By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
With the latest round of conference realignment appearing to be over for at least now, it's time to reflect a bit on the situation.
The many "winners and losers" columns are being written around the country.
But who was to blame?
Hundreds of individuals are to blame for the greatest conference shake-up in history. College presidents, coaches, conference commissioners and so on.
There are seven, however, who stand out above the pack.
6. ACC - The ACC is a forgotten player in this thing. That's mostly to the fact they've become a forgotten player in football, though their conference is pretty solid this year. Years ago, they stole Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East conference. This year, they took Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East. They've been quiet raids, but raids nonetheless. Anytime a conference takes four teams in little over a decade, that's not a good sign. There have also been rumors of both Notre Dame and Penn State joining the conference, though I doubt Penn State would be invited to any conference considering the little situation going on there.
5. The Big 10/Pac 12/Rose Bowl alliance and partnership - The Rose Bowl is one of the biggest reasons why the BCS is in existence. The Rose Bowl's partnership with the Big 10 and Pac 12 - two conferences primarily involved in conference realignment - makes me wonder how much they've been pulling behind the scenes. Anytime you add a Nebraska and it's massive fan base to a Rose Bowl pool of teams, that's a big winner. These two conferences are always linked because of the Rose Bowl and one wonders.
4. David Boren, Oklahoma president - With Texas A&M appearing on its way out, the Big 12 was looking for a way to maintain a 10-team conference. Rumors of BYU joining the conference were plentiful this summer. There's always been talk of a merger between the Big 12 North schools and the Big East football schools. Despite that, it appeared the Big 12 would survive. Then, for whatever reason, Boren pulls a Jay Nixon and openly flirts with the Pac 12. From there, the Pac 16 rumors gained steam in early September. According to Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, this was the incident that prompted Missouri to go conference hunting.
2. Notre Dame football - Part of me has always believed this conference realignment adventure was a method of forcing Notre Dame to join a conference. For years and years, Notre Dame has remained independent and reaped the benefits of a contract with NBC. Had Notre Dame joined the Big 10 in football years ago or even the Big East, I would bet much of this drama would not exist. I would bet the Big 10's power-play last summer was about Notre Dame, not Nebraska or Missouri. However, Notre Dame refused and Nebraska did not. Nebraska leaving opened the door for Colorado to bail on the Big 12 and later A&M and Missouri.
1. The NCAA - The NCAA is supposed to be this grand body of power that helps "keep athletic departments straight." They enforce rules. They can give the death penalty to programs that deserve it. They regulate athletic activities. If realignment was really so bad and was a threat to history, why did the NCAA just sit on the sidelines? Why didn't they step in at some point or realize that realignment could hurt the fans, players and customers of college athletics? The NCAA could have easily stopped realignment if they wanted to. If they can crack down on programs for allowing players to stay in mansions, it would have been easy for any kind of leadership to limit realignment.