Blackpool was relegated this weekend in a 4-2 loss to Manchester United in the English Premier League. Blackpool, for those too busy hanging out with Howie Long and pointing at men with trucksteps and yelling out "YOU ARE A HOMOSEXUAL" to follow soccer, is essentially the App State of EPL soccer. It is a small school with ample football tradition and a long heritage of success at various levels of competition, and at one point they had a duck as a mascot. They play an attacking brand of football in a tiny stadium on the fringe of the English coastline, and had a fan sneak into 10 Downing Street just to give a piece of local Blackpool stone to Winston Churchill as a gift. He was not immediately shot and scattered to the four winds, and we all now live in a very different era. Also, Winston was probably drunk and thus very forgiving.
The point is that they are lovable, small, and will now lose what had been a compelling build project to the random winds of the EPL and the financial circumstances of relegation. Hey, look! Apropos of nothing, App State's considering postponing its consideration of moving up to D-1!
The school announced Friday that the panel would not meet the May deadline. It wants to continue studying the impact of potential tuition increases on athletic scholarship costs and changing membership in conferences around the country.
The reason any franchise--and let's include App State's football program and every other college football program in that category--looks to move up in terms of class and competition is money.
You can cloak the desire in any number of terms. Our favorite is "fire in the belly," especially because it turns ambition into a kind of diarrheal condition, and that's about right when it comes to some football programs making the leap from D-1AA to D-1. At first there is a kind of uneasy excited tension, then fear, and then blind panic as your once tidy program begins to expel every bit of worth out of its ass for a period before either adjusting or collapsing into a kind of long-term coma. (See: the UNLV and Western Kentucky football programs.)
This is how to arrive at a nifty counter-argument against any argument for an EPL style tiering of what is now known as FBS football: tiering isn't necessary since with the BCS in place it already exists. While college teams don't have to spend on salaries for players, they do engage in a spending war for recruits via facilities, the employ of recruiting services, and the talent to develop those players on the coaching staff. The BCS conferences are already their own rough EPL, and relegation and promotion are done on the same corrupted slope. (For fun, just think of how much money Baylor and Iowa State pulled for doing very little while Boise slaved its way up the ranks.)
If App State wants to promote itself, it is free to fill out the paperwork and start the process. Then again, if we want to climb K2 in hot pants and only using sticks of yak butter as ice axes, we're free to do that, too. The mountain won't get any smaller for us, and that's college football's real problem in realigning itself in any way recognizing performance: conference memberships are certainly not based on performance, and never have been, and likely never will. As corrupt as the EPL is--a league with some of the world's dodgiest megavillain billionaires as owners and a whopping total of one team not named ManU/Chelsea/Arsenal as champion since their founding in 1992--it does have two things over college football. It pays its players, and it makes some nod toward discouraging freeloaders who consistently underperform.
The EPL also ultimately beats those upstarts down, but that's little different than the long torture shows put on in out-of-conference games played by BCS teams each fall. (Is FIU Wigan or Stoke City? Name the team that takes the noblest beatings for cash, and we will call them the FIU of the EPL.) The chief difference between the two is the notion of punishing mediocrity, something that would make for serious bloodthirsty competition at the conference level. You want entertaining fantasy football fiction? Imagine South Carolina and Vanderbilt fighting against relegation in the last month of the season. THAT'S bloodsport fiction to kill the time on a boring offseason Monday, and something to ponder: if there's no incentive to drive people out of the BCS football business, why move into that very line of work, App State?*
P.S. The obligatory list of teams we would want to promote into the SEC for rollicking entertainment purposes.
- West Virginia. The Big East isn't BCS, right?
- ECU. Pirates and Ruffin McNeill's ass belly? SOLD.
- Kentucky wait dammit sorry---
- Houston. It's dirty, it's loud, it's hot, and they throw the ball 70 times a game.
- UCF. Just to relegate them immediately and watch their fanbase's heads explode, and because George O'Leary's innovative recruiting techniques certainly belong in the SEC.
- App State. For the road trip to Boone, mostly, and partially to watch SEC fans fight to the death over the extremely limited number of tickets.
- Georgia Southern. Are gnats an unfair homefield advantage? There's one way to find out, and it's to play four quarters in Statesboro.
- Middle Tennessee. A bit wary of this, actually, since with five years of SEC tv money they could actually get pretty competitive.
- Hawaii. This is a real estate scam with football attached. Send check for $100K as ground floor investor and we will divulge full details.
*This assumes App State has the kind of ambition Boise has in wanting to be a BCS power. If not, just say you want to be UNLV and we'll happily revise the whole thing.