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Kirk Herbstreit is Right About Conference Realignment

“…we’re now in an arms race and it’s about the money.”

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Kirk Herbstreit this week went on ESPN and expressed serious concern about the state of college football, about where the sport is headed and about the longstanding traditions that may continue — but probably will not — in this round of realignment.

“I guess it’s our new world, our new reality,” Herbstreit said. “I don’t know how you feel. I’m a bit of a traditionalist. … What’s becoming abundantly clear, and I hate to say this because I’ve always tried to fight it, is people are trying to stay at the top. They’re trying to compete with the SEC, and it’s all about money. It’s no longer about tradition. It’s no longer about the things that I think college football have always kind of tried to stand itself on top of and really look at and appreciate rivalries and tradition and things of that nature.”

Kirk Herbstreit is right. It’s about money, and it is about greed. OU is leaving the Big 12 for no other reason than it will benefit financially — substantially — in joining the SEC. Texas is bringing OU with it, and for no other reason than it will benefit financially — substantially. Say what you want about competitive advantages, but OU’s done just fine dominating the league and Texas — bless ’em — have rarely been the best team in their own state. They’re the ticket to entry but in reality OU’s on-field success makes Texas the real plus-one.

In truth, the two bell cows of the Big 12 have the league in their palms. Texas’ demands from the Big 12 are almost always met. OU’s demands, too, save for a few 11 a.m. kicks. Boohoo. They seismically shifted the sport as we know it in helping form the sport’s first-ever super-league: a 16-team SEC that will command top dollar TV money. The Big 12 as we know it is broken, and may in time cease to exist. Traditions: Gone. And college football? Well, who knows what this means for the sport writ large.

“Right now, I think it’s about money and keeping up with the Joneses and right now, Texas and OU, they’re looking over in the horizon to the east and they’re seeing that SEC and all that money, and they’re saying we can’t be left behind,” said Herbstreit. “We want to go into that neighborhood, and we want to join that group of teams, and that’s basically why we are where we are. And what this will do as far as the future, you know, if you and I are sitting here three years from now or five years from now, talking about college athletics, I have literally no idea where we are headed, but I feel like these are two big dominoes that are falling.”

Maybe this domino will lead to other super-conferences. Perhaps that is the future of the sport. And maybe OSU will be part of that. But if you’re a Herbie traditionalist or not, unless you’re a Texas or OU fan practicing the “SEC! SEC!” chant from your living room, killing the traditions of the sport and breaking up leagues for money under the guise of We’re doing what’s best for OU/Texas’ long-term academic and athletic health is nothing more than suit-and-tie propaganda with no nuance — and no regard for what has long made this sport so great.

“I just hate losing the tradition of this sport,” said Herbstreit. “I’ve always been, I guess naive to it. I’ve always tried to be the guy that’s like, ‘No, we’re gonna hold on to our traditions. People care about those traditions. They care about the rivalries.’ Clearly, the decision-makers don’t. And we’re now in an arms race and it’s about the money.”

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