If covering the past fifteen months of college football expansion on the site has taught me anything, it's that the rumor mill generates a lot more smoke than it does fire. Still, with the latest development that SEC presidents have unaminiously approved Texas A&M's application for membership, it's clear that a small religious school in Waco, Texas is the only thing standing between college football as we know it and a brave new world.
Sure, it's possible that the nine remaining members of the Big 12 will band even tighter together after A&M's departure like a Chinese finger trap. It could be that embattled Commissioner Dan Beebe will roll up his sleeves, dust off his spectacles, and pull off an improbable eleventh-hour come back for the second year in a row. But that seems less and less likely every day. Especially after Oklahoma President David Boren's comments last week made it clear that it's minutes to midnight for the Sooners.
So, it appears that we're about to watch the death of the Big 12 Conference. You can't say I didn't warn you. But before you start salivating at the prospect of a new world order, and trumpeting the dawn of super-conferences from sea to shining sea, take a step back for one moment and consider just what it is that makes college football so special.
I submit that it's the sport's regional character. The unquantifiable milieu of Saturdays on campus. In the Midwest, where I fell in love with the game, that means the pre-dawn crunch of sneakers in gravel lots, lugging coolers across frost covered fields to set up to tailgate, and soaking up the sweet smell of charcoal and draft beer outside the stadium. It's blue skies and bonfires. Orange leafs and freezing fourth quarters.
Each cross-section of the country has its own unique characteristics. And although no amount of re-alignment can take away Monroe Street in Madison, the pastoral charm of State College, or golf course tailgating in Ann Arbor, it can remove the common threads that form the basis of conference identification. This unique, in our case Midwestern, identity is what brings us together, and helps forge long-standing rivalries and ultimately (dare I say) genune respect for one another and the institutions in which we charter the course of our lives.
This is why we root for one another in the out of conference season. Not just because it helps our strength of schedule, but because we believe that the B1G is a larger embodiment of our selves. Land grant. Middle west. Corn fed. I think it's important that we don't lose sight of that if and when the music starts.