Conference Chaos Becomes Conference Calm

After weeks of speculation, potential deal-making and rumor mongering it now appears that the radical reorganization of major college football will turn out to be, as Mr. Shakespeare put it, much ado about nothing. And no one is quite sure how that happened.

The real mystery in this is where did Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe find all that money he promised to Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma to keep them from bolting to the Pac-10 and/or SEC? Did Fox pony up so it can remain a player in major college football? Is it just wishful thinking?

Whatever happened, he keeps the big dogs in his conference, for now. At least one school seems pretty pleased with how it turned out.

"The decision to stay in the Big 12 represents a consensus position which resulted from a collaborative effort with our colleagues in the conference," Oklahoma president David L. Boren and vice president and director of athletics Joe Castiglione said in a joint statement. "We value the strong working relationship that has been reaffirmed during this process among the conference members. We intend to work very hard to make the conference as lasting and dynamic as possible. We appreciate the respect and interest that has been shown to OU during this process."

The big winner in all of this is Beebe who appeared to be losing his league just 48 hours ago. The other big winners are Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State who would have been homeless. Missouri probably would have ended up in a Big Ten mega conference, but the others would have probably been in the MWC, WAC or Conference USA.

Somehow I get the idea that we haven't heard the final word on this. And I think there are a number of scenarios, factors and individuals that could put the "mega-conference" issue back on the table.

Jim Delany ---- The Big Ten Commissioner is now back in the driver's seat. He is the one person with the interest, influence and desire to create a mega-conference. His move to acquire Nebraska allows the Big Ten to make plans for a football championship game, but what if he keeps adding? Many Big Ten schools wanted growth to the East where huge TV markets await and nothing has happened to preclude that from taking place. If he makes a move to poach two or three schools from the Big East it's game on all over again.

Learn to count ---- Many in and out of the sports world often lament the dumbing down of America and now major institutions of higher learning are continuing that trend. The Big Ten, which has not been able to count for years, now has 12 members. The Big 12 ironically is down to 10 and the Pac-10 includes 11 schools. Some serious re-naming needs to take place and the sooner it does the better. A suggestion, don't use numbers.

Hello Utah ---- With the Pac-10 at 11 teams they are one shy of what they need to have scheduling balance and the right to create a championship game. Utah makes the most sense since it creates an instant, natural rivalry with Colorado and brings a healthy sized TV market (Salt Lake City No. 31) to the league. That move would hurt the Mountain West Conference which looked poised to qualify for a BCS automatic bid after adding Boise State.

Memphis Blues ---- Fed Ex Chairman Fred Smith has at least $10 million a year he's ready to spend with a BCS conference that adds the Memphis Tigers to their membership. That much cash, plus adding the No. 50 TV market might be enticing, but other than the Pac-10 (1 team) and the Big Ten (??) who is looking for newcomers?

Big 12 Title Game ---- It was just 11 days ago that the Big 12 announced that its next three football championship games would be held in Dallas in Jerry Jones' new football palace. Well after 2011 the league will no longer have the right to hold such an event. The league can just drop the game, but it has two other options. One would be to try and find two teams to replace Colorado and Nebraska but who? TCU and Houston don't bring much to their table and would make the league too Texas-centric. Poaching Arkansas from the SEC and Memphis might be their only chance. Additionally the league could sponsor legislation through the NCAA that would allow any conference to have a title game regardless of size.

SEC Options ---- Conference commissioner Mike Slive stayed above the fray while all this was swirling about yet effectively let it be known what schools interested the SEC (Texas A&M, Virginia Tech) and which ones did not (FSU, Miami, Georgia Tech and Clemson). The league could still consider growing by two schools, but would Memphis and Virginia Tech bring another $40 Million in TV $$$? I'd say it's doubtful. Most likely the SEC will remain where it is, unless of course Jim Delany goes nuts.


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