It may be hard to believe, but it was five years ago today Nebraska made the decision to leave the comfortable surroundings of the Big 12 for the Big Ten. A lot has happened in the years since.
Looking back on everything that happened during the realignmageddon (I made that word up, and it fits well in this discussion) phase of college football, it is still crazy to think about how much changed. Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten was just one domino in the process that eventually led to expansion in every conference, the destruction of one in football and the near dismantling of another. It was a crazy time we all lived in, yet here we are to tell the stories of how it all went down.
The Big Ten became a conference with
12 14 members while the Big 12 managed to play with 10. Maryland and Rutgers are now Big Ten members alongside Nebraska.
The Pac-10 was on the verge of becoming the Pac-16, depending on how much you trust some of the reports at the time. But just days after Nebraska joined the Big Ten, Colorado was added to the Pac-10 as the 11th member.
The Big East was a temporary home to three members that never played a single game in the conference; Boise State, San Diego State and TCU. Meanwhile, the conference underwent a complete makeover by becoming the American Athletic Conference after the core of its basketball membership left and took the Big East banner with them.
Texas A&M and Missouri were expected to be nothing in the almighty SEC, but A&M benefitted as Johnny Manziel became a household name and the Tigers reached two straight SEC championship games in short time. It’s even more ironic because Missouri once attempted to take the lead in keeping the Big 12 together and rejected multiple SEC rumors before giving in and accepting their fate.
Florida State and Clemson to the Big 12 never panned out, nor West Virginia to the ACC or SEC. But the Mountaineers did claw their way out of the Big East and to the Big 12. UConn meanwhile, well, at least they have their new rivalry with UCF to look forward to.
The WAC, at least in football, was given an obituary courtesy of their regional neighbors from the Mountain West Conference, which managed to add and hold on to two BCS busters (Boise State and Hawaii — you forgot Hawaii played in a Sugar Bowl, didn’t you?) while losing two others (Utah and TCU). BYU also decided to celebrate its independence as a program as well after being left out of the power conference expansion phases in the west and southwest.
It was a crazy time for college football fans. The realignment era shook the traditional conference molds just about everywhere, tossing geographical ties by the wayside with traditional rivalries in pursuit of increasing television revenue. Many of these moves, quite literally, have paid off as new media deals continue to skyrocket and conference revenue shares continue to increase. Oh, and we got a College Football Playoff out of the whole thing too.
From time to time I will be asked when the next shift in realignment will happen. We may see some subtle changes at times, but the power conferences look to be settled and there is no need for any to expand. That includes the Big 12. But expansion should never be out of the question, and if realignment taught us anything it is simply that anything can happen.
There is always a domino to fall waiting to be lined up.