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2010 Conference Realignment Analysis

Armageddon Averted: The Big 12 Survives

Late Monday, Pac 10 Commissioner Larry Scott announced that Texas had decided to rebuff his conferences’ invitation to join. Immediately after, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M declared that they too would remain in the Big 12 and help transform it into a ten team conference. Once the dust had settled, only Colorado (Pac 10) and Nebraska (Big 10) ended up leaving the conference and, perhaps surprisingly, the landscape of college football remained largely unchanged. Major conference realignment was not to be -- at least not in 2010.

As late as Sunday, the prospects for the Big 12’s continued existence looked bleak. Texas was said to be favoring a compelling Pac 10 proposal for a large TV deal and their three closest followers were said to be following. However, through the influence of a number of powerful individuals, groups, and interests (a number of them remaining anonymous) the Longhorns quite suddenly performed an about face and opted to retain the status quo.

Beyond the inevitable questions and conspiracy theories about how it actually occurred, this turn of events should be viewed as a major victory for both college football as a whole and the SEC in particular. It is a victory for all of college football because it effectively prevented the formation of a behemoth Pac 16 that would have come dominate the top echelon of the sport. Moreover, the existence of a Pac 16 would have pushed the other two top leagues (the Big 10 and SEC) to expand further and eventually resulted in three power conferences that would have completely controlled the sport. We would have lost the beauty and uniqueness of the various regional brands of college football we enjoy so much today. This is discussed more at the comments to current state of college football.

The so-called "mid-majors" would have ceased to have been a factor and even powerful programs like Kansas and Missouri would have ceased to have been a factor. Ultimately, it would have been bad for college football as a whole. Thankfully, however, that has all been averted; ultimately the defections of Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado and Utah to the Pac-10 do little to fundamentally alter the college football landscape.

Moreover, it is a major victory for the SEC. Of all the top conferences, the SEC arguably had the most to lose from a Pac 16 since such a behemoth group would have challenged its position as the top conference in college football. Furthermore, it saw its traditional no-conference rivalries with top Big 12 teams maintained. All in all, the preservation of the status quo represented a victory for both the SEC (which remains King of the Hill in the college football world) and for college football as well.

Sometimes change is good but in this case - Armageddon averted.

Thanks to Paul Grossinger for this conference realignment analysis.

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