It appears rumors of the Big 12's demise were greatly exaggerated. (And yes, I was guilty of heeding those rumors.) Thanks to a last-minute push by the embattled conference's commissioner, Dan Beebe, and a lucrative media deal, Texas opted to remain in the Big 12 for the long haul. The Longhorns were the lynchpin of conference realignment, and now that they've chosen to stay put, the nine remaining Big 12 schools aren't going anywhere.
So for now, at least, the Great Conference Shakeup of 2010 is over. Nebraska's still going to the Big 10 in 2011, Colorado is on its way to the Pac-10 sometime in the next two years, and Boise State will play in the Mountain West starting this fall. But that's it.
The last-minute about face has created some new winners and losers, including one of the most underrated schools in college athletics.
From a bottom-line perspective, no school emerged from the conference chaos in a better position than the Longhorns. Not only did Texas receive assurances that Fox Sports would increase its future payout to the conference from $20 million a year to at least $130 million a year—which gets distributed unevenly to the Big 12's schools, with Texas getting the most—it kept its own media rights. For a school that could easily develop its own TV network, this deal is a win-win. As for the athletes, they may rest easier knowing they won't have multiple West coast road trips a year
No conference wants an odd number of teams—it's a logistical nightmare the Big 10 finally woke up from by adding Nebraska. Having lost out on the five Big 12 schools that as recently as Monday were heading to the Pac-10, the conference is now in the unenviable position of fielding an 11-team league. Commissioner Larry Scott will surely look to raid the Mountain West or Pacific Coast Conference and add a 12th school, and it may still happen this year. In the meantime, the man who last week said, "This is the dawning of a new day for the Pac-10" is left with more than a little egg on his face.
Possible Future Winner:
The Utes, who are reportedly at the top of the Pac-10's list, are one of the few mid-majors that consistently excel in both football and basketball. No other school outside of the six major conferences can boast of a BCS bowl victory and a Final Four appearance in the last 15 years. Fans of college rivalries would bemoan the loss of the annual Utah-BYU showdown, but financially and practically, a move to the Pac-10 makes sense for the Utes.