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College Football

Florida State Never Had A Chance

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: SEC Comissioner Greg Sankey looks on before the college football SEC Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs on December 2, 2023 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire)
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

We wanted the NCAA to die, all of us. Its obvious inequities, its slimy behaviors in defense of itself, its essential hatred of the people who provide it its raison d'etre, all bound us together. When its relevance collapsed, though, it collapsed not under the weight of its own iniquities but under the realization by the powerful schools it tried to govern that it was just a needless middleman between them and the money.

As in Big-T Television.

That's why bathing in the rage of Florida State and its perfectly sensible argument that it had a better claim to a place in the College Football Playoff than anyone save Michigan or Washington is ultimately a useless exercise, because college football is neither college nor football. It's Big-T Television, and the field is the least relevant place to decide this argument. When Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said in response to a question about his conference potentially having no playoff representative, "That's not the real world of college football," he meant exactly what he said. He, his conference, and the Big 10 had done the heavy lifting to establish the new world order, and he knew how things would play out in the end. Anyone who didn't see that and thought that the football matters—more's the pity for them.

What happened to Florida State was that it was told that all things are not equal, not even wins and losses. Again, Sankey: "Let's go back to like 'Sesame Street' so we're really basic—one of these things is not like the other, and that's the Southeastern Conference."

The entire college sports revolution was done by and for Sankey, and by Jim Delany and Kevin Warren at the Big 10. They not only were the first to the trough, they'd built the trough, filled it with Chateau Latour, and guided ESPN and Fox to drink first and most, in exchange for Jesus-takes-a-knee money. The drive east and south eviscerated the Pacific-12 and will do the same to the ACC. It will replace some longtime SEC and Big 10 schools along the way and get down to a manageable number of 40 or so football programs who can keep the engines churning, all as part of the grand scheme to provide the comforts of the NFL to places where the NFL doesn't matter as much.

And for that, strategic thinking is needed, and a gift for bullying conference rooms. That was Alabama's ticket in, but more than that, it was Florida State's ticket out. The SEC and Greg Sankey would not be told no, and nobody knew that more than Sankey.

Where this links up with the NCAA is this: The business arm is still the business arm, so the only thing that's really changed is the letterhead. The power still protects the power, and when it becomes this evidently powerful, it tells those not in the club that their turn might well be next. The odd one out could have been Washington just as well as Florida State, except that Washington is joining the Big Ten next year. The system cares for its own, and the system now is indisputably the SEC, the Big Ten, and its security chief, Big-T Television. Once you learn to forget the scores and the standings and keep that foremost in your mind, you will know the real lay of the land, and the whims of the landlord.

So what's in it for those of us who are only tangentially connected to the new conglomerate? Well, a game between Sankey's teacher’s pet (Alabama) and the University of Connor Stalions for the right to play either Washington or Texas, who are themselves headed to the SEC. The math does itself, and in the end all things actually are like each other as long as you make the circle small enough. The Count never covered that last part on Sesame Street, but it is no less true.

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