The reports come daily now — the Big Ten wants Texas, the Pac-10 wants someone times two, and, in sum, college sports sits on the brink of another expansion era.
Get used to it, old-schoolers.
Welcome to the major story line of the next 12 months.
"People have the right to move," Mike Tranghese said by phone Thursday morning. "As a conference, you can't prevent a school from leaving. If a school wants to leave, it's going to leave."
Tranghese worked at the epicenter of the last expansion era. Its highlights revolved around the Big East Conference he ran as commissioner. Three schools, including charter member Boston College, bailed for the ACC; five came aboard from Conference USA.
Tranghese is out of the game now but senses, like so many still active in college sports administration, that college sports could soon look much different.
In a world with Louisville in the Big East and Louisiana Tech in the Western Athletic Conference, geography is irrelevant. Recent history shows the important buzzwords are "football" and "dollars"—"academic profile" hasn't influenced a decision since 1989, when Penn State agreed to join the Big Ten.
And the notion that a cluster of schools could break from the NCAA to form a thriving, lucrative athletic group that hoarded television dollars and attention remains unrealistic to a man that, until last summer, ran one of the six most powerful entities in college football.
"I was a commissioner for 19 years, and I didn't spend one second of time talking about withdrawing from the NCAA," Tranghese said. "There wasn't any talk, not at the conference commissioner level. I never heard any of it."
These tenets set some parameters for how things might spill out. Don't bank on a complete overhaul, but don't rule out any wacky individual moves (this means you, Bevo).
This much is also known — to prepare for next year's television negotiations, the Pac-10 likely will move first. Here's the breakdown of who fits and who doesn't in a potential Pac-12 (or, as some of the Internet literati have dubbed it for marketing purposes, the 12-Pac):
Colorado: The Buffs have pondered the Pac-10 before — in 1994, the CU Board of Regents voted 6-3 to join the Big 12 instead of the Pac-10, a Colorado spokesman confirmed Thursday. The school would bring the valuable Denver television market, and the move would help CU recruit California.
Utah: A mix of location, amenities and on-field success make the Utes the most valuable realignment commodity not already in a BCS conference. The BCS bowl automatic qualifying spot, plus another connection to a large West Coast alumni base, would lure Utah.
Texas: News that the Big Ten has inquired about the Longhorns means the Pac-10 should, too. Like Colorado, UT administrators looked West before joining the Big 12. Landing Texas would make the Pac-10 the second-highest profile league in college football.
Mountain West fallback: There's a chance one of the three schools above will join, which could open the way for a smaller school to complete the 12-Pac. Colorado State could deliver some of Denver if the Buffs stay put. UNLV fits on some levels but not others. Watch for New Mexico as a sleeper (Surprise! Albuquerque is a larger TV market than New Orleans).
Boise State: There are no Statue of Liberty plays or fourth-quarter fake punts in the world of facilities. BSU's football success and blue turf don't cancel the lack of facilities and earnings potential in the middle of Idaho. The business of college football means the Broncos don't fit.
BYU: Lots to like on the field, as well, and the Cougars could sell a fervent fan base plus a role as travel partner for Utah. But assuming the Utes are in, BYU doesn't bring a new TV market. A possibility, but many questions exist.
Hawaii: Again, there's not enough value from adding the Warriors. Travel costs would skyrocket, and Honolulu's television market sits between Green Bay-Appleton and Des Moines (thanks to our friends at Nielsen Media Research). UH's athletic program remains in financial shambles, as well.
California schools: These are the uninvited guests to the discussion — Fresno State, San Diego State, San Jose State. Each school meets few, if any, of the important criteria. No new television sets, nothing that makes ESPN drool, no prestige on the field. Good luck with the trickle-down, guys.
The Fighting Irish have a promising future based on coaching, current talent, recruiting, title path, and program power.
CFT: Johnny Manziel nearly transferred out of Texas A&M before the 2012 season after being suspended, according to reports, but he stayed after his successful appeal.
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