An extra helping of Thanksgiving week’s best sports links

With college football rivalry games on the slate this weekend, The Wall Street Journal‘s Matthew Futterman takes a long look at a signature event that’s threatened by continuing realignment, conference championship games and, starting in 2014, a four-team playoff for the national title.

As of this season’s there’s no more Texas-Texas A & M game, nor a Kansas-Missouri game. Saturday’s clash involving Notre Dame and USC is notable only in that the Irish are ranked No. 1 for the first time in nearly two decades. Futterman writes that while “rivalry games are selling tools,” the larger national imprint for enticing regional matchups is making increasing and unrelenting demands:

“Given all that passion, one might think college football would do everything to preserve it. But the theme of big-time sports the past quarter century is that more is better, especially when it comes to television money. The new TV contract for the football playoff is likely to be worth as much as $7 billion during the next decade.

“The test of whether that investment is worthwhile will be if the regional passion can continue to evolve into national obsession. The traditional rivalries clearly have their enduring appeal. But the tide appears to be turning. Population growth and the growing popularity of football, especially among young African-American children, have fostered a boom in talent. Now there are enough good players to build quality teams at Florida and Alabama, but also at Boise State and Kansas State, the season’s biggest surprise.”

Read more: “The Battle for the Soul of College Football”

The addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten sent off shock waves throughout the college athletic world, and prompted some sharp, white-hot commentary right off the bat. Dana O’Neil of

“The NCAA will have you believe that runners and agents are the most insidious cancer in the game today, that the notion that athletes are on the take has disenchanted the fan base to the point of no return.

“The NCAA is wrong.

“The commissioners are the ones on the proverbial take and everyone knows it.”

Read more: “Do caretakers of college sports care?”

Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports drives down to the level of the athletic directors at the two schools to lay the biggest blame:

“Two largely underachieving, financially irresponsible athletic programs are parlaying their geographic proximity to major metropolitan areas into membership in the Big Ten. They’ve done very little on the field of competition to deserve it. But that’s not what drives conference affiliation these days.

“College Sports, Inc., is no meritocracy.

“Rutgers and Maryland might as well be the airline and automotive industries. They’re losing money left and right, but because they have inherent value (thanks to their TV markets of New York, Washington D.C. and Baltimore), here comes the institutional bailout.”

Read more: “Maryland, Rutgers cash in on their incompetence with move to Big Ten”

At Sports on Earth, Patrick Hruby lights into the NCAA in the wake of the Shabazz Muhammad “investigation” and likens its enforcement of amateurism to the War on Drugs:

“If all of the above seems unfair . . . well, that’s because it is. In college sports, justice isn’t blind; it’s a blind, trembling man throwing darts in a pitch-black room, hoping to strike a coveted recruit getting a free pair of shoes, or maybe a star player receiving a cash-stuffed envelope from an overzealous friend of the program. And things can never be otherwise. Not so long as the NCAA continues to promote and defend a false ideal rooted in ersatz morality; an unworkable mandate that makes no practical sense; a corrupting system that turns legitimate, well-meaning oversight (specifically, looking out for the safety and welfare of campus athletes) into a risible, dispiriting wabbit hunt, an endless, unwinnable war against both human nature and basic economics.”

Read more: “It’s past time for the NCAA to put an end to amateurism”

Unless you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan, it’s hard not to like Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who had an outstanding Turkey Day game on Thursday. At The Washington Times, Rich Campbell explores the qualities the reigning Heisman Trophy winner inherited from his father:

“Robert Jr. met his son’s desire with a commitment just as deep.

“He would go to the library and watch videos of great quarterbacks. He studied Dan Marino’s quick release, Ken Stabler’s scrambling ability, Joe Montana’s poise and John Elway’s strength — to name a few — and contrasted what he saw with videos the family shot of Robert III’s games and practices.

“When he took over the local AAU track and field program when Robert III was 12, he taught himself the mechanics of field events. He studied how Olympic gold medalist hurdlers Edwin Moses and Allen Johnson ran and jumped. Father and son analyzed the video, always striving for that perfect amalgamation of skills.”

Read more: “RG3’s traits passed down from father”

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