Posted: Wednesday September 19, 2012 12:49PM ; Updated: Wednesday September 19, 2012 1:49PM
Stewart Mandel

More Mailbag (cont.)

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Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany likely is more concerned with the conference's early struggles than Notre Dame's move to the ACC.
Robin Alam/Icon SMI

What do you think Jim Delany's honest (behind closed doors) reaction is to Notre Dame's move to the ACC? Is he glad the conference stuck to its principles and refused to allow entrance without football, or is he perhaps second-guessing himself for not yielding to Notre Dame's stance before the ACC did?
-- Kristopher, Roanoke, Va.

I never got the sense that the Big Ten was a realistic option for either party during this most recent realignment wave. I understand what the ACC gains from its Notre Dame arrangement. The deal ensures a marquee television opponent for five schools each year and allows the league to negotiate better bowl arrangements in the next cycle, both in enhancing its Orange Bowl partnership (it's been reported Notre Dame will be part of the rotation as the ACC's opponent) and landing more appealing non-BCS partners. And obviously it benefits the ACC in basketball and other sports.

But the Big Ten doesn't share the same needs as the ACC. No one's threatening to leave the Big Ten, as some Florida State officials did with the ACC this summer. Its football brand is already strong and wouldn't gain much from a Notre Dame partial membership. It's got the Rose Bowl/Pac-12 partnership sewn up. And given the importance of the Big Ten Network, there's no way it would stand for one school having its own separate TV deal. It's possible Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue will be negatively affected by losing annual games with the Irish, but that can be negated by signing home-and-homes with other brand-name programs.

I think Delany's bigger concern right now is on the field: His conference may have eliminated itself from the national title race before the official start of autumn.

How does adding Notre Dame without football add value to the ACC? Shouldn't the ACC be more concerned about adding football powerhouse schools to increase their revenue?
-- Jason, Chicago

I see what you did there.

Stewart, with the way Colorado and Utah are playing so far this year, do you think that the Pac-10 made a mistake in expanding to the Pac-12? Utah did all right last year, but Colorado seems to be hurting the conference more than they are helping it.
-- Dan, Boise

I wouldn't say that -- at least not yet. On-field football results may drive some realignment decisions, but they weren't near the top of the list in 2010 when the Pac-10 expanded. At that time, Larry Scott was on the brink of negotiating a new television package and was trying to make over the league. Obviously, he did not succeed in his original goal of luring Texas and Oklahoma, and there's no question Colorado and Utah are far less sexy substitutes. I've also been told repeatedly by industry sources that the conference would have gotten its sweet deal with or without those schools. Good timing played a far bigger role than expansion. Still, moving to 12 teams and adding a championship game helped create buzz for that conference. The influx of two teams also increases the number of conference games, which, in turn, creates more programming for the Pac-12 Networks.

The only way it becomes a real problem is if Colorado -- which appears to be in the throes of an all-out implosion -- sinks into an extended state of disinterest and non-competitiveness, la Temple in the mid-2000s (when it got kicked out of the Big East). Every conference has bottom-feeders, but a league never wants things to get so bad that the program becomes an embarrassment for the conference. I don't think that will happen. As I've said a million times before, everything is cyclical. Colorado has a history of success and, now, access to the same resources as the rest of the Pac-12. It will eventually dig out of this rut -- but heaven help the 2012 Buffs when they go up against USC, Oregon and Stanford in consecutive weeks.

What do Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz all have in common? Each won a mythical national championship at Notre Dame in their third year at the school. This is Brian Kelly's third year. Will ND not only return to relevance, but win the national championship this year?
-- Michael, Kennett, Mo.


So, with Virginia Tech's annual failure to live up to its ranking, is anyone going to admit that perhaps VT isn't really an elite program? Perhaps writers just like Frank Beamer too much and keep fooling themselves into thinking that VT is an elite program.
-- Jeremy Entwistle, Colorado Springs, Colo.

First of all, Virginia Tech was ranked a modest No. 16 coming into the season. One admittedly humbling loss to Pitt does not mean the Hokies can't rebound and finish that high. Two years ago, they lost to James Madison, came back to win 11 games and finished ... No. 16. Keep in mind, they play in a division with Georgia Tech (which they already beat), Virginia (which Georgia Tech just beat 56-20), Miami (which lost 52-13 at Kansas State), Duke (which lost 50-13 at Stanford) and North Carolina (which is already 1-2). I'll take the Hokies.

As for whether Virginia Tech is an elite program -- what, may I ask, is your definition of elite? If it's a program that regularly contends for national titles, then no, Virginia Tech is not elite. It reached the BCS championship game once, 13 years ago, with a transcendent quarterback. It has really only come close to going back on one occasion since, in 2007. But then again, how many programs would fit that specific definition right now? Maybe eight? Ohio State hasn't played for the BCS title since 2007, either. Does that mean the Buckeyes aren't elite? Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is the only program in the country to win at least 10 games in each of the past eight seasons. Since 1995, it's won more games (170) than any program except Florida (171). There are a whole lot of programs out there that would kill to be that not elite.

Stewart, the LSU athletic department recently announced an agreement to annually transfer $7.2 million or more each year to the university. I'm kind of torn on this. As an LSU alum, I'm proud that the LSU athletic department is taking unprecedented steps to provide funding for the academic mission of the university. On the other hand, I wish the move wasn't "unprecedented." How common is this?
-- Ben Caire, Golden, Colo.

The amount may be unprecedented (and I'm not 100 percent sure whether it is), but the gesture is not. Florida's athletic department annually gives revenue to the university, reportedly $6 million each of the past few years. Texas donates about the same amount, plus half of its Longhorn Network revenue is slotted to go toward academics. And the revenue from Notre Dame's much-reviled NBC contract actually helps fund financial aid for the general student body. These are just a few examples; others do much of the same.

Ideally, this becomes the industry standard for major-conference programs, as nearly every league has signed a new, exponentially richer television contract in the past few years. There's no earthly way the schools could possibly spend all of their new money on weight rooms and training tables. The flip side, however, is that filthy rich programs like Texas and Florida are in the minority nationally. For the vast majority of schools, it's the exact opposite: The university subsidizes athletics. According to Inside Higher Ed, current darling Ohio, among others, spent more in 2010-11 to subsidize athletics ($19.6 million) than it spent the year before on libraries ($13.2 million). So don't be torn. If your school is one of the fortunate ones with enough athletics cash lying around to give back to the university, celebrate it.

More of a comment than question re: your Weekend Predictions. ... I believe in all cases (except "Upset Special") you simply took the favorite in the published point spreads. In your wild and crazy Upset Special ... um, Indiana is only a three-point favorite. Sooooooooooo ... is this what you went to school for? I.e., simply to mouth what we already could see for ourselves?
-- Jim Roberts, Fifield, Wisc.

This may come as a surprise, but they did not offer a class at Northwestern on predicting football games. Somehow I was able to overcome such meager training to successfully deliver you Ball State over Indiana. You're welcome.
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