recruiting, and everything else that goes into making one particular football game happen the way it happens and mean what it means, though, we have been gifted a national championship game this year that really is as free from controversy as one could imagine, a matchup of two undefeated teams, either of which could be ranked #1, playing in the toughest division of the toughest conference in the country, and largely dominating their opponents to this point. On Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, #1 LSU will meet #2 Alabama for what many see as the de facto national championship. The BCS’ noncomical Rube Goldberg machine may churn out a pairing at season’s end that will garner national consensus, but this Saturday’s game is a guarantee; it provides certainty and assurance, things the BCS largely has failed to give teams and fans since its inception.

In anticipation of this game, plan on daily coverage this week* from ALDLAND to get you ready for it.

* Disclosure: This is likely to severely decrease our unplanned coverage of the Breeders’ Cup. In our stead, I recommend the sports page of the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The television channel that launched 1,000 conference realignments

So much has happened in the world of college athletic conference realignment that ALDLAND’s coverage of the fluid, polycentric topic has all but fallen off, and it’s easy to forget what started all of this. Yes, last year, TCU had planned to jump to the Big East next year in order to secure that faltering conference‘s automatic BCS bid, and yes, Conference USA, the Big East, and the ACC had adjusted their jocks in recent years resulting in inconsequential shifts between Boston College, Miami, Louisville, and Cincinnati, and the Big Ten and Pacific 10 each had made minor additions, but it was Texas A & M’s move that represented the first falling domino on this American Fall that saw the Aggies loosed from the oppressive, yet apparently failing, bonds of the Big XII, the tumbling of the Big East‘s old basketball regime, TCU’s reversal of course, and about a billion other related stories. And the hand that pushed that first domino belonged to ESPN’s Longhorn Network.

As Deadspin reports, however, the catalytic network is fairly impotent when it comes to actual television broadcasting as, after launching two months ago, LHN still isn’t on anybody’s tv set:

It was two months ago today that we ran a sky-is-falling story on ESPN’s Longhorn Network going live without having lined up cable companies to actually broadcast the channel. We thought that was just last-minute posturing and ESPN’s muscle would get the deals done before long. But here we are, halfway through the season, and it’s still a channel without a home.

Awful Announcing has a good breakdown of the problems, which start with the one major cable provider in the fold not having much of a presence in Texas itself[:]

“The most glaring issue is outside of the Texas fan-base, there just isn’t a lot of interest in the channel and in fact the mere existence of the network has more than likely hurt the brand of Texas nationally more than it’s helped it. The idea that an entire network can be propped up by two shitty football games has cable providers holding the line knowing the implications of giving in.

“Also working against LHN is the fact that ESPN is their distribution partner. You’d think that this would only help adoption of the channel but my take is that ESPN has bullied the entire industry for quite awhile. This is really the only time where operators actually have leverage and can potentially keep it as an ace up their sleeve for future negotiations on other ESPN/Disney talks.”

This situation can’t continue indefinitely. The Big Ten Network suffered through the same growing pains, with most cable companies only agreeing to carry it in its second year of existence, but that was amid public demand. With no one clamoring for the Longhorn Network in their home, it’s still likely that by next year the network’s footprint will be national: but not at the price ESPN wants to charge to carry it.

From the beginning, it felt like the Worldwide Leader had bit off a bigger bite of Texas rawhide than it could chew, but LHN is starting to look like a Tejas-sized broadcast failure that no one will notice because no one’s ever seen it and ESPN won’t report on it.

TCU to join Big XII

ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth reports:

TCU trustees are scheduled to meet on Monday and are expected to accept the Big 12’s invitation to join the conference, sources confirmed Sunday.

An announcement could come as early as Monday evening.

The Big 12 extended TCU an invitation on Thursday and said it would begin discussions with the university immediately. TCU chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. issued a statement on Thursday about the situation.

“These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU,” the statement said. “It will allow us to return to old rivalries, something our fans and others have been advocating for many years. As always, we must consider what’s best for TCU and our student-athletes in this ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Big 12.”

A move to the Big 12 allows TCU to rekindle some of the rivalries it had for so long in the Southwest Conference, which disbanded in 1996.

TCU, the defending Rose Bowl champion, agreed earlier this year to leave the Mountain West Conference for the Big East, which has an automatic BCS berth.

A source told ESPNDallas.com last week that TCU would have to pay a $5 million exit fee to leave the Big East, but would be able to join the Big 12 in time for the 2012-13 athletic year.

What? You thought the Big XII was collapsing? Over and done with? Maybe. But the Big East is going down first, as reported here a month ago. Texas Christian’s decision to get itself into a BCS conference at all costs made sense two years ago, but now, the Big East is done, and TCU’s football team isn’t as good. (That’s a perspective that shows how fast this landscape really is changing, even if it appears incremental on a day-to-day basis.) The Big XII, fearing it’s next to dissolve, had to take TCU to keep something resembling a critical mass and, conveniently, replace one departing Texas team with another. And of course, TCU still thinks it belongs in a BCS conference. Million-dollar musical chairs.

Football Expansion from a Basketball Perspective

I caught Syracuse Mens Basketball Coach Jim Boeheim on a PTI segment Tuesday night discussing the Syracuse/Pitt move to the ACC, and he made a number of good points.  Combined with a conversation I had this weekend with a Georgetown alum, I’m wondering how everyone in the non-football sports (and schools) is viewing realignment.  It seems like they’re mostly getting lost in the shuffle.  Anyway, there’s another good followup with Boeheim in the WSJ yesterday morning:

“If conference commissioners were the founding fathers of this country,” Boeheim told the club, “we would have Guatemala, Uruguay and Argentina in the United States.”

The full article is here. More from The Birmingham News here.

The Pacific Twelve will not expand, cannot explain why, and will regret and later reverse this decision

As beautifully reported last night, the recently-expanded Pacific Twelve Conference declared it will expand no more. While commodawg recently wrote that I have made some “preposterous suggestions” on this site (a not wholly inaccurate suggestion itself), I am going to register a prediction on this issue. First, though, I have to thank commodawg for discussing and linking to the only sampling of the written word ever to speak of the major Western conference as the “Pacific 12.” That’s on par with “Philip Jackson,” and the only place to go from there is “Pacific Twelve,” so here we are.

Before this year, the Pacific Twelve was the Pac 10. The conference added consistent football juggernauts Colorado and Utah to make a non-baker’s dozen. In reality, the Buffs and Utes are anything but (no matter what Senator Hatch says), which is what makes yesterday’s statement confusing. The flailing Big XII’s national powerhouses, Texas (to my surprise) and Oklahoma, were making comparatively overt, public ovations to the Pacific Twelve, and it was the acts and statements of these schools that triggered the no-expansion announcement. Why they would not want these two programs, though, is beyond me.

I haven’t engaged in the rumor-mongering that’s been flooding the webwaves these past weeks and months, but it’s hard to disagree with the view that we’re going to end up with four sixteen-school superconferences. Once the SEC, Big Ten, and whatever survives out of the ACC and Big East each amass sixteen members, the Pacific Twelve will wish really bad that they’d become the Pacific 14 in 2011 by adding Texas and Oklahoma. In fact, they could have led the way by also taking Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, schools thought to be politically tied to their in-state counterparts, to become the first sixteen-school major conference. Their non-expansionist foreign-conference policy might make Ron Paul happy on some micro level, but in the next round of major conference realignment, the Pacific Twelve will 1) join in the expansion; 2) wish they already had as members these two major programs because there aren’t any better options and those are two excellent options anyway; and 3) solicit their membership if Texas and Oklahoma aren’t already gone to another conference.