Wisconsin Badgers football coach Brett Bielema did what many of us would do. Offered a pay increase in the range of $500,000 to $1.3 million (reports vary), he took it.
Bielema, who is leaving to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks, will get to coach in the higher profile SEC, and also a chance to get out from under the shadow of Barry Alvarez. Whatever Bielema did, he was always tending to the program Barry created. Now, going to a foundering program that went 4-8 last year, he has the potential to build something that is uniquely his.
While you can't say that Brett Bielema was exactly beloved around here, he seemed like a decent guy who ran a clean program and won games. You have to wish him well.
But his departure for, in part, a lot more money, points to what's wrong with big time college sports -- there is too much money involved.
It was money that was behind the recent announcement that the Big Ten, which is really the Big Twelve, would now become the Even Bigger Fourteen with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers in a couple of years. There's even talk of Georgia Tech joining the conference at some point.
Why those three schools? Money. It opens up the lucrative D.C., New York, and Atlanta television markets, and it means more revenue for the Big Ten Network. (However, New York Times numbers guy Nate Silver makes a case that the Big Ten is being overly optimistic about the coast.)
The problem is that getting this big and adding teams with no connection to the Midwest or to the teams in the original conference does a disservice to the fans. None of us would rather watch the Badgers play Maryland and Rutgers instead of Iowa and Michigan.
The expansions change the very nature of what the Big Ten was supposed to be about. The argument that they're doing it to expand support for non-revenue sports and athletics-related facilities goes only so far when you see the coaches making millions of dollars.
Let's face it. Bielema's departure for a bigger pay day is an example of what is driving the big college programs toward making decisions based more on the bottom line rather than on the fan experience.