Is a Memphis move to a BCS conference dead?
Nope. The Big East still has just eight football schools. It could decide to go ahead and add four more. But the urgency to do that has certainly diminished now that it appears the Big East won't lose any of its current teams. And any thoughts of Memphis hooking up with some collection of Big 12 remnants were crushed when Texas decided not to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10.
Boy, Fred Smith must be irked.
He is, but not necessarily about the way the realignment talks have gone. He's furious at a report that FedEx was prepared to offer millions to any BCS conference that would add Memphis.
Does he have a right to be ticked?
At some level, yes. The story was spun by various outlets to suggest that FedEx was offering a big pile of cash as direct payment to any conference that would add Memphis. That's crazy. FedEx has a responsibility to shareholders, above all. The company has had to lay off employees in the recession. It's not going to do anything with corporate advertising money that it can't defend to its board.
So FedEx executives didn't have any conversations with officials from BCS conferences?
That's what the company said in a press release, but someone had better tell Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson if that's true. Three days before FedEx's press release, in a conversation about conference realignment, Johnson said he had "two of the highest-paid assistant ADs in the history of mankind," referring to Smith and chief financial officer Alan Graf. He also said, "Fred and Alan aren't here today. I have them on a mission."
Was he joking?
Sure, maybe. But if Smith and Graf were truly uninvolved, those are the kind of jokes that would cost a guy his job. We've been hearing -- and writing -- for years that Memphis' bid would be in better hands this time around because of the involvement of FedEx. Nobody ever objected to those reports before.
What's the big deal, anyway? Doesn't Nike help Oregon?
Exactly! And T. Boone Pickens helps Oklahoma State. And Jim Haslam helps Tennessee. Every university has corporate supporters. It's not a big secret that Memphis has important fans at FedEx.
Just go to a Memphis basketball game and watch Graf in his courtside seats. One day, he and a bunch of other boosters came dressed in striped officials shirts. Or drive over to the Fairgrounds and look at the progress on the new Tiger Lane. Think Smith didn't have something to do with pushing that through? Think again.
The fact is, FedEx needs to recruit smart, talented people to Memphis and retain them when they get here. That's why it supports civic endeavors like the University of Memphis. Because it makes good business sense.
So has this whole thing been good for college sports?
Of course not. It's been embarrassing. The money grab of money grabs. Just look at what's happening in the Big 12. Commissioner Dan Beebe said that the millions of dollars that Nebraska and Colorado will owe the conference for leaving will be split among just three Big 12 schools. Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M will all get a share. The other seven schools get squadoosh.
People used to worry about the uneven playing field between conferences. Now there's an uneven playing field within conferences.
But at least the Big 12 stayed together!
Why is that good? It's a joke of a conference now, Texas and the nine dwarfs. Texas doesn't even have to worry about losing a conference championship game any longer. Just beat Oklahoma and hope for a spot in the BCS title game.
We're no closer to a playoff. We're deeper in slime than ever before. Sports Illustrated obtained an e-mail Beebe wrote last week, trying to convince member teams to stay together. Beebe warned that a move to superconferences could result in "more governmental, legal and public scrutiny."
Which means what?
If there's anything this system can't withstand, it's scrutiny.