Who would have thought that this seismic shakeup would have started in the once-stodgy, old Big Ten? This is the conference of Bo and Woody and Joe Pa. It is the Three-Yards-And-A-Cloud-Of-Dust Conference.
The Big Ten used to stand for Midwest sensibilities and conservative policies.
Who would have thought that the Big Ten, the home of Red Grange and Dick Butkus, would have extended the invitation to Nebraska that would have set off this chain of events that will forever alter the look and feel of college athletics?
But that’s what happened in this most dramatic week in the history of college sports and maybe in the history of athletics, period.
Nothing happens this quickly in sports, especially college sports. But these changes are coming as suddenly as a 7.8 tremor.
Where to begin?
Do we start with the altered landscape of the once-pristine Pac-10? Or do we start with the fall of the once-mighty Trojans? Do we try to imagine where all the dominoes will fall? Or how many years it will take for USC to rise again?
It’s been a truly remarkable, breathtakingly sudden 48 hours for college sports. And the aftershocks could last for weeks.
Perhaps the biggest winner is Pac-10 football. For all of USC’s success and its national championships, the rest of the Pac-10 always has seemed like an afterthought to the rest of the country.
Its importance for the national television networks was somewhere far below other conferences like the Big 12 and Southeastern.
But the conference formerly known as the Pac-10 added former Big 12 school Colorado on Thursday and is expected to annex Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. It will become a two-division, 16-team superheavyweight.
The afterthought conference will become a superconference, arguably the most muscular conference ever.
As a sports fan, this is great news. It means the conference, whatever its name (The Enormous 16? Pac-Southwest Conference? The West of the Mississippi Coalition Conference? The Survival of the Fittest Conference?), will bring new life to West Coast sports.
It means the Pac-10 finally will have a conference football championship, and that site could alternate between the Rose Bowl and Jerry Jones’ new Dallas Glitter Palace.
Fact is, the conference had to do something. If it had done nothing, it quickly could have become irrelevant. It would have felt even more isolated than it already was.
Now we can look forward to mega-games for Washington against Texas and Oklahoma. It means more national television exposure and more sports cred.
It will help recruiting at both Washington and Washington State. This news is so big, even Pullman looks more metropolitan.
The big time in the Northwest just got bigger and, although bigger isn’t always better, in this case it is.
This is college sports in the 21st century. Universities need an influx of money to keep programs alive. These mega-moves will channel more television money into the West. That’s not greed. That’s good economics.
This new, huge conference could mean an additional $20 million to each school. Imagine what Washington State could do with $20 million.