For me, clicking on a link lately that involves some combination of the terms "DeLoss Dodds" and "conference expansion" is akin to waiting in line for the bathroom at your favorite breakfast joint and seeing some crotchety geezer in a windbreaker come walking out with the sports section tucked under his arm.
It stinks, he doesn't care and you're left wondering why he had to do that in public.
With rumors swirling that the Big 12 is on the verge of expanding, Texas' athletic director continues to chime in on the future of the conference. In a nutshell, he wants to hold the league at 10 schools unless Notre Dame comes calling.
I get that it's in their DNA for the 'Horns to remind everyone just how important they are, so speaking up doesn't surprise me in that regard. For once, though, the Big 12 is sitting in the catbird's seat of realignment, and the conference's key administrators appear to be acting as such. Chris Del Conte's ill-advised babbling aside, the rest of Big 12's athletic directors have pretty much stayed mum since the rumors of poaching Florida St. from the ACC surfaced. It raises the question of why Dodds won't keep his yap shut, especially when the odds appear stacked against him.
For all the posturing that takes place during these realignment shenanigans, I don't see any reason to doubt Dodds and Mack Brown when they say they truly do want to remain at 10 teams. They view a 10-team league as the easiest route to possible shot at the national championship.
It's a microcosm of Texas football. The Longhorns enjoy significant competitive advantages over 99 percent of the institutions around the country. Yet, like kids who complain about doing chores around the house for longer than it takes to actually do them, Dodds and the Texas brass appear to waste inordinate time and energy trying to make sure they get every conceivable edge and consideration possible. (Consider the ham-handed defense of efforts to televise high school games on the Longhorn Network, for example.) In this case, rather than simply just, yanno, playing a conference championship game and trying to win it, UT would prefer to eliminate the possibility of losing it.
Yes, it's a Chauncey position to take, but it strikes me as par for the course.
What I don't get is this game of footsie that Dodds insists on playing with the Fightin' Irish.
Notre Dame was Texas before Texas was. That powerful brand makes the Golden Domers so appealing to the major conferences. It's also why they can Fleetwood Mac the conference model and go their own way.
ND is under absolutely no pressure to give up its independence yet. Eventually, I do believe the Irish will have to join a conference when the power leagues decide to break away from the NCAA. That day has yet to arrive, however, and in the meantime, no one has any intention of setting up a postseason structure that will let somehow exclude a deserving ND team from participating.
ND's alums and fans love the distinction of independence, as well as the flexibility that it allows to play a national schedule. Joining a conference at this juncture, let alone one with members such as Texas Tech and Kansas St., won't fly with them.
The alternative to full participation appears to be the same kind of quasi-membership that allows ND to park its Olympic sports in the league and potentially set up some kind of scheduling agreement in football with the rest of the Big 12.
To me, the idea of getting ND now as a "half" participant in the Big 12 as some precursor to that day when the Irish do have to join a conference seems foolish. First, ND won't have much reason to ditch the Big East with its Olympic sports so long as that league is alive. But even if that wasn't the case, a non-football membership hardly guarantees that the Irish would join the Big 12 if it did eventually decide to put its football in a conference. The bottom line for the Big 12 is that unless the conference plans on pruning some of its riff raff, I just can't see ND signing up.
So why is Dodds lusting after the Irish? My hunch is that Texas would like to parlay an ND partial membership into some type of annual game with the Irish. UT would definitely be among the schools that the Irish would be willing to involve in some sort of scheduling arrangement. Also, when the poets go to write their tributes to the athletic directors gone by, I suspect Dodds hopes that if ND did eventually become a full-time member of the Big 12, he might be remembered as the AD who captured the white whale.
Whatever the case may be, the good news is that it appears as though the expansion train has left the Big 12's station. The conference will likely expand to 12 teams by adding FSU and Clemson in the very near future and be better for it in the long run.
Until then, hopefully Dodds can hold it in until he gets home.