CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- New Southern Mississippi football Coach Todd Monken probably earned himself some friends among his Conference USA coaching brethren for some tough words at media day.
He had heard the talk of a so-called "Division 4" for NCAA football -- where the teams in the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 would split off from the rest of what was the Football Bowl Subdivision -- that gained steam last week. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby fired the loudest shot across the bow when he said the power conferences could consider breaking their teams away from the pack.
Monken, who just spent two seasons as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator before coming to Hattiesburg, said the big boys could go off on their own if they wanted. Just don't come running back to C-USA, the Sun Belt or any of the smaller conferences to schedule games.
"Go ahead and do your deal -- you guys split all the pie -- but don't go playing anyone else," Monken said in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "You just play each other every week. Just have a nice NFL crossover where you play each other. Then when you fire up a nice 7-5, and you're at a pretty good place and they fire you, they won't be real excited about it, because you won't have those games that they've been able to win. Plain and simple."
"Some of those teams that get bowl eligible when they go 2-6 in their league and they go 6-6. Well, you'll be 2-10, or 3-9, and it won't feel so damn salty."
Monken has a pretty good point with that last statement. Nine teams from major conferences made bowl games last season at 6-6 (or, in ACC title game loser Georgia Tech's case, 6-7). Only the Yellow Jackets in that group played those bowl games with a winning conference record, and they even survived a loss to the Sun Belt's Middle Tennessee State. Seven of the nine had losing conference records, including Minnesota's sterling 2-6 Big Ten run.
So the Golden Gophers' postseason hopes hinged on wins versus UNLV and Western Michigan. The same goes with Michigan State and its wins over Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan. And Ole Miss and its wins over UTEP and Tulane. Without feasting on the smaller fish of college football, several big timers would have stayed home for the holidays.
Now some pundits wonder why the major programs haven't broken off already. They claim, just as Bowlsby did, that "Northern Iowa and Texas aren't much alike," and say the NCAA should do more for the power football conferences. And maybe that means leaving the smaller teams in the dust.
You know, like Boise State.
It's a single example, but that Idaho outpost has, since 2006, beaten Oklahoma, Oregon (twice), Oregon State (twice), Georgia and Virginia Tech. There are some "Power Five" teams who would kill to have a List of the Vanquished like that. Now the Broncos of the Mountain West are in the annual conversation of teams maybe not in the national title conversation, but in perennial top 25 talk.