Saturday, December 08, 2012

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: League loyalty a thing of the past

Join the conversation about this story on Aaron's blog.

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by solidarity: a terrific concept that has no place in college athletics anymore.

Q: On Thursday, the ACC released a letter signed by presidents of all its member schools expressing their "commitment to preserve and protect the future of our outstanding league." So, you think everybody'll relax now about this whole realignment stuff?

A: Ha ha! Of course not - least of all the presidents who signed that worthless document. Face it: There's no such thing as an "outstanding league" any longer, because there's no such thing as a league. It's all a bunch of random chess pieces held together by dental floss.

If you want to make sure you're at least a bishop and not a pawn, you'd better have your head on a swivel and be ready to react to the next move. Any college president who doesn't have that mindset is doing his or her school a disservice.

Q: So you're saying these people don't believe the document they signed?

A: Sort of. I'm reminded of a phrase Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver likes to use when he hires new coaches: "I believe this is the right person for this moment in time." That letter was the right document to sign at this moment in time. Maybe it saves these guys the hassle of having to return a million phone calls.

But check back tomorrow, or a week from now, or a month. That moment may have passed.

Q: What could change things?

A: Keep an eye on the ACC's lawsuit against Maryland trying to enforce the $52 million buyout for leaving the conference. If the Terps are able to get that lowered, other schools might get the itch to find greener pastures without the fear of hamstringing their budgets.

Q: Moving on. The Tech basketball team travels to West Virginia today. Will the Hokies keep their undefeated record intact?

A: This feels like the kind of game the Hokies would lose during the manic-depressive Seth Greenberg era, but I'm not betting against this Tech team right now. It's not a disaster if they lose, but a win today would go a long way toward developing a new climate of consistency.

Q: Army-Navy today. Who do you like?

A: Have to go with Navy, but the great thing about this game is the result doesn't even matter that much. This one's all about honoring a commitment much bigger than sports. I'm glad it's the only FBS game scheduled; those programs deserve the spotlight they'll get.

Still, there's one thing I worry about.

Q: What's that?

A: That viewers will be inundated with those commercials we've been seeing during the NFL coverage lately. You know the ones, depicting a fictional soldier returning from the front lines and then having the announcer say something ridiculous like: "Soldiers coming home and kissing their children is good รข? and so are our cars." Ugh. Don't exploit heroes to sell your junk.

Q: OK, then. What are your thoughts on this week's staff shakeup at UVa?

A: I don't get the Jim Reid firing at all. Every defensive player I've ever talked to up there seems to mention how much they love playing for the guy - and that's without even being asked about it. Besides, I thought the defense played pretty darn well in the second half of the season. UVa fired the wrong guys.

Q: And how about the recruiting fallout?

A: Interesting. As Doug Doughty reported, several players have either backed out of their commitments or are reopening the recruiting process thanks to the dismissal of coaches they had strong relationships with. Something to think about as the Hokies consider their own moves over the coming weeks.

Mike London's greatest strength has been his ability to increase the overall talent level in Charlottesville through recruiting. He - or whoever mandated these moves - appears to have jeopardized that.

Q: Blog comment of the week?

A: Let's go with Rick H, on solidarity: "Aaron, gotta disagree with you on the ACC statement. If this were signed by ADs, then I wouldn't think it was worth the paper it was printed on, but college presidents operate a little differently. They are not going to blindly agree to put their moniker on something like this unless they really mean it."

Q: Your response?

A: Rick's a loyal, thoughtful poster. And he may very well be right ...  at this moment in time.

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