Late last week the Big 12 Conference, once considered to be the ultimate super conference, took its last breath.
With Nebraska waving goodbye to tradition by officially bolting to the Big Ten, the Big 12 won't be able to pick up the pieces.
As Yeats famously said, "things fall apart, the center cannot hold."
The Cornhuskers have left the building and will possibly bring independent Notre Dame with them into the Big Ten.
Like a shark smelling blood on a wounded prey, the Pac-10 jumped into the fray by landing Colorado last Thursday. The conference will also extend invitations to Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.
If all of them accept, it will create a real super conference—the Pac-16.
The Pac-16 will include an Eastern Division featuring the six newcomers along with Arizona and Arizona State. The Western Division will have the original Pac-8 schools: UCLA, USC, California, Stanford, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, and Oregon State.
Pretty impressive to say the least.
Not to be outdone, the SEC reportedly may pursue Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M.
The Big 12 could stay together and try to add two teams, but if Texas leaves, and it's looking more and more like it will, the conference is toast.
The Big Ten is making tons of money, but the idea of a 12-or-14-team conference with all the glitz, glamor, and mega-bucks of a championship game appealed to everyone in the conference.
Expansion has been on their minds for quite some time.
With Nebraska in the fold, the Big Ten gets one of the all-time great football schools, and hopes to put the pressure on Notre Dame to swallow its pride and join.
Despite its TV contract with NBC, Notre Dame will eventually cave and join the Big Ten. It has to.
This isn't the Fighting Irish of the past. Its muscle and clout are at their lowest. It'll have no choice but to align itself with a major conference as soon as possible.
All of this is happening because of one overriding reason—money, or the lack thereof, for the Big 12 programs.
With the Big Ten and SEC creating their own TV networks, the revenues generated have been astounding.
The Big Ten schools made about $20 million each last season from television revenue alone. The SEC made around $17.5 million per institution.
Compare those figures with the $7 million-$8 million each school in the Big 12 received last year, and the reason why the conference will be no more after 2010 is pretty clear.
Coaches and athletic directors may try to dress it up, but it's all about the money.
The Pac-10 understands this and made the move to expand so it could get more revenue from TV contracts.
Now the conference can have a championship game, which will bring top dollar. In addition the soon-to-be Pac-12 or Pac-16 cable channel is in the works.
If the conference loses out on gaining the four Big 12 schools, look for it to offer an invite to Utah, creating a 12-team league.
Other so-called power conferences like the ACC and the Big East should be afraid, very afraid. What's to stop the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-10 from going after their teams too?
The Big East in particular is vulnerable.
West Virginia and Pittsburgh would be very attractive to the Big Ten if it decides to expand to 16 teams.
Another interesting topic of discussion is where Kansas and Kansas State will end up should the Big 12 crumble. Everyone is looking at the conference shakeups from just a football standpoint, but what about college basketball?
The Jayhawks are a legit basketball powerhouse, and the Wildcats are on the verge of being a national power. What conference will step up and make a play for them?
The landscape of college football is changing drastically. With so much money on the line and recruiting being so dog-eat-dog, the raiding of conferences is just beginning.
No one is safe. Money talks, and schools and conferences will follow the greenbacks.
A case in point is Memphis, a long-time hoops power with not much going for it in other sports.
Fred Smith, CEO of Fed Ex, is offering $10 million a year to any major conference that lets the Tigers join. His son, Chase, plays on the Memphis football team.
Forget about earning it through on the field play like Boise State. Heck no, we'll buy our way into a power conference.
For better or worse, this is the future not only of college football, but of all collegiate athletics.
Welcome to the era of the super conferences, where only those with money and prestige, but mostly money, need apply.
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