|Geographical alignment is of no consequence, espeicially after TCU bolted to the Big East. (Getty Images)|
That's the (lack of) feeling right now. More than 14 months of chasing conference realignment has left us desensitized to the latest pin prick. Texas A&M to the SEC? Fine, good. It's just a flesh wound, doc. Sew it up quick. We've got a season to cover.
As for the future? Who is playing where and against whom is a moving target.
In the middle of a huge financial downturn, with foreclosures everywhere, college athletics resembles Casablanca. An unchecked micro-economy. There are no tuxedos or cognac, but everybody's getting paid -- either over or under the table.
There's a surreptitious plan to catch the next plane to ... somewhere else. Palms are getting greased. Powerful forces are lurking in the shadows. It's secretive. It's bold. It's daring.
It sounds familiar.
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"Don't you sometimes wonder if it's worth all this?"
That's Rick to Victor Laszlo in 1942, not Dan Beebe to the Big 12 board of directors Saturday.
Conference realignment obviously sucks if you've just gotten your media guides in the mail. I'm tempted to build a bonfire out of the "future schedules" pages because I can. They're basically worthless.
It's also incredible given that the folks responsible for this can't help themselves. They tried to hold back in 2010. Only five teams changed affiliations as the power brokers seemed to step back from the brink. Now, the brakes have worn through. Before Christmas, we might be headed full on into the age of the superconference.
Whether it happens in the next few days, weeks or months, it's obvious now it's going to happen, despite the SEC's decision Sunday to stand pat for now. Think of the BCS commissioners as mob bosses. They're not going to sit idly and by watch their turf invaded. In the board room they call it "losing traction in the marketplace." On the streets they call it "The Chicago Way."
Remember, we haven't even gotten to the point of those five schools playing a game yet in their new surroundings. Meanwhile, we've moved on -- already debating whether A&M should start in the SEC next season, in 2013 or at all.
It seemed like a done deal. Citing multiple sources, the Houston Chronicle said A&M intends to leave for the SEC, perhaps as soon as Sunday. But the SEC put the brakes on that notion -- temporarily, at least.
The Aggies will move to the SEC, unless -- of course -- they don't. That is exactly what happened last year when six Big 12 schools went to the 11th hour and the 59th minute before decided to stay put. It seems that no such brakes exist this time to slow the runaway realignment bus.
That's what makes these times so wacky. Anyone can write anything on the subject and not be wrong. Florida State to the SEC? Why not? Never mind that it would happen over the dead bodies of scores of Gators who would loathe sharing the state of Florida in the same conference.
While the dollar struggles against world currency, college sports rules the world. They are flush with unprecedented amounts of free-flowing cash. In the last quarter-century, college football has become by far and away the No. 2 sport in the country. The market has adjusted accordingly.
Those market forces have inexorably herded together as many of those football powers as possible into similar territories. HGTV has never seen such renovations. You've got to raze the old property before you raise the roof. Yes, the age of the superconference is upon us.
It looks like a 14-team SEC (at least) will soon become a reality. It's doubtful whether the Big Ten and Pac-12 are going to sit by idly and lose traction to the SEC in the marketplace. The once-weak Big East is talking openly about expansion and has a bright (meaning, rich) future. It's all about "inventory" and conference championship games and maybe a playoff.
And no one anywhere takes the next step until Oklahoma says so.
That's the "Chicago Way."
We should take this moment to recognize Juan Guerrero Burciaga for his role in all this. He was the New Mexico district court judge who decided 30 years ago that the NCAA was guilty of price fixing in televising college games. The Supreme Court eventually agreed.
That created the free market you see today. A direct line can be drawn from that anti-trust decision to teams seeking the most lucrative landing spot. That decision gave rise to everything from the BCS to conference networks to GameDay. We wanted more of it. The stakeholders gave it to us because we will pay.
Many of the same presidents who promised NCAA reform last week are ostensibly approving this messy overhaul. If Iowa State ends up in the Mountain West, who cares? Everything else is details. It matters little that the decisions by Nebraska and (possibly) A&M to leave the Big 12 were based largely on emotion. If there hadn't been $20-million-per-year landing strips readily available in new leagues, it would have been a lot harder to depart.
So away we go. Texas AD DeLoss Dodds is talking openly about getting Notre Dame for the Big 12. Arkansas too. If you're Texas, it never hurts to ask. Failing that, Air Force, Brigham Young and/or Houston are reportedly in play. The world is waiting to see where the SEC -- beyond College Station -- will expand.
The geographical seal was broken for me when the Big East landed TCU starting in 2012. It matters little that some schools will be making 1,000-mile road trips. The Big East needed stability and TCU needed a BCS conference. Till the next round of conference realignment do they part.
But we're past that. The Big 12 is (perhaps) as good as dead, long live the king (Mike Slive).
Fine, good. Whatever. Point is, the ground is shifting under our feet and it isn't as big a deal as it was even last year. It just is.
Nebraska no longer plays Oklahoma. TCU is headed to its fifth conference since 1995. The emotion over A&M leaving a century-old relationship with its Lone Star State brothers has passed. The debate now is suddenly whether the Aggies can even compete in the SEC.
They can, but that proves the point again. We have moved on. We're numb. Sew us up, doc. The season is approaching. The bleeding isn't going to stop anytime soon anyway.