Mid-majors may lay claim to best Division I athletic programs

By By Blake Moore

By Blake Moore

When one considers an NCAA football or basketball powerhouse, tons of schools come to mind. For example, there are Duke, UConn, Arizona, UNC, Wake Forest, USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State, Washington, Miami and Florida.

What is so peculiar about this list is that so few of the best basketball schools have solid football programs, and vice versa. The best examples are Duke and USC. A religious sports follower, even I cannot name one quarterback to have ever played for the Blue Devils.

Having contemplated the reasoning behind the madness, I give you this: Why are so many “great” schools in these “great” conferences so one-sided in their athletic excellence? Have they put every dime into just one sport? Can Duke and UConn only afford good basketball coaches (and not good football coaches)? Do USC and Auburn only have enough revenue to pay for a good staff of football coaches? Are there few football fans in North Carolina, and do all Southern Cal fans live by the philosophy that if there is no point to the ball, then there is no point to the game?

For the life of me I cannot figure out where the problem lies. In that list of big-name schools mentioned, Oklahoma and Texas are the only two that usually make a good showing in both sports on a yearly basis. Even so, both OU and UT were knocked out in early March, the worst part being that the two come from what is considered a “superior conference.”

B.S. Take a look at the final polls. Only two teams, Utah and Louisville, were in the top 15 football and basketball rankings.

What’s more: Those two schools have the best athletic programs in the U.S. Feel free to quote me on that-and each team is in a mid-major conference.

The U has the possibility for two athletes to be No. 1 draft picks in the NFL and NBA. Add gymnastics and a Top 20 women’s volleyball team to the mix, and it is safe to take my statement one step further. Ergo, that the U is the year’s best athletic program in Division I-A.

At least the Big East Conference has recognized Louisville’s excellence and has invited them to join next year. The Big East is a conference which they will probably dominate. If the Pac-10 were smart, they would be begging the Utes to join their mediocre conference.

Academically Utah could compete, given the superb graduate programs, and so it’s obvious our athletics would fare well.

However, I didn’t write this column to cry out and demand admission to the Pacific-10 Conference. We’re doing fine without them. The NCAA should throw the word “mid-major” out of its vocabulary. That way, they can save the embarrassment of having the major conferences perform worse than schools presumed to be inferior.

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