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Posted: Wednesday February 17, 2010 11:35AM; Updated: Wednesday February 17, 2010 11:53AM
Andy Staples
Andy Staples>INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Time for full-blown conference realignment (cont.)

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If, down the road, the NCAA grew tired of second-class citizen status, it could sue the CASH on antitrust grounds. This is America. Anyone can sue anyone for anything. If that happened, the CASH might lose, just as the NFL lost an antitrust suit to the USFL in 1986. Remember how much the jury awarded the USFL? One buck.

The CASH will make lots of bucks. Its football and men's basketball seasons would be television gold. Because they would have to avoid playing NCAA teams for antitrust reasons, CASH teams could only play one another. That means no patsy games. Alabama wouldn't play Chattanooga in November. At worst, we'd get Bama-Kansas State.

The men's basketball tournament wouldn't generate as much as the current NCAA tourney, which brings in about $545 million a year in television revenue. Let's face it. People love their Cinderellas. But the pot would be split 64 ways and not among a Division I membership more than 300 strong. Plus, if the CASH so chose, the governing body wouldn't have to take a cut as big as the NCAA does from its tournament. Besides, there remains money to be made in a regular season made more legitimate by the lack of 64-team tournament. How will ESPN fill all those hours of regular-season programming? With the Horizon League?

There is, of course, a major stumbling block that probably would keep the CASH from getting its black helicopters off the ground. Many of the schools in question here are prestigious research institutions, and it's difficult to imagine the presidents of Vanderbilt, Michigan or UCLA signing off on a venture so blatantly commercial. But presidents signed off on the 12th regular-season football game, and that was a shameless money grab. They may sign off on a 96-team men's basketball tournament and greedily bastardize the world's most perfect sporting event this side of the World Cup. So we know the eggheads can be bought for a high enough price.

Besides, if the presidents need a way to spin their choice to chase the CASH, they can point to the bottom line. All 64 athletic departments would be completely self-sufficient; no chief executive would ever again have to explain to a state legislature why he needs government funds to build a softball stadium.

Meanwhile, back in the NCAA, the remaining members of the Football Bowl Subdivision would slip back toward what the NCAA originally intended. Students who probably would have gone to their chosen college anyway would enrich their academic experiences through athletics. The ones who wanted to play in a pro farm system would sign with a CASH program.

It all sounds so corporate, so cold, so ... honest. The CASH wouldn't expose or exploit the ills that face big-time college athletics any more than the NCAA does. It simply would offer a more straightforward alternative than the NCAA, which must govern schools that truly embrace amateur athletics as well as those that offer football and men's basketball programs that serve as thinly disguised Triple-A affiliates for their professional counterparts.

So why continue the ruse? Why not break away? The market made the top 64 what they are. Now, those 64 can use the same market to enrich themselves and stave off government intervention into their affairs.

If they elected to make the leap, it wouldn't take long before the CASH became king.

The CASH Lineup
The top 64 revenue-producing athletic departments, according to 2008-09 school year data supplied to the department of education.
Rank School 2008-09 Revenue Rank School 2008-09 Revenue
1. Texas $138,459,149 33. Miami $61,969,808
2. Ohio State $119,859,607 34. Indiana $60,615,528
3. Florida $108,309,060 35. Washington $60,575,780
4. Alabama $103,934,873 36. Oregon $60,283,512
5. LSU $100,077,884 37. Clemson $60,167,535
6. Penn State $95,978,243 38. Maryland $59,966,862
7. Michigan $95,193,030 39. Purdue $59,919,102
8. Tennessee $92,524,125 40. Connecticut $58,495,408
9. Wisconsin $89,842,749 41. Louisville $58,023,326
10. Auburn $87,001,416 42. Missouri $57,778,668
11. Georgia $81,496,357 43. West Virginia $55,658,165
12. Oklahoma $81,487,835 44. Illinois $55,609,086
13. Notre Dame $81,088,368 45. Rutgers $54,304,756
14. USC $80,151,282 46. Arizona State $53,297,963
15. Iowa $79,521,143 47. Virginia Tech $52,838,905
16. South Carolina $76,254,236 48. Syracuse $52,050,104
17. Michigan State $75,624,811 49. Arizona $51,822,629
18. Nebraska $74,881,383 50. Oregon State $50,211,404
19. Stanford $74,695,254 51. Colorado $49,859,693
20. Florida State $74,417,324 52. Northwestern $48,582,384
21. Cal $73,354,967 53. Baylor $48,545,254
22. Texas A&M $72,886,100 54. Georgia Tech $48,061,053
23. Kentucky $72,057,751 55. Kansas State $47,399,903
24. Oklahoma State $71,805,825 56. Texas Tech $46,632,263
25. Duke $71,072,431 57. NC State $46,491,105
26. Kansas $70,614,953 58. TCU $46,461,545
27. Minnesota $70,322,992 59. Pittsburgh $45,830,364
28. North Carolina $70,152,767 60. Iowa State* $45,813,189
29. Virginia $67,141,170 61. Vanderbilt $45,582,274
30. UCLA $66,177,866 62. Wake Forest $44,649,063
31. Boston College $64,157,876 63. Ole Miss $41,318,068
32. Arkansas $63,978,641 64. Washington State $38,293,754
*Because none of the surviving conferences would jettison a member, Mississippi State (No. 67) would replace Iowa State.

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