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And Another Thing

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File | Associated Press

So much for Rivalry Week(s)

I don't care what you say. Leigh Montville is as right as a good book on a snowy day.

Realignment may make Big Football even more the money machine it already is in college athletics, but it's killing everything that created that money machine: Pure, blood rivalries the like of which pro football and basketball simply can't match, and can only rarely approach.

Passion is what separates the colleges from the pros, and lifts the former above the latter in a substantive way no TV ratings can ever reflect. And that passion flows primarily from rivalries that go back decades and are the product of geographic proximity and a shared history that continually fuels shared contempt.

And so, yes, it will be a nice novelty when Maryland plays Michigan or Ohio State in football in the coming years, but that's all it will be. Maryland has no more shared history with the schools of the Big Ten than the Sorbonne in Paris does. And therefore it's strictly a marriage of convenience that brings absolutely nothing to the table but cold cash.

Ditto Rutgers, another East Coast interloper, vs. Michigan or Ohio State or Wisconsin. Ditto Notre Dame vs. North Carolina or Duke or Clemson in the ACC. And who would you rather see play a football game? Nebraska and Michigan State or Nebraska and Oklahoma?

Oh, sure, the people who cobble these things together will try to sell you on the lie that "new rivalries" will emerge from all this seismology. Don't believe it. Unless you're an independent such as Notre Dame -- the exception that proves the rule -- cross-regional rivalries can never be true rivalries. There's simply not the bad blood that there is with neighbors who've been squabbling over the same recruits (and in the case of Ohio State and Michigan, even their physical boundaries) for eons.

And so here's to the great rivalries, slouching toward extinction. May we all learn to be satisfied by Maryland vs. Iowa. Boy, those schools really hate each other.

Not.

Ben Smith's blog.

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