"Whether this anachronism had any bearing upon the astonishing history I am about to set down will never be known. I shall tell you what occurred, and let you judge for yourself."
The foregoing is found in the opening lines of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". Fitzgerald, reflecting on the genesis of Button's Curious Case, said that the story was "inspired by a remark of Mark Twain's to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end. By trying the experiment upon only one man in a perfectly normal world I have scarcely given his idea a fair trial."
Let's look for a second at the curious cases, in contemporary context, of Connecticut and Georgetown. Gonzaga, Wichita State, and VCU. Cincinnati, BYU, and San Diego State; and Boise State.
The ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC and Notre Dame have been granted certain autonomies separate-and-apart from their intercollegiate athletic conference brethren. The 64 schools in these conferences, and Notre Dame, get to make their own rules.
The king is dead. Long live the king(s).
What happens to Georgetown's basketball program? To the basketball programs at Gonzaga, Wichita State and VCU? To the football and basketball programs at Cincinnati, BYU and San Diego State? To the football program at Boise State?
Georgetown is one of the most tradition-rich programs in NCAA college basketball history; having competed in five NCAA Final Fours; and winning the 1984 National Championship. NBA All Stars and Hall of Famers, including Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and Allen Iverson are all former Hoyas.
Gonzaga, Wichita State and VCU represent something a bit different than March's Cinderella story. Each has grown to epitomize how small mid-major schools' basketball programs can achieve sustained success. Or, at least they did, err, or at least (how) they could.
Cincinnati, BYU and San Diego State annually occupy spots in the top 25 rankings in both football and men's basketball. At least they did. Boise State has enjoyed great success in football for the past several seasons. But, how do they compete now? How will they compete with and against the new kings of college athletics?
They may not be able to. They will likely not be able to attract the top talent; particularly not away from or when recruiting against schools able to make their own recruiting and athletics-related rules.
Connecticut won the 2014 NCAA men's basketball championship. A month later, the school rewarded its men's basketball coach, Kevin Ollie, with a new five-year, $2.8mil per year contract. What now? What's next for Connecticut? Likely not another national championship.
To be fair, these schools will continue to compete for the next year or two, at least in basketball. But, with the opportunity — and offers — to make money, literally so, from and at other schools, how will these schools, sitting on the outside looking in, attract the top talent?
They won't. They can't.
Kevin Ollie. Greg Marshall. Shaka Smart. Mark Few. By all accounts, each — and all — of them are great coaches. Their recruiting mettle is certain to be tested; and, for-better-or-worse, after making decisions to stay — and to stay loyal to — their smaller schools, these coaches may be on compressed timetables to find new coaching opportunities at (bigger) schools in the big five conferences.
The landscape is shifting. Seismically so. For the big five, it's like the Wild West. They now have an unfair competitive advantage, if some derivative of the word competition is even appropriate in that context or in the new collegiate sports class system climate.
The rich (in the big five conferences) will get richer. The rest will ... well, the rest may grow to better (or worse) resemble the Ivy League, or like what we now think of when we talk about Division III sports schools.
What does that mean for tradition-rich (former) basketball powerhouses like Connecticut and Georgetown, or programs that have become synonymous with success under certain coaches, like Gonzaga, VCU and Wichita State.
Maybe, with the NCAA's "monopoly" ruled anti-competitive —a and with the vote to autonomize the big five — the newly-elected oligarchy can pick and choose, by way of its self-selective voting process, who else it wants to include in its newly-elevated class. Maybe Connecticut, Georgetown and the rest of the curious cases above will be invited to the party too. If not, programs like the Huskies' and the Hoyas' may become names mentioned with a historical sense of nostalgia.
Matt Laczkowski writes a Monday column for the Times. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.