Sa­ban’s idea would kill AAC hopes

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - DAVID WHIT­LEY

Mem­phis, Cen­tral Florida, Hous­ton, Cincin­nati and South Florida fans, meet the Most Dan­ger­ous Man in the World:

Nick Nei­der­meyer, Omega Mem­ber­ship Chair­man. Oops.

I meant Nick Sa­ban, but I keep get­ting flash­backs to a scene in the movie An­i­mal House. It’s fra­ter­nity rush week at Faber Col­lege. Larry Kroger and Kent “Floun­der” Dorf­man knock on the door of the pompous Omega House.

Doug Nei­der­meyer quickly sizes them up as losers and es­corts them to the so­cial out­cast area, where he in­tro­duces them to Mo­ham­met, Jugdish, Sid­ney and Clay­ton.

They were a dude wear­ing a tur­ban, an im­mi­grant, a to­tal geek and a blind guy in a wheelchair. In 1978, films like An­i­mal House were far more con­cerned about be­ing funny than po­lit­i­cally cor­rect.

Fast-for­ward 39 years. Sa­ban is Nei­der­meyer, the Omega House is the Power Five and ev­ery­body else might as well be Jugdish U.

Sa­ban thinks all Group of Five schools were cre­ated equal, as in equally un­wor­thy. His lat­est stif­farm must have made Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence Com­mis­sioner Mike Aresco want to smash a gui­tar over the Alabama coach’s head.

Among other items, Sa­ban told ESPN he’d like Power Five con­fer­ence teams to sched­ule only other Power Five teams.

If you’re not up on col­lege foot­ball caste sys­tem, the Power Five con­fer­ences are the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. The Group of Five is all the other Dorf­mans.

Sa­ban’s idea is not with­out merit. The good part is it would elim­i­nate joke games like Bay­lor vs. La­mar or Wis­con­sin vs. Ge­or­gia State, where the sac­ri­fi­cial lambs are just there for the pay­day.

The not-so-good part is that it would be a death blow to every team that as­pires to great­ness.

Great­ness, in this case, means play­ing in front of 90,000 fans, rak­ing in enough cash to pay coaches $7 mil­lion a year and hav­ing locker rooms that out­shine Buck­ing­ham Palace.

Most Group of Five schools will never get there. But rel­a­tively young univer­si­ties like UCF that have huge en­roll­ments can at least en­vi­sion be­ing big time.

Half the schools in the AAC thought they had a real­is­tic shot at join­ing the Big 12 last sea­son. When that ex­pan­sion cha­rade went nowhere, the league rolled out its “Power 6” mar­ket­ing plan, aim­ing to equate it­self with the Omega House boys.

“This is a crit­i­cal pe­riod for the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence, and we ap­proach it with op­ti­mism and con­fi­dence,” Aresco said at AAC Me­dia Days. “The con­fer­ence is clearly on the cusp of great things, hav­ing al­ready ac­com­plished so much in our rel­a­tively brief his­tory.”

The league will be his­tory if it can’t play Power Five schools.

It’s not as if every G-5 mem­ber should au­to­mat­i­cally be shuf­fled to the Losers Couch. AAC teams have beaten 19 Power Five teams (and Notre Dame) the past two sea­sons.

No­body cares to see P-5 teams play Pres­by­te­rian or La­mar or Tenn.-Chat­tanooga. It’s an­other toga party al­to­gether when Hous­ton or Boise State comes to town. Sa­ban es­sen­tially wants to throw out the BYUs with the G-5 bath­wa­ter.

In An­i­mal House, Kroger and Dorf­man end up at the Delta House. They meet John Belushi, get put on dou­ble-se­cret pro­ba­tion and en­joy quite a few last laughs on those Omega stiffs and Nei­der­meyer, the ROTC leader who ends up get­ting killed by his own troops in Viet­nam.

If only life would im­i­tate art. Not that I want Sa­ban’s troops to shoot him out of the sad­dle. But those sad sacks on the Omega couch might have gone on to be­come the kind of guy every frat would be proud to have as a mem­ber.

If Nick Nei­der­meyer has his way, Jugdish will never even get in the door.

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