Politics and Football: They have a lot more in common than we care to give them credit for. The bickering, the deal-brokering, the power struggle...yeah it's all there. Power is something that the "Group of Five" teams desperately crave right now as they hope to earn the anticipated invites that may be handed down from the Big XII in the near future. Here's a break down of current power-brokers in the Group of Five's "G8", and their parallel role with their worldly, political equals.
Team: Boise State
Political Counterpart: The United States
Just like the US, the Broncos hold all the expansion cards. Yes their TV market is awful, but their brand is not. From coast to coast, people look up to the Broncos, wear their gear and identify with the blue turf like it's a beacon of hope for underdogs everywhere. If the Big XII wants to add substance (which they MUST do) this is their team. Their is no group of five school more powerful in the eyes of the masses. The Broncos have terrific facilities, and are recognizable to older fans and kids alike. Throw out what you think you knowabout the next round of expansion, the Broncos are clearly in the driver's seat.
Political Counterpart: England
Buttoned up? Check.
Formerly the big dogs? Check.
BYU once had it all: A national championship season, a pedigree of turning out Churchill-esque leaders behind center, and a beloved brand. The fact is, while BYU isn't the high hog at the trough anymore, they still have political swag. The problem with the Cougars is that going independent sent a message that they don't always play nice, which is a no-no in conference politics. Also, not playing on Sunday will be an issue in any expansion scenario. You have to wonder, in all honesty, if TCU, and Baylor, who are currently the two best football programs (and the two Christian programs in the conference) may quietly make a stink about having the Morman Powerhouse join the conference. Throw in the possibility of BYU wanting to show Big XII content on BYUtv mixed in with LDS programing/PSAs and you could have a sticky issue on your hands with a few schools. The upside? A fan base with an EPL-type fervor, a strong history of winning, terrific facilities, a national brand, and the moolah to keep up with conference trends.
Political Counterpart: Japan
Innovative, creative, consistant, and heavily dependant on imported materials. Cincinnati has certainly earned their seat at the table. After many years of being a laughing stock, the Bearcats have proved they are much more than TV sets and ratings numbers- they are winners! Cincy has racked up 12 winning seasons in 15 years, an Orange Bowl appearance, a Sugar Bowl appearance, and a share of 1st place in six of those seasons. While turning in great records, they've depended on imported parts to build those teams. Brian Kelley (CMU), Butch Jones (CMU), Tommy Tuberville (Texas Tech), Gunner Kile (Notre Dame), and MeKale McKay (Arkansas) have been just a few to fill key rolls in the 'Natti. If the Big XII is looking for a travel partner for West Virginia, and a team that will compete and pull upsets, this could be their best bet!
Team: Memphis Political Counterpart: France
Somebody had to be France, right? The Tigers are the team that the expansion hopefuls feel got a seat at the table based on the size of their TV market-no more, no less. Yes, Memphis was great last season, and yes, they have a great quarterback in Paxton Lynch, but a long history of football success? 14 losing seasons in 20 years is anything but tradition and success. As a matter of fact, Memphis football's hey-day would be considered the mid-1970s when they won 29 games in five years! Would the Big XII love their basketball program? Actually, we think not. Four years ago, yes, but the Tigers program is now no better than the previous three teams on this list. Yet, in French fashion, Tigers fans seem to think their program is more worthy than anybody on the list.
Team: Air Force
Poltical Counterpart: Germany
Hold off on those e-mails asking ,"How dare you compare the world's greatest flying force to Germany?"
We get it...
That being said, it's tough to beat German engineering, and nobody in college football is as strong, disciplined, and polished as the Falcons. 70% of Germany's GDP is based on service, so you gotta' see the parallels. The Falcons truly live by the motto of, "next man up, whatever it takes." Their discipline and craft is second to none in college football and they get results. The Falcons have been to bowl games seven of the last eight seasons and would suck-in fans of the old Big 8 with their precise triple-option offense. AFA would bring crowds no matter where they played, and bring political and social clout to the conference by their mere addition. The bad news? The Falcons could bring some political baggage with them in towns like Austin depending on the nation's political atmosphere, and with a lack of facilities, the fly-boys would probably be a football-only invite.
Poltical Counterpart: Italy
If you know anything about Italy, they used to be quite agricultural. Now-a-days, they are one of the most industrialized nations in the world. CSU can relate. Once an agricultural school, the Rams have broadened their horizons and actually boast one of the top occupation therapy programs in the country. Talk about a 360! The same can be said for their athletics. A brand new football stadium on the way and the addition of womens' soccer makes Ft. Collins a legitimate power-player in the expansion race. Much like Italy has geographical military advantages, Ft. Collins has geographical advantages that make the Big XII salivate! Adding the Rams would be a slap in the face to rival CU, who bolted the conference in 2011, and it would split their market share. Aside from the new TV market, it adds a highly desirable city to visit for traveling fans. Unfortunately, the Big XII will only consider the Rams if they continue to win like they did in 2015. With new coaches and graduations, that could be tough to sustain.
Political Counterpart: Russia
The Russian economy is all about energy, and that's what the Big XII would gain with the addition of UCF. But that energy would come in the form of recruits. UCF doesn't need to prove their worth on the football field-they've done that with 31 wins over the past three years including a 2013 Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor. What they bring to the table is a big state, with big-time recruits. Couple that with the conference's geographic stranglehold on the state of Texas, and adding Florida to the mix would certainly raise the level of play for the whole conference over time. With an attendance average last year of 37,000+, the Knights would already outdraw some of their conference breathren and that's not including the upgraded schedule that would go along with their membership. George O'Leary is a strong and respected coach, and unlike his Russian counterpart Vladamir Putin, he tends to keep his shirt on.
Political Counterpart: Canada
Nobody really has a problem with Canada...do they? Their economy is strong, but not talked about. They don't ruffle too many feathers, and as such, sometimes they are not taken seriously. Our Canadian friends rely heavily on home-grown natural resources and that's how NIU turned into the quiet, little powerhouse that people just don't mention enough. NIU's best players are from their own backyard: Heisman Finalist Jordan Lynch (Chicago), Michael Turner (Chicago), Garret Wolfe (Chicago). The list goes on and on. What's unique, and often unsaid about the addition of NIU, is that it would give the Big XII a presence in the Chicago market, of which they currently have none. Do people really believe Chicago reporters would not flock to DeKalb to regularly cover a Big XII team? Also, Illinois is the 14th best state for recruiting and people are starting to catch on to how good the Chicago Public League players are. NIU has won their division in nine of the last ten years and quitely dispenses with Big Ten bottom feeders quite regularly. This team would be a decent geographical fit with Iowa State. On the other hand, much like Canada, it's cold and the weather is not always great, and despite their wins, the Huskies can't get their student body to take the program seriously which has lead to serious attendance issues. We don't think the conference office would like half-empty stadiums when KSU and the Cyclones roll into town.
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