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College Sports in the Realm of Bonesville

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

By Danny Whitford

'Sopranos' more benign than ACC syndicate


• Despite obstacles, UMass thinking big
Wellman: A few 12-team leagues the key
• Cards' Pitino out on limb-o about C-USA

• BCS or bust for East Carolina
• Irish hover over ACC, Miami, Big East
• SEC example proves money no cure-all
• Opposition to ACC scheme gaining steam
• ACC foray for 'crown jewel' advances
• Big East's jilted 5 gang up for future
• Herrion keeps eye on Miami's next move

• 'Sopranos' more benign than ACC syndicate
• Meetings leave big questions hanging
Tranghese sounds like "beaten man"
• Moral compass spins out of control
• Big East boss lashes out
ECU well-situated for upheavals
The Empire Strikes Back?
• Notre Dame ponders Big East role
TV markets based on bogus science
• Brave new world for ECU?
• Muse can't take wait-and-see approach
• Execs move to spawn ACC juggernaut
• Muse eyes saga from 'crow's nest'
• Is ECU prepared to navigate storm?
• Time for C-USA to revisit expansion issue

The self-anointed royal family otherwise known as the Atlantic Coast Conference kindles thoughts of 'The Sopranos.' On the other hand, some of the malevolent characters in the fictional Mafia saga that plays itself out on our TV sets are at least a bit endearing in their own quirky ways.

No such fuzzy feelings divert attention from the calculated, cold-blooded assassinations the ACC dons are carrying out.

Lord John Swofford and the presidents of the nine fiefdoms of the Atlantic Coast Conference seem to be following a creed I've heard somewhere before: The ends justifies the means.

It's a philosophy followed somewhat loosely — but not nearly so self-righteously — by the Soprano clan, as it does what it has to do to make certain its various enterprises keep bringing in the cash.

Swofford, the North Carolina prince, quarterback and athletics director who ascended to the throne of the ACC soon after his hair became gray enough for the role, was the lead dog in a hungry pack of carnivores on the scent of big game.

It was to be the ultimate kill. The Big East Conference would be slain by decapitating it. The prey would be field-dressed, out of public view, and the carcass left for scavengers and beggars.

But something went wrong with 'the job.'

In this day of ubiquitous media scrutiny, the public got to see more than the hams, loins and other delicacies that were the targeted prizes of the hunt. The entire eviscerated carcass — innards, eyeballs, organs, and all — was laid bare before the unshielded eyes of the innocent... women and children included.

It was not a pretty sight.

Whether the predator — the ACC — is ultimately able to abscond with the delicacies — Miami, Boston College and Syracuse — is a moot point. The mortal blow has already been dealt to the naive idea that big-time college sports are not ultimately about money, egos and raw political power.

The presidents of the aggressor conspirators — whom we have been conditioned by the propaganda machinery to believe would be the failsafe arbiters in matters that pit encroaching greed against institutional purpose — readily exposed their hypocrisy and duplicity before the world.

An indignant Mike Tranghese, kingpin of the tottering Big East and a documented hypocrite in his own right, noted as much in a Monday outburst that came across in media reports more like an emotion-punctuated wake than a press conference.

"Educational institutions are supposed to be controlled by presidents…," Tranghese sarcastically noted. "Presidential control. Welcome to the world of presidential control.”

Alas, Tranghese's alligator tears merely reinforced the farce that is playing out before us. Until now, the ACC and the Big East have been two of six 'families' which jointly operate a racket that even the Gambino clan would admire.

It was only a few months ago that Tranghese, chairman of the pit of collusion called the Bowl Championship Series that is at the epicenter of the current mob war, publicly expressed his disdain for the little people.

According to a report on the CBS SportsLine web site, Tranghese noted that CEO's of the BCS schools would ultimately make a cash-influenced judgment about whether to open up college football's national championship process to a playoff that would involve non-cartel programs.

"At the end of the day, the one thing we know — presidents or no presidents — we'll be concerned about money," he said.

Referring to the then-pending deliberations by BCS powerbrokers concerning potential adjustments to the scheme by which its so-called national champion is crowned, Tranghese professed a philosophy so brazen in its contempt for the aspirations of the kingdom's non-royal subjects that his belatedly born-again values — now that his own confederation is about to join the underprivileged — will probably lead to sessions with Tony's shrink.

"I'm not a socialist," Tranghese said, clearly signaling his intention to protect the monopoly. "... You want the BCS to be socialistic, capitalistic and anarchistic. I don't know of anyone who can get away with that.

"They (non-BCS schools) want access. If I were them, I'd want access and money too. All I said to my (Big East) schools is, 'I'm not giving them your money."

The dredged up quotes attributed to tyrant-turned-victim Tranghese were chronicled in a January 3, 2003, CBS SportsLine article.

Now that the Big East's once-chummy fellow syndicate has turned in the night and made its deadly power play, there's little Tranghese can do other than look like a hypocrite while the ACC offers its protection services to Miami, Boston College and Syracuse.

Once the deal is done — after the public thrashing, moaning and twitching of the victims subside — the ACC will see itself as a victor in a perverted sort of way.

An official involved in the deed, feigning concern, matter-of-factly acknowledged in advance the likelihood of collateral damage and, more or less, shrugged it off.

"I'm open to [expansion] yet mindful of the many consequences," said one of the ACC's athletics directors.

Yeah, right. Then the trigger was silently squeezed.

This brings us back around to Tranghese's rival overlord, Swofford. The secretly-plotted maneuver that some ACC minions probably thought would mark the defining moment of Swofford's career as a college sports baron, has instead become a watershed event in the accelerating demise of the principles upon which intercollegiate athletics were founded.

Indeed, it is a defining moment of a starkly different kind than what Swofford and cronies would like the public to perceive. It’s a moment that marks the ACC’s lowest point in moral stature since an organized crime fiasco in real life — the Dixie Classic point-shaving scandal of almost 50 years ago — that almost asphyxiated the then-nascent and already-ambitious league.

This time, the ACC is applying the 'fix' without the assistance of outside organizations.

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02/23/2007 01:37:22 AM

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