CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

East is West and up is down in college conference realignments

For example, Georgia State is now in the Sun Belt, moving up from the FCS.

The prominent schools receive more ESPN crawl space. Maryland (ACC) and Rutgers (Big East) are moving to the 14-team Big Ten. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving the Big East for the ACC. Louisville is leaving the Big East for the ACC.

The Mountain West is picking up Utah State and San Jose State from the soon-to-be-defunct WAC.

But did you know Louisiana Tech is moving from the WAC to Conference USA?

The question of why all of this has happened was most honestly answered by college football TV consultant Kevin O'Malley.

"Greed was involved," he said. "Panic was involved."

And then his kicker: "None of this had to happen."

College football's history is a Gordian Knot of bowl ties and conflicting interests.

The short story is the Supreme Court, in 1984, ruled the NCAA was a monopoly by rigidly controlling college football's television rights.

Justice Byron White, in the dissenting opinion, presciently foresaw what would happen if an "every school for itself" approach were allowed for contract bargaining.

They didn't call him "Whizzer" for nothing.

The Supreme Court ruling turned every league into an independent contractor and the money immediately flooded to its most popular brands.

Notre Dame got its own network deal without once being asked what its record was going to be.

College football became the polar opposite of the NFL, which uses a form of revenue-sharing to keep its weakest teams strong.

College's game turned into Gordon Gekko's "Wall Street," a combination of Darwinism and cannibalism.

"Conferences became sporting properties, not governing bodies," said Karl Benson, who left the sinking WAC last year to become commissioner of the Sun Belt. "The economics changed."

The almighty, capitalist, football-crazed SEC opened a shiny green revenue stream in 1992 by splitting into divisions and staging a title game.

Leagues began negotiating money deals at the time college football's popularity (and ratings) started to soar.

There was no central command to monitor activities — no SEC to regulate the SEC.

Competitiveness among conference leaders started to mirror on-field rivalries like the "Iron Bowl."

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