(Originally published at SB Nation’s Wide Right Natty Lite.)
Last month, the Big 12 announced there would be no expansion and the issue was tabled until schools could find a tranquilizer gun large enough to take down David Boren. Despite actual results with teams and revenue, the Big 12 has struggled to reverse public perception of continually wobbling on the verge. With their immediate future established, the next big movement will likely be in the mid-2020s when the next set of media contracts expire.
In the meantime, the Big 12 should strongly consider veering off in a risky direction and establishing a contrarian brand as the future of college football. The anthem for this change should be Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” which was first released in conjunction with Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing. Chuck D and Flavor Flav’s lyrics spoke of the inherent adversity faced by the black community.
As a marshmallow fluff who grew up on the mean streets of Ames, I can identify with the struggles espoused by the song and want to make a difference. Thus, I am appointing myself the new Big 12 commissioner and immediately issuing three proclamations to push back against the corrupt, hypocritical aspects of college football.
PROCLAMATION 1: DEFER EDUCATION
One insidious way inequality has manifested itself through history is via education. Many poor minority athletes struggle to receive academic support growing up and by not having any sort of generational wealth to fall back on, small mistakes are compounded by ingrained American policy stretching back to slavery. Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey recently spoke out about racism he has suffered from and also mentioned people said he should be lynched or shot for having the gall to bring awareness to this issue.
Many colleges cravenly accept players and call them student-athletes with the word “student” emphasized as coming before “athlete,” yet only focus on keeping them eligible for sports with the bare minimum of easy classes that don’t translate into any kind of practical degree. The prolonged academic scandal at UNC and the casual ongoing NCAA “investigation” is just the latest example of how the academic side of major college sports is a sham.
This has to stop.
The many hours of specialized instruction from health to nutrition that players receive should be converted into college credits down the road in pursuit of an actual functional degree. Players simply shouldn’t be penalized for their inability to hold two full-time jobs at once, school and sports. Imagine if schools took their educational mission seriously and stopped forcing players into worthless classes and degrees.
Effective immediately, the Big 12 shall allow athletes to defer a portion or all of their education until their four years of athletic eligibility are exhausted. Players will still have to qualify for the school’s entrance requirements, but will not be required to take classes during the season.
PROCLAMATION 2: FUTURE-PROOF FOOTBALL
Prominent sports figures have postulated football won’t exist in the future, due to safety or insurance or other concerns. Hall of Fame player and coach Mike Dikta, currently a football talking head, admitted to HBO in 2015 that he would not want children to participate in football: “I think the risk is worse than the reward. I really do.”
Times change. The Big Ten and SEC are mopping up obscene revenues from cable networks beloved only by wattle necks. One hundred years ago, the most popular sports in America were baseball, boxing, and horse racing. Basketball was a quirky regional sport while the NFL didn’t even exist. What about fifty years from now?
Some high schools have already dropped football entirely and overall youth participation is inching downward. Let’s be real. College football is just a bunch of kids running around in shiny exercise spandex. Given what is currently known about concussions, it’s unreasonable to expect football to remain in its current form forever.
Effective immediately, the Big 12 shall form a spring football protocol for experimenting with new rules and equipment that could be implemented in future fall seasons. All concepts are allowed from no pads to eliminating positions to outlawing certain plays.
PROCLAMATION 3: PAY THE PLAYERS
Inequality threatens to deepen the divide between peer schools and as profits rise to dizzying heights, players are increasingly questioning their role in the system. Many elite players are already paid under the table, and people smarter than me have written about how players can formally participate in the profits generated. By operating from a weakened position, the Big 12 can’t press this change, but they should flash their desiccated leg at the Pac-12 and ACC to convince them to form a loose alliance of three equal conferences.
Each of these conferences suffers from a malady that the others ease. The Pac-12 brings stability and world-class universities. The Big 12 brings fervent fans. The ACC brings a media-heavy east coast presence. Together they strengthen each other, while keeping existing traditions. All the ACC has to do is donate two of their newest teams, Pittsburgh and Louisville, to the Big 12 to give each conference twelve teams. This gives the Big 12 a solid rust belt presence and restores West Virginia’s rivalries included the famed Backyard Brawl.
More importantly, by forming an alliance, each conference’s unique spirit will be preserved. The high tech, innovative west coast schools can exist securely alongside the traditional college towns of the midwest and the high-population states of the east coast.
Being able to offer USC, Texas, Oregon, Oklahoma, Florida State, Stanford, Kansas, and Clemson games under one umbrella is enough to make any media executive salivate. One alliance offering unparalleled college sports and education from coast to coast. The conference of champions. Coming to you on Netflix or Hulu or Snapchat.
The combined power of these 36 schools would functionally render the NCAA obsolete and either force them to go along or vanish.
Effective immediately, the Big 12 shall mandate that players receive 50% of all profits from media contracts and imagery used. There will be tiers of payment levels from All-Conference to letter winners to squad members. Additional bonuses can be dispersed to players who win prominent awards or are featured on the cover of video games or in apparel.
CONCEPT HELMET OF THE WEEK
Following last week’s slight refresh of the vintage 1970s block “I” with vertical “ISU” letters within, here’s a much more bold modern design inspired by that logo. This could become a natural third iteration between the I-STATE logo and the block “I” logo.
JACK TRICE RESEARCH NOTE
I’m constantly on the search for accounts of American life during Jack’s day. Earlier this year, Atlantic ran a story about America in 1915, just a couple of years before Jack moved to Cleveland, and it’s worth reading for a slight sense of his years in the metropolis.
Do you have any original 1920s Iowa State artifacts? Drop me a line on Twitter or email joshua.t (AT) kagavi.com. Help reveal new insights into Jack Trice’s life.
TEACH ME SOUNDS
I was born broken, better known by the complicated medical term “deaf,” and need you to teach me basic sounds in written form. For this week:
Teach me the sound of the band playing.
Give your best version (turn of phrase or onomatopoeia) in the comments.
Kagavi’s Cyclone Soup will appear throughout the remainder of the 2016 football season. Follow him on Twitter here.