With college football starting, it's less about games, and all about conferences crumbling

We are back for our eighth season of college football, giving you insight and always the honest truth. Seven horrendous games on tap Saturday, none involving two Power Five teams. The most intriguing, Notre Dame and Navy from Dublin, Ireland, has the Irish as prohibitive 21-point favorites. It's called week zero but I refer to it as week weak. UMass at New Mexico State on ESPN in primetime. UGH!

The reality is people are not talking about the season yet, they're talking about what happened in the offseason. You knew last year about UCLA and USC leaving the PAC 12 for the Big 10 and Oklahoma and Texas exiting the Big 12 for the SEC next year. But recently Oregon and Washington announced they, too, are now leaving for the Big 10 and Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah are now destined for the Big 12. The Pac 12 is left with four teams (Cal, Stanford, Washington State, and Oregon State). The Pac 4? Don't kid yourselves, the Pac 12 is finished. While others ignored the red flags, we told you here about the unhealthy atmosphere of college football years ago and how the rich get richer and the disparity between the haves and have nots just gets wider. So who or what is to blame for this disaster? Greed, of course, is the easy answer and while it is omnipresent everywhere in sports, it all started in 1984.

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Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (7) throws the ball against Southern California in last season's Pac-12 Championship Game. The conference, as we knew it, is finished.
Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (7) throws the ball against Southern California in last season's Pac-12 Championship Game. The conference, as we knew it, is finished.

That was when the universities of Oklahoma and Georgia sued the NCAA because it controlled the television income and dictated that if any school negotiated its "own" contract, it would be banned from competition by the NCAA. It was a power move and the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the NCAA's ultimatum by ruling its actions were a restraint of trade, paving the way for the conferences to negotiate their rights and profits from television. Even back then, it was about power and money but nobody knew it was a harbinger of things to come. If only the NCAA had shown flexibility with its membership, it would never be in this mess now. The NCAA "loss" began the longest court losing streak in sports history. ESPN arrived at the right time and the demand for primetime college football has increased exponentially even to this day. Universities who have nothing in common except their potential TV ratings are what counts now. Geography is no longer an impediment to conference expansion.

Some day Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia and other blue-blood schools will realize their "brand" and success is much more valuable than Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Northwestern and others. Those latter schools will be forced to sacrifice equal shares of profits or perhaps the blue-bloods will break away entirely and form their own "pro type" league with approximately 32 teams from coast to coast to decide the national championship. It's says here that is the next "earthquake" and it's coming soon. Remember you didn't just hear it here first; you only heard it here, period.

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Jim Harbaugh's 'suspension' is laughable

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended initially by the NCAA for four games for committing several serious recruiting violations. The suspension was rejected by the NCAA Committee on Infractions. So now what does Michigan do? It suspends Harbaugh on their own for the first three games this year. Why? Because they want these games to count against any future suspension and the competition is dreadful (East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green, all at home). The Wolverines could send out their intramural team and prevail. Moreover, Harbaugh can coach during the week and gets paid. When is a suspension a vacation? When it's Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

No 'bowl ban' for Tennessee

Next up is Tennessee, a team with national championship aspirations but engulfed in over 200 recruiting violations, including 18 level ones, all over a three period (2018-2021) during the Jeremy Pruitt era. After a lengthy investigation, Tennessee was fined $8 million, placed on probation for five years, ordered to vacate 11 wins in 2019 and 2020 and forfeit 28 scholarships over four years. But there was no bowl ban. In the face of so many violations, Tennessee avoided the worst penalty of all-bowl eligibility. Why? Because the Tennessee legislature passed a law which protected student-athletes from being punished for violations they didn't commit. Based on that law, any bowl ban would’ve been challenged by Tennessee and we all know how well the NCAA in the courts.

Reggie Bush wants his Heisman back

Did you see where Reggie Bush is suing to get his 2005 Heisman Trophy back. Bush was the face of the USC program which dominated the mid 2000s. After an NCAA investigation revealed numerous violations which Bush and his family benefited from, Bush was ostracized by the USC family. USC was severely penalized and took a decade to recover. Bush says it's about "the truth" and a flawed investigation. Huh? Incredibly, USC issued a statement reflecting they "fully support his efforts to regain his Heisman Trophy." So what happened here? Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) is what happened and Bush and USC are merely saying it should've been around decades ago.

Punished for gambling? Get real

How about players at Iowa and Iowa State getting arrested for placing bets on sporting events? While not condoning gambling by “student-athletes,” we recognize it’s advertised and glorified everywhere and an acceptable form of entertainment. Anyone can make a bet from their cell phone! By the way, if you think these criminal acts are isolated to the State of Iowa, you're living in a different century.

Plenty of bright spots, too

It’s not all negative. College football is at an all-time popularity level. Thankfully, this will be the last year only four teams make the CFP. We’re traveling west to Salt Lake City for Thursday's Florida-Utah game. They include, Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams of USC, Cameron Rising of Utah, Bo Nix of Oregon and Michael Penix Jr. of Washington — all are returning Pac 12 QBs. Rice-Eccles stadium will be rocking. The Gators start Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz after losing Anthony Richardson to the NFL, it says here Utah makes a statement and rolls over the Gators. This could be the year when finally a Pac 12 team breaks through and wins a CFP championship. For the first time, I will finally learn the answer to that question in the hit movie "My Cousin Vinny," What is a UTE? I'll let you know next week.

We don't pay attention to preseason rankings but our prediction for the four CFP spots is Georgia, USC, Alabama and take your pick from Notre Dame, Clemson and Florida State for the fourth spot. The most improved team — the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The most overrated team — the LSU Tigers.

Let's get started!

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Greed at the root of college football conferences crumbling