After a tumultuous May and June in the college conference landscape, things seem to have settled into a "we can deal with this for a few more years" but all is not really settled on the conference realignment front. Someone might think that the fuse is shorter than a "few years" but remember that we will be but a few months away from the 2012 Presidential Primaries before Nebraska plays a down as a member of the Big 10. Are more teams going to shift in the next 6-9 months? Doubt it. Maybe this time next year, which again means 2+ years before the next wave of teams plays a down in a new conference.
So as someone who values preservation of history, I was more than distraught at thinking the future of college football was going to be huge conferences that seldom played other teams in it, etc. To me it was ironic that 16 team Pac 10 or Big 10 were the same size as two already existing conferences. The AFC and NFC. Let me tell you, do you think the Miami Dolphins feel like they are in the same "conference" as the Houston Texans? Or the 49ers and Buccaneers? I mean they're loosely affiliated, may play every 4 years, etc. But not really like college football conferences. Purdue and Minnesota. UCLA and Washington. Ole Miss and South Carolina. I purposely picked non-rivals, but I love games like those where there are familiarity regionally and historically. People have been surmising...how about the Texas Tech vs. Iowa Rose Bowl? Nebraska vs. Utah? No, we think of USC/Ohio State, Washington/Michigan. It's like people want a large conference, so long as these foreigners don't win anything. Really, if things had gone another way, I could have seen Texas or OU playing Nebraska in the Rose about 5 years out of every 10.
What's interesting in this is that the ten team Big 12 thinks they may be onto something. I'm not fooling myself for a minute that their arrangement is permanent, but worth exploring. With headliners like Texas and OU making up 20% of the conference with fewer mouths to feed, I don't know. If you think about it, how would a two team conference with just Texas and OU do? They played 8 games against each other, every one worthy of TV, etc. Obviously being facetious, but quality over quantity needs to be discussed. The SEC has that in spades, there's 8 teams that have a heavy national influence (sorry Vandy, UK, Ole Miss, MSU). If they rid themselves of those teams, what would they lose? Any TV appeal? No. The other 8 would play each other every year (hello UF/Ala, UT/LSU, UGA/Ark, SCar/Aub) that seldom happen anymore. Room for 5 OOC games, fewer UK/Ala, Vandy/UF, MSU/UGA games that seldom work out interesting.
The 12 team barrier is a tough one to break, because you enter the realm of playing teams from the other division less than 50%. Meaning once a graduating class. If the Big 10 gets their wet dream and takes Notre Dame, Texas, Pitt, and Rutgers, you get 16 teams. Now if you play 8 conference games a year, you only get one out of division. Two if you play 9 teams. So suddenly old Big 10 rivals play no more (not the big ones, but the Purdue/Iowa, Penn State/Wisconsin, etc.). Or play once every 8 years. At best once ever four. Instead you get Nebraska vs. Indiana, Texas vs. Minnesota, Ohio State vs. Pitt and suddenly it doesn't feel like the Big 10 anymore.
Is that what's best, or is TV revenue best? I just ask the questions.