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Get That Mote Out Of Your Eye

Count Maryland President C.D. Mote among those who were concerned about the
ACC becoming a "boutique conference."
His term is regional
conference, vs. a national conference, but same idea. He was also very concerned
that the conference would increasingly center around the state of North
Carolina: "As I see the steadily evolving national picture in collegiate athletics, if we were to stay as a nine-team ACC (which could easily drop to eight or even fewer teams), the ACC would remain a regional conference centered in North Carolina that would move steadily to the edges of the mainstream of national collegiate athletic competition by the growth of national conferences around us."

he is (was?) concerned that as things developed, elite recruits and coaches
would go almost entirely to the "national" conferences, and the
"regional" conferences would be shut out of talent, decisions, and not
least of all, money.

There are of course other ways to achieve some of the
same results. For one, you can just toss admission standards out the
window. That would take care of the talent problem: take the guys
who can't get in anywhere else. Not desirable, of course, but eminently

Look, we're obviously big ACC partisans: born and bred, and yes,
centered in the ACC's (or at least Maryland's) Great Satan, North
Carolina. Fans and coaches and the people who have to do the budget, you
expect those factions to want things like this. What amazes us is that a
University President is so focused on athletics.

Of course a strong
athletic program means a lot to a school, particularly now with a declining pool
of students. Duke gets an amazing amount of publicity and side benefits
from their basketball teams.

But then the money paragraph: "In my view, the athletic history, culture and fan base at the University of Maryland call for competition in a national conference. We see ourselves as national leaders and competitors in athletics as well as in academics and the arts. For that reason, I supported the move to a 12-team national conference."

we'd been advising him, we'd have reversed that list to read "the
academics, the arts, and, yes, athletics."

Dean Smith was fond of saying
that athletics was the front porch of a University's house, but it's not the
main function. This whole notion of keeping up involves huge pressure that
leads to things like the so-called "arms race" to build the latest and
greatest facilities, which pressures a school to win to be able to afford the
white elephants. It also leads to schools cutting corners to get kids in,
and increases the temptation to cheat to get and retain talent.

At some point,
if college athletics doesn't get a grip on money, money will completely take
over. Maybe a useful role for the ACC would be as an advocate for
the "regional" conferences and academic integrity when such things are
shut out by the SEC, Big 12, Big 10, PAC-10, and the ACC. Don't hold your
breath, though.

When our leaders are placing this much emphasis on big-time
athletics when, as is the case at Maryland,
tuition has recently shot up by 21%,
and budget cuts to the University
system of $120 million are thrashing the students and employees
of the University,
priorities are seriously out of whack. Perhaps
President Mote should worry more about his entire University being
"regionalized." His ambitions, it seems to us, are seriously
misplaced. He could start in his own office by getting
rid of his "special assistants."