In the 1950's, rumors of a new, untarnished vacation paradise in California began to emerge. Celebrities demanded access and always-heady opportunists began seeing dollars signs between every sand dune. Vacationing on the Salton Sea was, as one visitor put it, the bee's knees. Soon the area was a flourishing hot spot for tourists, fishermen and retirees alike.
It's just too bad that no one took the time to realize that throughout its history the Salton Sea had been volatile, unpredictable, and even more dumbfounding – temporary. Today, the area is mostly abandoned, a dwindling ghost town on the edge of the water. The water is so salty that all the fish have died – the area so putrid that most won't go near it.
So, it's not without some trepidation that we should be so excited about leaving the Sun Belt conference (as fast as possible!) as some have put it.
I had a discussion with a knowledgeable sports enthusiast earlier today who makes the convincing argument that Boise would not be… well, Boise, had they been in say the Mountain West Conference. Part, if not most, of the allure of that small school from Idaho was their unbelievable record and string of undefeated seasons.
So when you look at the situation where a school like FIU or North Texas is clamoring to leave for CUSA, you have to be willing to forego the obvious and ask the questions that really matter. Like, how do Realtor's sell their offices without causing confusion, and how does moving to conference USA help Florida International?
In believing that this move is good for a team like North Texas, you will have to believe that they will be able to accomplish something that thus far schools like Houston and Rice haven't been able to do, at least not consistently.
Only a few months ago, Florida International was being discussed as a legitimate team on the verge of breaking into the Top 25. This was based on a fantastic start and winning several games consecutively.
Imagine a situation a few years from now where Arkansas State upsets a BCS team in their one money game, and runs the table through the rest of their 11 SunBelt and OOC games. Now imagine in that same year, FIU has a better football team but loses 2 games to Southern Miss and ECU. Which team gets more credit and positive publicity in that situation?
The point of all this being, the Sun Belt has continually made strides in terms of respect and genuine improvement in the quality of talent produced and results on the field. When you look at the current layout of the conference, the similarities between it and the WAC of several years ago is obvious.
In the world of college football, the most important thing is and always has been winning. The best way to improve your image, make new fans and convince potential recruits is winning, and Boise has shown that the fastest way to gain notoriety for your program has nothing to do with which conference you're in.
For Arkansas State, it appears that the most efficient way to build the program is to win as many games as possible, and try to find a way to establish a Boise-esque dynasty. At the same time, it's even more beneficial to continue to promote the image of the conference, and one way you do that is with stability and commitment.
And as we move forward, be mindful of the cost and payout of the decisions that are made.
Sometimes the grass really is greener, but sometimes you end up owning a business on the banks of a salty, deserted ocean.
PUBLISHER NOTE: Patrick O'Connor is a long time ASU follower and will be contributing a weekly column to AStateNation.com.