Three Lessons from a Tumultuous Day of College Football Free-for-All

Wow. Today has been perhaps the wildest day in one of the wildest weeks in the history of intercollegiate athletics, with commissioners, presidents, and athletic directors rearranging the college football landscape like Woodrow Wilson redrawing the map of Europe at the end of World War I . . . when the only political scientist ever elected president arrogantly set the stage for several subsequent European wars, both large and small.

Against that backdrop, and with another crazy day likely to come our way tomorrow, what lessons have we learned so far? Here are two things we know for sure, followed by a third that might turn out to be true in the end. These are they:

1. Having a large television market nearby is not the same thing as having a lot of people who are willing to watch your team play football games on television. As their school becomes suddenly contrite, fans of the Missouri Tigers are asking how their school was lapped by the Nebraska Cornhuskers as the apple of the Big Ten’s eye. Kansas City and St. Louis, after all, trump Lincoln and Omaha as media markets.

What the power brokers have figured out, though, is that it’s not the size of the media market near the team, it’s the size of the team in the media market. Rutgers and Syracuse may be near New York City, but the Orange and the Scarlet Knights hold little sway over sports viewers in the Big Apple. Boston College boasts a solid football program in a major metropolis, but the Eagles’ local following pales in comparison to the fan bases for the Patriots and the Red Sox.

Given its location, enrollment, surrounding population, league affiliation, and lack of an in-state intercollegiate rival, the University of Missouri ought to boast a much better program than it historically has, but the Tigers are who they are. Nebraska is more attractive than Mizzou because the Cornhuskers command every TV set in their state. "We’ve got more people" is an argument that comes up short against the retort, "We’ve got more people who’ll watch." All Missouri offers the Big Ten Network is more would-be subscribers who won’t subscribe.

2. The critics of SEC academics have been revealed as hypocrites. This tweet by dawgsonline said it best:

PAC-10's first addition in decades is a school that just announced APR sanctions. I think that'll about do it for the academics high horse.

No one denies the quality of Pac-10 academics, but vineyarddawg has rendered yeoman’s service in debunking the extreme claims we have heard, as has C&F. Particularly galling to me has been the ignorant disregard of the academic standing of my own alma mater, the University of Georgia.

According to the U.S. News & World Report rankings, Georgia is a Tier 1 institution that ranks ahead of Colorado, Texas A&M, and five of the ten existing members of the Pac-10. One of the Pac-10 institutions that ranks ahead of Georgia, of course, is the University of California at Berkeley, which was established in 1868.

In the spring of 1869, John LeConte arrived on the West Coast to begin his service as a professor of physics at Cal. LeConte, who had practiced medicine after graduating from the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons, became acting president just a few short months following his arrival. After serving as acting president a second time in 1875, he began a five-year tenure as president of the University of California in 1876. From 1881 until his death a decade later, LeConte served as a member of the physics faculty.

In September 1869, John LeConte was joined in Berkeley by his brother, Joseph. Joseph LeConte also held a medical degree from the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as a natural history degree from Harvard University. He became Cal’s first professor of geology and natural history, serving in that capacity until his death in 1901, and he held the post of president of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America.

Joseph LeConte is the namesake of the LeConte Canyon, the LeConte Divide, LeConte Falls, the LeConte Glacier, Mount LeConte, the Sierra Club’s LeConte Memorial Lodge, Hollywood’s LeConte Middle School, and LeConte Avenue in Los Angeles. Both brothers were honored in 1898 by the dedication of the LeConte Oak on the Berkeley campus.

John and Joseph LeConte both were educated as undergraduates in Franklin College, the oldest college of the University of Georgia. The University of California is a great academic institution, which owes no small measure of its early greatness to men who matriculated in Athens before carrying their knowledge and wisdom to Berkeley.

3. There’s nowhere to go from here but down . . . right? I declared this the best offseason ever in January. With all this tumult, is it inevitable that we’re in for a dull season in the fall? I mean, nothing on the field could compare to what has gone on between seasons, could it?

Go ‘Dawgs!

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