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NCAA Football Realignment: Good for Pac-10, Big Ten, Bad for Big-12, SEC

Say goodbye to the Big 12 as you knew it, because it’s about to join dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers as things that are extinct.

Conferences all around the college football world are in a mad scramble at the moment, mostly reacting to each other’s moves. The entire fiasco came as arguably the most clear-cut example of a domino effect as you will ever see in sports.

Now that the dust has begun to settle, and folks are stepping over the dead body of the Big 12, here is what we know for certain: Nebraska is now a part of the Big Ten, Colorado has joined the Pac-10 and Boise State is a freshman school in the Mountain West Conference.

On top of that, soon-to-be former Big 12 schools in Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will soon be headed to greener pastures as well. The latest rumors have them all going to the Pac-10, to create a 16-team “mega” conference.

Other rumors have Texas A&M bolting to the SEC. Though, this is thought to be unlikely because the SEC will not bring in Texas, and the two schools are considered a package deal.

In a recent statement, NCAA interim president Jim Isch had this to say:

“Much has been and will be written regarding conference realignment. Some "experts" have questioned where the NCAA is in this process. The answer is the NCAA is exactly where it should be—not directly in the discussion but standing ready to work with the conferences when realignment is finalized.

In reality there is neither historical precedent nor legislative authority for the NCAA to be involved in conference matters such as these. Realignment and conference expansion is solely between the individual institutions and the conferences. Over the last two decades there have been about 30 conference realignments and none involved direct discussions with the NCAA. However, we are closely monitoring the developments and potential impacts. By doing so we ensure the most appropriate and responsive support to our membership.

This same philosophy was exhibited in the last round of major conference movement seven years ago when Miami (Florida), Virginia Tech and Boston College left the Big East for the ACC and set off a chain of movement that affected four other conferences.

The NCAA's core mission — to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of higher education and to ensure the student-athlete is at the forefront of everything we do remains unchanged. We believe that is a mission shared with conferences and our member institutions. As the conference landscape unfolds in the near future, the NCAA will be an active partner with our member schools and conferences to ensure maximum participation and education opportunities and a fair playing field for more than 400,000 student-athletes who compete in NCAA sport.”

The best part of the statement is clearly the bit about NCAA’s core mission in the last paragraph. Of course, it’s all about the kids. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the millions in revenue the schools stand to gain with the TV and other media rights associated with big schools in big conferences.

There are a number of theories out there on what caused this massive conference realignment. Some – like Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel -- will point to the Big 12’s rejection of a four-team playoff that would have created a plus-one model. This system would have supposedly brought in hundreds of millions in additional revenue for college football, thus solving some of the monetary concerns that brought this whole ordeal on. At one point, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told Congress that a 16-team playoff could gross about $900 million, annually.

There are other theories out there on what caused the death of the Big 12, but they all revolve around the same central premise: money.

In college sports there are two major sources of revenue: television contracts and postseason.

With no real playoff system in place, the smaller BCS football conferences like the Big 12, Big East and ACC are limited to making their money off television contracts. Unfortunately, all the major broadcasting deals don’t belong to any of the aforementioned conferences the way they do with the Big 10 and Pac-10.

The second part of the college football revenue equation, the postseason, is very limited because of the BCS. The current BCS system generated about $220 million in gross revenue during the 2008-09 season. Profit-wise, the system only brought in $140 million due to the high cost of keeping bowl games up and running.

Essentially, the BCS has become a burden on a lot of schools. As a result of it, less than twenty schools break even yearly on athletics. In fact, most athletic departments need student fees or taxpayer funded university budgets to cover expenses. According to USA Today schools need more than $900 million combined to cover such expenses.

With that kin

d of money hanging in the balance, it’s clear why the conferences are in a mad scramble to put themselves in position to make the most money possible.

Unfortunately, there are a number of schools that may get left behind as a result of all the shuffling going on in college football. These schools include, but are not limited to: Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State, Louisville, West Virginia, South Florida, etc.

So what does all this mean?

Well, now for better or worse, fans will get something in the effect of 16-team mega-leagues. The people in charge will sell the move as one that will raise more money for facilities, staff and whatever else schools waste their money on. Critics will argue that if everyone is getting more money and everyone is making the same adjustments, then no one really benefits.

The Big Ten seems like the biggest quality winner of all with what has transpired because it finally gets its long-desired 12th team. This, in addition to the very successful Big Ten Network, makes Delany arguably the smartest person -- and most key figure -- in this whole realignment mess.

The Pac-10 seems to be the biggest quantity winner of the bunch considering it will ultimately end up with the most teams added.

Nebraska and Boise State also made off well, joining conferences that will allow them to get more money and more exposure. It will be interesting to see how both of these teams compete against much stiffer competition in their new conferences.

The real losers in all this -- besides the Big 12, obviously -- seem to be the fans. It will be fans who lose out on some of the truly great rivalries in college football as a result of the realignment. (Example: No more Nebraska vs. Colorado on the day after Thanksgiving.) It will be the fans who lose out on seeing some of their favorite teams playing in a conference where their teams matter (see Baylor), rather than a football factory of nothing but big-name programs with no room for the little dogs. It will be the fans who lose yet another reason to get a playoff in college football.

But the fans aren’t all that important to the head honchos at the universities. Nope, for them it’s all about the moneykids.


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