Scheduling Mismatches A College Football Tradition

Robert Siegel talks with sportswriter Stefan Fatsis about the start of the college football season. Alliances have changed with the re-organization of some of the largest conferences as schools chase the almighty dollar. And the now-customary early season blood-bath has begun as weak teams face powerhouses.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The college football season is under way, and that should come as a relief to fans who spent the off-season watching big-name schools play a different kind of game - conference musical chairs.

And joining us, as he does most Fridays, is sports writer Stefan Fatsis.

Hi, Stefan.

STEFAN FATSIS: Hey, Robert.

SIEGEL: And this week, the Big Ten Conference - Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, other big Midwestern schools - announced that it will split into two divisions starting next year. That was one of several off-season maneuvers by major football schools and conferences. What happened, actually?

FATSIS: Well, let's start with the Big Ten. Despite its name, it's had 11 teams since 1990, and starting next year, it's going to have 12 when Nebraska joins. Now, the impetus for that move, like the impetus for all moves in college sports, was money. Adding a 12th team will allow the Big Ten, which is going to keep its name, by the way, it's going to allow the Big Ten to split into those two divisions and hold a lucrative conference championship game at the end of the season. It will also expand the reach of the conference's cable television network, and that means more revenue.

Nebraska, in turn, left the Big 12 Conference for the promise of more television revenue in the Big Ten.

SIEGEL: And Nebraska was one of several dominos to fall. Who were the others?

FATSIS: Colorado, which was also in the Big 12, is bolting for the Pac-10, the Pacific-10 Conference out west, and that conference also added Utah. Unlike the Big Ten, it is going to rename itself the Pac-12 starting in 2012.

Boise State, currently the best football team not in one of the major conferences, switched alliances. Brigham Young decided to go independent in football. That'll allow it to cut its own TV deal, like Notre Dame, and not have to share that money with other schools in its conference. Of course, it won't be as much money as Notre Dame gets.

SIEGEL: In the end, though, the shuffle of universities and conferences wasn't so dramatic as had been expected or feared.

FATSIS: Yeah, there was a lot of talk that we were going to end up with four 16 teams super conferences that would have controlled the business of college football, even more than the big schools do now, and could have led to a total break with the NCAA in football. It didn't happen. But I think if you're a college sports fan, this does require you to sort of rethink your allegiances, rethink rivalries and have a sort of changed outlook on what constitutes tradition in the sport. Tradition is what gets flushed when there are big changes like this. And I think that's tough for some fans to stomach.

SIEGEL: So here's the current tradition. The season has begun with games like Wake Forest, 53; Presbyterian, 13; Miami, 45; Florida A&M, nothing. The tradition is start the season with a completely ridiculous mismatch.

FATSIS: Yeah, these blowouts are a perennial story. It's an easy win for the powerhouse. The small school gets a big payday because they go to visit and become the sacrificial lamb. The good news is that this could start changing. The conference shifts are one reason. The Big Ten is considering moving to nine conference games a year from eight, and there's money to be made. There are a few season opening marquee games now that have proved lucrative for the schools involved. Money outweighs the risk of taking a loss.

SIEGEL: Have a great weekend and enjoy the football.

FATSIS: Thanks, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's sports writer Stefan Fatsis, who talks with us Fridays about sports and the business of sports.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And before we go, a quick update on another college football story.

We told you yesterday about former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. He was kicked off the team after run-ins with the law, but he earned his degree from Oregon and then enrolled in grad school at the University of Mississippi. And he asked the NCAA for a waiver so he could play football immediately. That request was declined. Ole Miss appealed. And today, the NCAA reversed its decision, so Masoli will be able to suit up for the Ole Miss opener tomorrow against Jacksonville State.

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