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Farmer: Sports commissioner: implement relegation (Jan. 30)

Douglas Farmer | Sunday, January 29, 2012

It is a completely ludicrous concept. What would I do if I were in the commissioner of all sports for a week with unilateral power? Even just considering such a possibility is a time-drain.

Well then, I suppose it makes the perfect Sports Authority topic. But instead of considering all sports, I think I’ll focus on one idea I’ve had lately.

Obviously, if dealing with all sports, there is the “Bull Durham” mandate of a “constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter.” I would give a nod to Aaron Sorkin’s best piece of television-writing, bowing to the “Sports Night” creed in which Spike Lee needs to “sit down and shut up.”

I would ask Jim Tressel to give the 80’s their sweatervests back, and while I’m at it, remind Mike Brey he wore a collared shirt when the Irish defeated No. 19 Connecticut on Sunday, and it was not a bad look.

I would follow Major League Baseball’s lead, in which it retired No. 42 league-wide in homage to Jackie Robinson, and outlaw any basketball player from ever wearing No. 23 again. While I’m at it, Pete Rose, welcome to the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, your name will never appear on the ballot.

Anyways, those are all trivial feats — great for headlines and a few good quotes, but not having lasting effects on this world known as sports. For the record, a sport is only something you cannot do while smoking a cigar. Farewell racecar driving, golf, bowling and chess. Good to see you still running, swimming and horseracing.

But my real change: Implement a relegation system, a la European soccer, into college athletics. And yes, I realize how many people this would upset, but give it some time to sink in.

The NCAA is currently considering a proposal to give certain athletes $2,000 a year, calling it some sort of “cost of academics,” which really means, “The SEC wants to give money to its football players above the table so it is harder to see them do it under the table.” Smaller schools are cringing at the idea, not so much from the recruiting standpoint but from the view from their checkbooks.

While the NCAA considers this, the Naval Academy is about to join the Big East to play football against eastern schools such as Houston and Boise State. Just to draw a clearer picture: From Annapolis, Md., to Boise, Idaho, is a measly 2,400 miles.

Let’s eliminate these pointless, endless politics. Let’s acknowledge the super conferences, while still giving the smaller schools a chance at the glory of January and March. Let’s take a lesson from the Europeans — though one lesson and only one lesson.

Next year, all 120 NCAA football teams will be split into six conferences, by yours truly, based on geography. At the end of the year, the top 10 teams in each conference will remain in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), while the other 60 will from a secondary league, the FBS II, if you will for simplicity’s sake. From there, every year, the bottom two teams in an FBS conference will be relegated to the corresponding FBS II conference, while the top two teams in the lesser conference will jump to the big leagues.

A similar tactic will be taken with the 338 NCAA men’s basketball programs.

Imagine the drama in the Red River Shootout, when Oklahoma knows it could send Texas down to the FBS II. Imagine Texas fighting for its life.

Imagine the current Notre Dame basketball team. Coming into the season, it seemed destined for relegation to the lesser league. Now? The Irish kick-started the Pittsburgh fall down a deep valley.

Let’s admit there are some schools with advantages. And let’s make the rest more dramatic.

After I’ve done that, I’ll use my week of power to cap all ticket prices at $45, concession beer prices at $5 and I’ll enjoy the games myself, finally able to afford them.

 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Douglas Farmer at dfarmer1@nd.edu