Games That Matter -- (Special Edition: Picking the Right Conference Name)
In light of conference realignment and the big news that the so-called "Catholic 7" non-FBS football schools of the Big East are breaking free and trying their luck at a less financially lucrative (but more enjoyable to watch) sport called "basketball," the NCAA's college athletics landscape is once again going to change. The #1 question on everyone's mind is not "what will happen to schools like UConn and Cincy?". It's "what should we name this new juggernaut basketball conference"? Now, before you laugh at the word "juggernaut," you should read Nate Silver's excellent piece explaining how a breakaway conference with the Big East's Catholic schools, plus a few others, may put together a stronger basketball product than conferences like the SEC or the PAC-12: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/14/a-smart-breakaway-for-big-east-basketball-schools/). (If you read this piece shortly after it was first posted, you may have missed the killer pic of Nate Lubick screaming at the world, so it's worth a second look).
I like the decision by the "Catholic 7" schools to jump ship, for a variety of reasons, but that's not what I'm writing about here. The real question, now that the decision has been made, is: what should we call this new conference? Let's be honest, "Catholic 7" isn't gonna cut it, and I'm not only saying that because I just celebrated the last day of Hanukkah. At the very least, I think we all recognize that including the number of teams in the name of the conference is a horrible idea (see Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 10, Big 8, etc.). A name with geographic restrictions is also probably a bad idea. The name of the conference is not only important for sentimental reasons; the right name, and the way these university presidents choose to market, brand and sell the league, could have huge implications for the type of television contract the conference is able to receive. (P.S. You know there's a problem when you type a sentence that includes "university presidents" and "market, brand and sell" a sports league. Alas, the evolution of education, sports and money.)
In the hopes of selecting a name that pays tribute to tradition, sport, competition, and comedy (i.e. the name that will make us the most money), below is a non-exclusive list of potential conference names. I humbly request Nate Silver to perform a concise analysis of these names to determine which one is statistically proven to reap the most financial reward. If Nate's too busy, my second choice is a special Luke Winn "Power Rankings" featuring a graphics-laden study of the top 16 conference names. Away we go....
Conference Names That Matter: The Leading Contenders
The Basketball Conference
A League of Their Own
The All-City League
The Big East: Part Deux (Starring Charlie Sheen)
The Big Priest
The Eff Duke Conference
The "Wait a second, did Michael Carter-Williams really just say that stealing clothes at Nordstrom's was a misunderstanding?" Conference
The Non-Football Conference
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
The Conference of One
The Conference of God
The "This is a conference that, 700 years ago, totally ravaged China, and that, we were told, two hours ago, totally ravaged Oshman's Sporting Goods" Conference
The Gavitt Conference
The Best Basketball Conference in the Country Conference
The "Dr. Strangeball: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Football and Love the Hoops" Conference
The Sweater Conference
The Basketball Conference of America
The Republican Party (if we're trying to attract money from big-time corporate donors)
The Democratic Party (if we're trying to attract money from the federal government)
The BCS National Championship Game Conference
The "Maybe Some Large Corporation Will Pay Us Millions of Dollars for the Rights to Name this Conference, and We Should Jump on That" Conference
Everybody Loves Raymond (because that's just a good show)
The Conference that Doesn't have Syracuse
(Just a symbol of a basketball. No name.)
The Conference Call
Homeland (because our ratings would be amazing)
The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
The Fred "The Ogre" Palowakski League (really, that one was just to get you to look up the Ogre's pic on imdb. the dude wasn't acting: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0316455/)
The "OMG. The Big Ten has 14 Schools and the Big 12 has 10 Schools, All Totally Subject to Change" Conference
The Color of Money
The Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort
The "Isn't it Hilarious that Tulane is the Straw that Broke the Camel's Back, and not SMU or TCU or Central Florida or Boise State or Houston or Syracuse?" Conference
The NCAA Tournament
The Parent-Teacher Conference
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The San Dimas High School Football Rules Conference (because of the line that precedes this famous Bill and Ted's reference: "Everything is different, but the same...things are more moderner than before...bigger, and yet smaller...it's computers...San Dimas High School Football rules."
Los Pollos Hermanos
The "I Can't Wait for John Swofford to Try to Poach One of These Teams" Conference
The Big Pimpin'
Or my personal favorite, and ultimately, the name I think will win the day: The Big East. It's a name that continues to mean something, even without some of the traditional powers in the league. And it's a name that will continue to taunt all of those football carpetbaggers and their fans for years to come.
I'm glad that the university presidents and athletic directors of the non-FBS football schools finally woke up. From now on, instead of reading about how another one of our rivals is being poached by X Conference, we'll read about how the new and improved Big East is embracing those schools who care more about basketball than money (even if the reality is that those schools also care a lot about money too).
In the words of President Thomas Whitmore, "We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We're going to live on. We're going to survive. Today we celebrate our Independence Day!"
Let's go college basketball. Beat college football.