NCAA Conference Realignment: Phase One Couldn't Have Gone Better

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IJune 15, 2010

LINCOLN, NE  - JUNE 11:  Big Ten Conference Commissioner James Delany (C), flanked by (L) University of Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osbourne and Chancellor Harvey Pearlman (R) inform members of the media that the university has accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten Conference  June 11, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The university will begin integration immediately and start athletic competition as soon as 2011. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Right now, college football couldn't be more backwards. Nebraska is in the Big Ten, Colorado is in the Pac-10, and Texas controls a conference. The Big Ten has 12 teams, the Big 12 has ten teams, and the Pac-10 has 11 teams.

And odd as it may seem, the entire college football world is breathing a sigh of relief. The current backwardness of the sport is minimal compared to the damage the sport could have suffered.

If the "experts" on every national sports site were right, college football would have four 16-team megaconferences.

The Big 12 and the Big East would cease to exist, Texas would play half its games in the Pacific Time Zone, and Notre Dame would (gasp) be a part of a conference. Boise State would have even less of a chance to play for a National Championship, and the Kansas Jayhawks--the proudest program in college basketball history--would not play in a BCS conference.

While this scary image of college football could still become a reality, it seems that the sport has dodged a major bullet--for now.

And in the current scenario every side is happy--well, at least satisfied-- with the result.

The biggest fear with expansion is that some major programs--mainly Kansas State, Kansas, Missouri, Baylor, and Iowa State-- would be without a conference home.

Not only would this put a significant financial dent in each of these programs, but it would also hurt the academics and other sports in each school.

And after numerous cries for help, their prayers were answered, as Texas agreed to stay in the Big 12 (minus two).

Each of the "leftover" schools did agree to give their buyout portions from Colorado and Nebraska to the top tier teams (Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M) in their conference. But that financial loss is only a fraction of what they would have otherwise suffered.

So not only are the "leftover" teams happy, but Texas is as well. The Longhorns wanted to keep the Big 12 together all along, and now basically control the conference.

And that detail of the "deal to save the Big 12" proves that Nebraska made the right decision.

The Cornhuskers were tired of being Texas's little brother in the Big 12 and needed to go somewhere that would respect their history and tradition--somewhere that would also reflect that appreciation with an equal paycheck.

And as pointed out by Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, the Big 12 could not offer adequate financial support or stability.

Nebraska's fellow departing team--Colorado--couldn't be more ecstatic. The Buffaloes fit better in the Pac-10 than the Big 12 and finally got a chance to move.

The Pac-10 may be the only "loser" in this scenario after not landing Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, or Oklahoma State, but at least they are one step closer to 12, the magic number of teams needed to hold a championship game.

But let's not forget the biggest player in conference expansion--the Big Ten. While this certainly wasn't the situation that commissioner Jim Delany had in mind even a month ago, his conference was able to make its "home run" addition without destroying college football as we know it.

Sure, Nebraska isn't Notre Dame or Texas, but the Cornhuskers fit perfectly into the Big Ten academically, athletically, and geographically.

It would be naive to think that the Big Ten is finished. After all, Delany--who rarely talks about his conference plans--stated that the league will go back to its original timetable of 12 to 18 months (set last December) to discuss further expansion.

Some obvious candidates include Rutgers, Missouri, Syracuse, Maryland, and Notre Dame, which proves that college football's status quo is far from safe.

If the Big Ten decides to steal Rutgers and Syracuse, the Big East could collapse. And if Delany decides to invite Missouri, Texas and its followers could leave for the Pac-10, destroying the Big 12 as quickly as it was saved.

But as we've seen from the last round of expansion, guessing who will end up where is pointless. In 6 to 12 more months, we'll know for sure.

But for now, the college football world can relax. Backwards as it may be, the sport has survived the first phase of expansion better than anyone involved could have ever imagined.