Florida vs Ohio State: Deja vu, Zeitgeist, or Apocalypse?
Gator vs Buckeye: Armageddon or Brave New World?
As Baylor fans, we have never known of the success which the University of Florida and Ohio State enjoy. To have an athletic program with national championship contenders in both men's basketball and football is a foreign concept to us. Having conference doormats in those sports is what we are accustomed to. The pinnacle of our men's basketball team was from 1948 to 1950, when the Bears made the Final Four in two out of three years, getting beat by Adolph Rupp's Kentucky and Bradley. Since then, it's been all downhill. The apex of our football team was, arguably, the 1980 Southwest Conference Champion squad, featuring Mike Singletary and coached by Grant Teaff, which went on to the Cotton Bowl and got stomped by Bear Bryant's Alabama. We have never known that level of success on the gridiron again. So, on this topic, we consider ourselves neutral observers, having no experience with dominance in either sport for the last two decades. But, then again, our curses and failures often make national headlines.
Florida vs Ohio State: Enter the Dragon
With Urban Meyer's triumph over the Buckeyes in this year's BCS Championship Game, Florida became the first school in NCAA Division 1 history to win a basketball and football championship in the same calendar year. With Billy Donovan's merciless Gator squad winning the Tourney last spring, Florida established itself as the premiere college sports giant in the televised, revenue-generating sports. This type of dominance is unprecedented. However, Florida's run isn't over. On Monday night, they again face off against Ohio State for what will be a chance at a third title in 365 days.
With Joakim Noah & Co absolutely dominating UCLA last night (for the second straight year), Florida looks poised to bring home the first back-to-back NCAA titles since Duke's run in the early nineties. Credit not only Billy Donovan, but also uber-AD Jeremy Foley, who is in the process of trying to woo Kim Mulkey (our last, best hope) from Baylor to give UF another jewel in the crown. He is the only AD ever to preside over a football and basketball championship. We dwell in the Era of Florida: The Gator Nation is now contiguous with the lower 48. Kneel before your hegemon.
Florida vs Ohio State: The Rise of the Machine
What all this portends for college sports, especially those which fans and the media pay attention to, is that behemoth schools like Florida (enrollment 50,912), Ohio State (51,818), and, to a lesser extent, Texas (49,738), can now shed the perception and the reality of being either a "basketball school" or a "football school." This is a new era in which collegiate athletic departments will attempt to compete with school's whose resources, alumni giving, and name ID far out pace their own. In an environment like this one, the ever-escalating attempt to compete with these Goliath programs will further send most athletic departments into financial insolvency. On their website, Florida admits that 70% of D1 schools are losing money on their sports programs. Losing money!?! That is a fascinating stat, when you consider that schools usually shell out a ridiculous amount of cash to compete with schools twice their size. In Baylor's case, we occupy a conference where the next smallest school, Nebraska, has 50% more undergraduate students than we do.
While our case is unique (the only private school in a conference full of flagship state universities), the point is that Nebraska and Oklahoma State, with enrollments in the low twenties, must compete with Texas and Texas A&M, with enrollments more than double that. While they have been doing just that for years, they now find that in both their main sport and their off-sport (OSU - football, NU - basketball), teams like UT and A&M are dominating them. There is just no way the rest of the nation can compete with these juggernaut programs and keep afloat financially.
VY: "Disney World Pales in Comparison to Rome-on-the-Colorado"
Florida vs Ohio State: Voter Intimidation, Recounts, and Eight Years of War
One of the strangest aspects of the Ohio State-Florida rematch for the national title is not that the same two schools have never played in the national title games in both basketball and football in the same year (that is plenty strange, though, and goes to proving my resources = dominance theory), but that the two states whose interests the schools serve by educating their citizenry were the same states which delivered the 2000 and 2004 elections to warrior-poet and commander-in-chief, George Dubya Bush.
This may be a coincidence, but win or lose on Monday night, the Decider owes a debt of gratitude to both schools and their alumni. While in Florida's case, he owes more to the Supreme Court than the actual voters, who may have elected Al Gore, Bush's illustrious presidential legacy hinged on these two states. Had either state gone blue in either election, we would be looking at the nightmare of a Gore or Kerry presidency instead of the Harry Truman 2.0 administration that we enjoy today. Thank God for voting irregularities!
Florida vs Ohio State: Suffer the Little Children
The final meaning of this historic matchup is that if a basketball coach, like That Matta, can bring in enough top recruits that would have gone pro were it not for Commissioner Stern's anti-free market 19 Year Old Rule, he can have a championship squad built in only one year's time. Fascinating. Rick Barnes also did an excellent job of capitalizing on this new rule, but didn't have quite the depth of Matta's squad. It's amazing to think that Conley and Oden are just freshman, but its also amazing to think that they're not endorsing million-dollar checks and swimming in NBA-quality poontang, instead of horny, pale, and white BuckeyeMeat. Yet, if Matta is successful, he will prove to Bobby Knight, and others, that the NBA's new rule isn't screwing over the NCAA, but just making it adapt quicker. The real challenge now, is convincing the Odens and Durants of the world, that staying another year is worth the deferred compensation.