Senior College Football Columnist

Wake me up when this realignment nightmare is over

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Did 2010 ever end?

Modern Family is running away with the Emmys. The economy stinks. The weather is worse. Those stupid 50s-era hats are still in, making every poser on a college campus look like Cary Grant in cargo shorts.

OK, Nancy Grace is now Dancing with the Stars. That's new and different and a horrible image for anyone.

But right now in conference realignment, please tell me what's changed from 2010? The Pac-10 Gallon Hat has not formed because Texas won't give up its lifetime annuity in the Longhorn Network. The Oklahoma president is still running his mouth. Missouri still has options. The Big East continues to look over its shoulder.

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That essentially was where things stood last summer when all of five schools changed affiliations. So far, officially, only two have found new homes for 2012, TCU and Texas A&M. And we're not totally sure about the Aggies.

It's not over by a long shot, which is unfortunate for those of us who actually like watching football. But the timing of the Pac-Dozen's not-so-bold announcement to stick at 12 and not double down on Texas and Oklahoma was less surprising than the timing of it. This is something the conference could have said two weeks, or even a month, ago. This is something it could have done earlier Tuesday when some of us were awake.

Yeah, Texas won't budge on the LHN deal. But it made it a lot easier for the Pac-12 presidents to vote them off Balboa Island (near Newport Beach, in the conference's footprint) when OU and UT started acting like a couple of middle schoolers.

In my view, the Sooners and Longhorns -- two icons of college athletics -- just quibbled and bitched and demanded their way out of an invite to the (currently) richest conference in the country. For now. Nothing is over in this dope opera until Jim Delany says it is. If OU and Texas can somehow jettison Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in this deal, the Pac-12 presidents (especially those at California and Stanford) might start raising eyebrows.

But, for now, those presidents are more than happy with contracts that could pay each school $30 million per year in the near future. Who needs the struttin' Sooners and the loutish Longhorns to muck up a nice, cozy, lucrative deal? Their alternative right now is to go back to their Jersey Shore of a conference where a former special prosecutor at a small but powerful private firm in central Texas is standing by to accept your personal-injury cases.

All Baylor president Ken Starr needs is an 800 number.

Meanwhile, in the Sooner State, whoever writes David Boren's speeches needs to mix in a thesaurus and some perspective. One day he's insulting and joking about the Big 12 on his way out the door after getting permission from the OU regents to bolt. The next day, Oklahoma's president is saying his school has wanted to stay all along in the Big, Large, Quivering, Mass of Shivering 12.

Here, he said, were his demands: Dan Beebe must go. Major reforms must be implemented. Only red and white M&Ms in the lockerroom on every road trip.

OK, I made up that last one. Ozzy Osbourne would be proud. But admit it, you bought it for a second. That's how wild this stuff has become.

Might as well give Boren a shoe to bang on the table. If he had a battalion of tanks they'd be rolling on Irving, Texas, (site of the Big 12 office) right now. It's about posturing and saving face and looking good. Boren just hasn't gone to the same finishing school as Texas AD DeLoss Dodds.

Breaking news, ya'll: Beebe is gone anyway. Either the Big 12 breaks apart or it stays together. The conference is getting a new commissioner just because. It doesn't really need a reason, but reasonable people can agree that perhaps Beebe's standing with the league overall is on shaky ground.

You already see suggestions about classy OU AD Joe Castiglione and equally classy BCS administrator Bill Hancock taking over for Beebe. Speaking as a long time observer of this tortured league, I would not sentence those two gentlemen to such torment.

Either way, Oklahoma/Texas come out looking like powerful powerbrokers with lots of power. Just don't forget how powerful they are. Compare that to the restrained composure of Big East commissioner John Marinatto. All he's done is gather himself and his conference after another raid and retrench.

By the end of the week (or day), a reconstituted Big East could contain Navy and Air Force. Meanwhile, word got out about the SEC's interest in Missouri. No need to get too excited. Tigers everywhere were so jacked last year about joining the Big Ten, they didn't check to see if the Big Ten actually wanted them. It didn't.

Now the institution that produced Sheryl Crow and Brad Pitt could soon be rubbing elbows in the SEC with some real stars -- Mississippi State and Kentucky. That's not fair. Having Alabama, Tennessee, Georgiaand Florida come to Columbia sure beats draws like Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Iowa State.

The SEC won't admit that it is interested in Missouri, of course, but that's a minor detail. Every one of us who write about this stuff is becoming a stuck clock. If we hang around long enough, once every 24 hours, we're right. And if we're not, who cares about the color of M&Ms anyway?

How it all might end up:

Big 12: Missouri has a life-altering decision to make with the SEC. Let's forget about the semantics of the SEC's interest. It wants Missouri. If it doesn't get Missouri, it will swallow hard and take West Virginia.

But Mizzou has markets (Kansas City, St. Louis) and bumps up on three SEC states. It has to consider being a middle-of-the-road program in the SEC instead of a sometimes better-than-middle-of-the-road program in the Big 12.

Best guess: Mizzou goes to the SEC. It can't turn down a lifetime of security. With no current offer from the Pac-12, OU and Texas make a go of it with eight teams. Then a decision is made on whether to go to 10 or 12. Figure on Brigham Young getting an invite for sure. TCU will have to make a decision whether to stay "home" in Texas or go ahead with the Big East. Houston may be a player too.

SEC: Missouri/West Virginia makes it a nice tidy 14 and the SEC stays at that number with Texas A&M. Auburn reportedly is fine with moving to the East Division to accommodate Mizzou and A&M in the West.

Big East: Brett McMurphy has been all over it. Whether the league loses Connecticut and Rutgers or not, the Big East will go forward. The addition of Navy and Air Force would be genius. Both have competitive football programs. Both are national brands that would draw anywhere they play. Also, it keeps Congress off the backs of college football and the BCS. How can you argue cartel when two service academies have access to BCS bowls?

Big Ten: Nothing for now. Delany is waiting for Notre Dame to be pushed to him if everyone else goes to 16-team conferences. That doesn't look like it's going to happen this time. Until yesterday, I thought Delany had a blockbuster deal up his sleeve like Notre Dame and Texas.

ACC: Remember that big deal with ESPN that doubled the ACC's rights intake in July? It's about to go up. John Swofford is going to leverage the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to claim that the ACC has the entire Eastern seaboard, including New York. That's worth a lot more than $1.86 billion over 12 years.

Pac-12: It's real simple. Texas is going to have to give up something substantial to come aboard. Unless it does, the league stays as is. Oh, and while you're at it, someone stick that shoe in Boren's mouth.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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