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Conference Realignment: Winners and Losers

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Though the radical transformation some had predicted for college football has not panned out, the FBS will indeed have a vastly different look by 2011. The Pac-10 and Big Ten are now 12-team leagues, the Big 12 has been reduced to 10 and the Mountain West swapped one headliner for another.

So, while the smoke may not be completely clear and we probably haven't seen the last chess piece moved, a crazy couple of weeks in college football have come to a chapter-break, with some conferences getting stronger and others, not so much so.

ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION

The Big 12 could very well be the top winner in this thing, as the conference sees Colorado and Nebraska depart to the Pac-10 and Big Ten, respectively. A 10-team league does not meet the current criteria set forth by the NCAA for a conference championship (12 required), but the remaining teams aren't overly concerned with that. The conference was on the brink of collapse with the Pac-10 trying to lure Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to the West Coast. However, when the Longhorns recently negotiated the sweetest of deals to stay put, the others followed suit. Now, the Big 12 may actually be stronger. The league champion will have one fewer hurdle to clear toward a BCS title, and the 10 remaining teams will all get bigger pieces of the pie in terms of revenue, with Texas of course, taking home more than the others. You won't see the other nine remaining schools complaining about that, though.

Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe certainly agrees with the positive assessments.

"There were lots of people around the country wanting the Big 12 to stay together as a 10-team conference," Beebe said. "I'm grateful for their help and support. We've landed in a good place, not just for the Big 12, but for all collegiate athletics, in my opinion."

The key is the television deals that are on the horizon, something Beebe obviously used as a dangling carrot for the remaining schools.

"As far as the future, we have received extremely strong verification, based on our analysis with our consultants and others, and media companies themselves, that we are in a tremendous position to execute future agreements that will put our member institutions on par with any in the country."

MEGA-CONFERENCE ON THE HORIZON?

The Pac-10 almost pulled it off. The conference attempted to make the boldest of moves and cripple the Big 12, while in turn becoming the premier conference in major college sports. The new look Pac-16 would have dominated the college landscape and created a domino effect for other conferences, with a number of schools seeking a more stable situation. Of course, that didn't pan out, with Texas and company turning down a proposal to abandon the Big 12 and form what would have been a conference like no other. The Pac-10 however, settled for the addition of Colorado and Utah.

Commissioner Larry Scott had to be disappointed with Texas' decision to stay put, but on a happy public front regarding the direction the Pac-10 is heading.

"We are excited about the future of the Pac-10 Conference and we will continue to evaluate future expansion opportunities under the guidelines previously set forth by our Presidents and Chancellors," Scott said in a statement.

The Pac-10 is now eligible for a championship game and the financial windfall that comes with it. While Scott may not have been able to orchestrate the move that would have sent shockwaves throughout college football, he certainly isn't going to give up on the idea of strengthening the league. For now, the Pac-10 will settle for adding the Buffaloes and Utes to the conference, hoping to increase national media awareness for a sometimes-overlooked conference.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Like the Pac-10, the Big Ten is now a 12-team league, but is it a better conference with the addition of Nebraska? I'm not sure the Cornhuskers were the conference's first choice. Notre Dame would have been the best option, but the Irish have continually decided against it. Big East teams like Rutgers, Syracuse or Pittsburgh might have made some sense, if the league wished to strengthen its media-market position in the east. However, it is Nebraska that is in the mix.

Don't get me wrong, seeing the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions and Wolverines making the trek to Lincoln in the fall on a regular basis will be fun, and a future Big Ten Championship game will also be enjoyable, but the Big Ten needs to continue to move forward with expansion, before the Pac-10 and others beat it to the punch.

LATERAL MOVE

The Mountain West made a huge move last week, adding Boise State to the conference and in turn becoming a 10-team league. The Broncos have steadily earned national recognition, having won their share of football games and national attention. They will begin this upcoming football season ranked in the top-five and have a real chance to play for the BCS title.

MWC Commissioner Craig Thompson was ecstatic about the addition.

"We are pleased and excited to welcome Boise State University to the Mountain West Conference," said Thompson in a statement. "Since our inception just 11 short years ago, the Mountain West has experienced tremendous success, and the addition of Boise State will further enhance that strength. The MWC continues to strategize regarding potential membership scenarios and bringing Boise State into the Conference is an important part of that evolution."

However, with good news comes bad, and the euphoria felt with the addition of Boise State has recently been tempered by the loss of Utah, which has left for the greener pastures of the Pac-10. Much like the Broncos, the Utes have helped carry the banner (in football) for non-BCS schools everywhere.

With the loss of Utah, the Mountain West is now no better off than before the addition of Boise State, and the elimination of BYU-Utah as a conference rivalry has to sting quite a bit as well.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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