When Nebraska and Colorado announced that they'd be departing the Big 12 last week, the prognosis for the conference looked quite grim. And the prognosis for college football as a whole was unclear, as it looked like the era of traditional conferences was coming to an end amid 16-team megadivisions bent on dominating the entire sport.
Looks can be deceiving, however, and the whole thing proved to be much ado about nothing. Texas, Oklahoma and the remaining members of the Big 12 decided to pass on offers from other leagues and stay in the now 10-team conference. The deciding factor in their choice to stay put was the same thing that made it seem inevitable that they'd be departing: money. Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M will now make more money than their conference brethren, especially Texas, and that's a wise choice by the rest of a league that wouldn't have survived without them.
The Big East and ACC are safe for now. The Big Ten got its championship game but now has an unwieldy league that will have road trips of more than 1,000 miles whenever Nebraska and Penn State square off. The Big 12 is now Texas and nine other schools. Every league has its top dog but never has their been a situation where a league is more beholden to one member. The Pac-10 changed and may change more but, ultimately, it is neither a better league nor will it be a more competitive one. USC, despite their punishment for the Reggie Bush affair, is still unchallenged at the top of the heap.
None of that, in and of itself, is all that bad. Keeping the status quo is nothing to be ashamed of when the status quo has been working pretty well for most of these people for quite a long time now. The uncertainty of the reshaped world was a bit unsettling and college football is comfort food that we've all grown accustomed to consuming in a very specific way.
This limited shuffling of the deck does nothing to make future seismic shifts impossible. It simply means that this will always be in the back of everyone's minds since we now know that the big conferences are more than willing to go to 16 teams when the opportunity should arise. It's sort of like the basketball side's decision to go from 65 to 68 teams in the tournament. It's less drastic than the gargantuan 96 team proposal but the larger shift is still on the table and it's still obvious that that's what the powers that be want to do.
If there was one thing that demolishing the entire college football world had going for it, it was the fact that the BCS wouldn't survive the implosion and we'd finally have the playoff that the sport needs. Now we've got all these minor changes that serve to weaken geographical and tradtional ties with absolutely no payoff for anyone who isn't a college president.
Like we said, nothing's really changed.