It has been a while since the Big 12 has been able to bargain from a position of strength.
Those days are now over after Friday's announcement of a new bowl alliance between the almost-twice dead conference and the SEC. Now the Big 12 has joined the Southeastern Conference, the Big 10 and the PAC 12 as the power brokers of college football.
Give total credit to then-interim commissioner Chuck Neinas for convincing league athletic directors and presidents that the "Champions Bowl" concept was a good one for a conference that had one foot in the grave because of its inability to be proactive and ahead of the curve—a place that now the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East find themselves in.
The "Southern Rose Bowl" as it's being called, with its stand-alone television deal and bidding out of sites like Cowboys Stadium, the Superdome or Georgia Dome, has helped draw a line of demarcation between conferences in the ever-fluid world of college football. Join one of the solid four conferences that were previously mentioned or become an afterthought in the new BCS age that begins in 2014.
Football programs like Notre Dame, Boise State, BYU and Florida State now have major decisions to make in regard to where they want to call home.
The days of being an independent for the Fighting Irish and Cougars are over. Gone are the automatic qualifier conferences and along with that most likely Notre Dame's negotiated spot in the BCS. Television dollars drive everything these days and the Notre Dame contract with NBC expires in 2015.
With the newly-formed NBC Sports Network, it's hard to image that the folks in New York wouldn't want some of what ESPN, FOX and CBS currently enjoy with conference ties. Brigham Young's schedule struggles in 2011 magnified the mistake that they made going it alone especially as the newest form of the Bowl Championship Series will be AQ-free.
The Big 12 will expand to 12 teams. Which college football team would bring the most prestige?
In the same manner, Boise State no longer has to join the Big East in order to see a lucrative postseason. The Broncos would fit nicely in the Big 12 North. Join the Broncos with new member West Virginia and a resurgent Kansas State Wildcat program, and suddenly the North becomes as attractive as its brother to the South.
Florida State's situation is an interesting one. The Seminoles are disenchanted with the current ACC television deal and rumors are flying about a possible move along with fellow conference members Virginia Tech and Clemson. The latter two would be great fits for the SEC if they wanted to expand to 16-teams. For the Noles' to have an opportunity in the upcoming version of the BCS, television and a solid conference are essential.
For once, the Big 12 is in the driver's seat—well, at least sitting shotgun—alongside its new best friend, the SEC.