NCF Nation: Southwest Conference
To what, you ask? Well, the hottest rivalry in college football, of course.
Utah-Colorado! (Cue "Psycho" shower scene music).
Doesn't do it for 'ya does it?
Think about your college football conference. Every game matters, but some matter just a bit more. Those are your rivals. You don't like them; they don't like you. It's a beautiful thing.
Now consider Utah and Colorado fans. The Utes, who are leaving the Mountain West for the Pac-12, are still under contract with arch-rival BYU for the next two seasons, but there are no guarantees that game will continue to be played annually (though the good money says it will). The Buffaloes, who are leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-12, no longer will play arch-rival Nebraska, which is skipping off to the Big Ten.
Their new schedules include nine conference games with teams that, well, they just don't have any strong feelings about.
"I'm sure we can conjure up some kind of hate for [Colorado]," Utah's colorful offensive tackle Tony Bergstrom said. "Tell us they're Communists or something."
Tony, they are Communists.
Expansion isn't a regular thing. Oh, the Southwest Conference got picked apart in 1996, and the ACC raided the Big East in 2004-05, but when teams jump from conference to conference -- particularly when automatic qualifying conferences are involved -- it sends strange ripples across sport's space-time continuum. The Buffaloes and Utes in the Pac-12 is a new thing in a sport that leans hard on its history to fuel the emotions of obsessive fandom.
You can't force the Utes and Buffaloes to hate each other. That's not how it's done. Confessed Utah linebacker Brian Blechen, "I don't have anything against Colorado."
So what must be done? Obviously, some Pac-12 team must commit a grave offense against Utah or Colorado. This, of course, will be mostly imagined, thereby making it easier to attribute it mythic status over the coming years.
"Invariably, something is going to happen in those games, and School X is going to be the school that you point to," Colorado coach Jon Embree said.
Embree also has been selling to his players that they are a part of program history because they, in fact, are making program history.
"Coach Embree said in the locker room that we get to start new traditions, we get to start new rivalries," Buffaloes quarterback Tyler Hansen said. "That's something to look forward to. Ten years from now, if the Colorado-Utah game is a big rivalry, we can say, 'Hey, we were the first game. We started that rivlary.' That could be something special."
There are potential angles for Utah-Colorado hate. Nebraska was all about red. Colorado fans therefore are not big fans of red. Utah is all about red, too. And everyone knows that Utah fans are jealous of the vastly superior skiing in Colorado. Or is it vice versa?
On perhaps a more substantive level, Colorado is entering the Pac-12 as an equal member -- in 2012, per the original agreement -- while Utah will get no payout from the conference in 2011 (other than an equal share of revenue from the Pac-12 championship game), and partial shares for the two years after that (50 percent in 2012 and 75 percent in 2013). There is some "all are equal but some are more equal than others" at play here.
While the Buffaloes have been a mediocre team of late in the Big 12, and the Utes are a national power coming out of the MWC, there's still a bias that favors the AQ team. When Utah -- or TCU or Boise State, for that matter -- was making one of its undefeated runs over the past few seasons, some dismissed it with a, "They wouldn't be able to do that in the SEC/Pac-10/Big Ten/Big 12."
"Coming from the Mountain West, I think a lot of people are going to be look at how we transition into that," Blechen said. "Kind of like a statement on whether we can hang or not in the Pac-12. I think we'll be ready."
Of course, Utah's most recent game with a Pac-12 team was a win over California in the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl. Colorado visited California last fall. That trip went badly.
"A lot of bad," Hansen said with a pained look. "I'm looking forward to playing those guys. That's a big game for me personally because I didn't play well last year."
So there you have it: Colorado has a history with a Pac-12 foe.
Of course, not everyone fuels up on emotion.
"I've been playing different teams my whole life," Colorado running back Rodney Stewart said. "I don't care who I'm playing against. I just try to do my job. It's just football."
It is just football, but that's the good news for we lovers of rivalries. Football is too emotional and physical of a game for teams that regularly play to remain neutral about each other.
No hate between Utah and Colorado and other Pac-12 teams? Just give it time.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Trying to earn more television money while maximizing exposure for his schools is taking much of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's attention these days.
Beebe called working on settling that television question as the "major issue" that currently is facing him in his role as the conference's chief executive officer.
"I think that's fair to say because it was such a strong proponent of what put us together in the conference in the first place," Beebe said. "The origins of this conference was to get together to find a more valuable spot in the marketplace. We need all the platforms we can get for the quality of play that all of our student-athletes provide."
The Big 12 was formed in a marriage between the old Big Eight Conference and four schools from the old Southwest Conference because of vanishing spots in the market for those conferences in the mid-1990s.
A similar concern could be facing the Big 12 in the immediate future as it lags behind the megabuck contracts recently earned by the Southeastern and the Big Ten conferences that have helped propel those conferences to preeminent spots in college athletics.
"We can't deny it," Beebe said. "I give them a lot of credit for what they have been able to achieve. It's up to us to try to compete with that. It certainly concerns me there's going to be so much exposure of SEC product and Big Ten Network in this part of the country. And part of my charge will be how we will be able to compete with that in the future."
Several reports indicate there has been discussion among the Big 12, Pac-10 and Atlantic Coast conferences to provide a new television network with programming from two or perhaps three of the conferences in a consortium. Beebe said that the Big 12 must be creative in looking for ways to remain viable in the changing economic marketplace.
"I think we have to look at strategic partnerships with whomever, whether it's on the media side or the content owners (conferences) to find out what would be best for us," Beebe said. "I don't discount any scenario in that regard. Looking at a partnership with other conferences is something we'll have to take a close look at. Maybe there's something there that would work out for all of us."
Beebe conducted his press conference late Tuesday at the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium in Arlington. The facility will serve as the home of the next two Big 12 championship game and the site for three regular-season games involving Big 12 teams this season.
Big 12 officials like many things about the new stadium. The facility's location, its ability to accommodate more than 80,000 fans and the ability to stage games in climate-controlled conditions are particularly attractive. The conference already has forged a working relationship with the Cowboys as the Big 12 will serve as the sponsoring entity for the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in 2014 when it comes to facility.
The new stadium also will serve as the home of the Cotton Bowl beginning in January. The bowl hopes that moving to the new facility will boost its chances of elbowing its way into the rotation of BCS bowl locations -- although the BCS likely will not expand before its current contract expires in 2014.
"If there's going to be an expansion of games in the BCS, we're certainly going to be adamant about that including a bowl in our region," Beebe said. "This would be highly attractive with the kind of facility we have here. The Cotton Bowl is our Tier I partner and we would try to accommodate that."
Beebe said he hopes the conference will have agreements with its bowl partners by the start of the football season with plans to take them for approval to the conference's board of directors at its October meeting.
"Our bowl partners have been tremendous," Beebe said. "The addition of the Gator Bowl has been very great for us. I wish I was this desired when I was a single man. There are a lot of bowls interested in coming after us and we're very fortunate in that regard."