Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Big Twelve Lives!

My last blog, "Goodbye, Big Twelve!" lamented the death of "my" collegiate conference. Just a few short days ago, it looked as though the top football and basketball conference in the nation was about to dissolve, following the departure of the Universities of Colorado and Nebraska. But, not so fast! When the "big dog" of our league -- the University of Texas -- decided to stay, instead of jumping to the Pac-10, the remaining schools followed. The outcome -- and twisted irony -- is that the Big Twelve now has ten teams, while the Big Ten has 12 teams. Go figure.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Goodbye, Big Twelve!

How sad that money drives college sports -- particularly football and basketball! The Big Ten (which is really an "Eleven") has its own TV network and, consequently, millions of dollars in revenues. At the same time, it is very weak in the two big revenue sports. In football, it has two powers and nine also-rans and, in basketball, it has one consistently good team. However, its powers-that-be are smart enough to distribute revenues evenly, meaning that even such major-sport midgets as Northwestern get the big bucks.

On the other hand, the Big XII -- "my" conference (that is, the conference of my alma mater, Oklahoma State University) -- was the most powerful football league in the country this past season (by a count of the number of teams in the top 25 and in bowl games) and had the highest RPI rating among conferences in basketball. Its powers-that-be can be said to have the "New York Yankee syndrome." Instead of distributing revenues evenly, the majority have gone to the winners. Thus, Texas has gotten richer and richer, while Iowa State has gotten poorer and poorer. This has made for unhappy "campers."

The Big Ten needs more competitve (and more attractive to TV) teams. Thus, it has coveted Notre Dame and Nebraska. The Irish have their own network and won't share money with anyone; they'll stay independent. But, Nebraska couldn't resist when it was asked to jump. Last week, it announced that it'll jump to the Big Ten. Colorado followed by deciding to align with the Pac-10.

That leaves ten schools in the Big XII -- only four in the northern division. My solution would be to move OSU and Oklahoma to the North and to add two schools (perhaps TCU and one other) to the South. But, apparently, that won't fly. The Pac-10 has made overtures to OSU, OU, Texas, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M. All but A&M (which seems to favor jumping to the SEC) are ready to jump. If A&M decides to join its fellow Big XII movers, or if the Pac-10 finds another school to jump, the Pacific Coast league will not only extend to the prairies of Texas and Oklahoma, but it will be the most powerful conference -- by far -- in the land. Interestingly, the three schools which have won the most NCAA championships are Pac-10 members UCLA, Stanford, and USC. The fourth? Oklahoma State.

For OSU, this would be the fourth conference since my freshman year there. When I matriculated, we were members of the Missouri Valley Conference. In my junior year, we made the Big Seven, the Big Eight. Later, after the breakup of the Southwestern Conference, we took in the four Texas schools (Texas, Tech, TAMU, and Baylor) and became the Big XII. What a shame that it has to end this way! I wonder if any of the university presidents and athletic directors ever think of the students. Do they ever think about the fact that kids aren't going to drive from Stillwater to Pullman, Washington, or Los Angeles, the way they did to away games in Lawrence, Kansas, or Waco, Texas? Oh, but the students don't matter. It's about hard cash. What a pity!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another book by another friend

It seems that many of my writer friends are busy publishing these days. In recent blogs, I've talked about books by Lillian Lincoln Lambert, as well as Jim Rosapepe and Sheilagh Kast. This week, I finished a provocative book by one of my newest friends, Peter Hruby, a distinguished historian.

Peter and I have a couple of things in common. Both of us escaped from Communist Czechoslovakia in 1948, and both of us now live in or near Annapolis, Maryland. Where our stories diverge is in the period between those two end points. Whereas I came to America, via refugee camps, soon after our escape, Peter spent the majority of his life in exile in Australia. His book, Dangerous Dreamers: the Australian Anti-democratic Left and Czechoslovak Agents reveals a little-known saga of the Cold War.

While living Down Under during the period of the east-west struggle, Peter was dismayed by the activities and provocations of Australian leftists, such as Wilfred Burchett and Ian Millner. They, and many of their leftist comrades -- the "dangerous dreamers" -- worked toward turning Australia into another state under the domination of the Soviet Union. Following the Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia opened up the archives of its Communist secret police. Hruby went to Prague and spent many weeks combing the records which showed the connection between Czechoslovak Communists and their Australian cohorts, and their joint efforts to subvert a democratic government and society. Chilling!

If you're interested in a little-known aspect of the Cold War, you'll find Dangerous Dreamers both fascinating and disturbing. I recommend it highly. It is available from and