In the children's game of musical chairs, the big loser is the kid who can't find a seat when the music stops.
In college football's game of musical chairs, the big loser is probably
Or, in the expanded game, toss in
After years of pillaging, plundering and back-stabbing — some of it during the season! — one of college football's most distasteful chapters is happily ending.
Conference realignment, which dirtied up an entire decade starting with the
The irony: It took the league that started it to stop it.
The ACC, which somewhat recklessly set off the dominoes when it frontally attacked the Big East, found itself vulnerable after it completed its redesign by adding
Last year, though, the ACC effectively stopped this nonsense by getting its members to consent to a "Grant of Rights" agreement. This means any school that leaves the ACC between now and 2026-27 must surrender all its television rights back to the league.
This is simply not ... going ... to ... happen.
Call this positive news the calm in a summer of storms.
There was a heavy price to pay for some, but the final contortions are almost complete.
The divide between the 65 schools in the Power Five conferences and everyone else, which existed before even if some didn't want to believe it, has now been officially ratified.
If you didn't find a home before the music stopped, you got left behind.
How the shakedown shook out:
— The ACC finally completes its alignment box set by adding Louisville this year. The Cardinals bailed just in time as the Big East dismantled and reformed as a lesser union called the
The ACC is set with its 14-school alignment, championship game, and protected place in the new College Football Playoff.
— The Big Ten's gurgling stops after adding Maryland from the ACC and
Maryland and Rutgers join the more difficult East division, which includes
This is not Tom Harmon's Big Ten. Michigan's home schedule this year "features" Appalachian State, Miami (Ohio),
The question is whether any football game at the Big House this year tops the 109,318 who attended an August soccer exhibition featuring
— The Big 12 is, well, what it is, stuck at 10 teams after the midnight exodus of
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby admits his league is "numerically challenged," but also happy just to be alive. The upside: His league's playing of a nine-game, round-robin schedule should produce the truest champion among the top leagues.
"I like our path to the championship," Bowlsby said of the new four-team playoff. "I think the fact we play everybody in our league is a nuance that is not going to be lost on the selection committee."
The downside for Power Five continuity is the Big 12 does not have enough schools to divide into leagues and play a championship game. The NCAA requires two divisions of at least six schools. Bowlsby would like to get a waiver from the NCAA to at least explore the possibility of playing a title game with only 10 teams.
It makes sense the Big 12 might eventually add two schools to match the number on its masthead. Connecticut, Cincinnati and Central Florida might want to see that happen.
The cutthroat expansion game left a clear-cut list of winners and losers:
Loser: Brigham Young? We could be wrong here, but the Cougars' decision to go independent in football could be a reach in the playoff era.
Winners: Texas Christian, Utah, Rutgers. The first two escaped the
Rutgers, really, is Big Ten worthy? And they said pigs would fly first.
Loser: Connecticut (also Cincinnati, Central Florida). The Huskies are a former Big East football program that got boxed out, mainly because of politics and foot-dragging, from following Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC. Connecticut played in a
American Athletic Commissioner Mike Aresco, at this summer's media day, vowed to keep fighting for his league's place in the new universe. The American conference is propped up now by Cincinnati, Connecticut,
Aresco said, "We will not take a back seat to anyone" and then quoted Abraham Lincoln, "Some see opportunity in every obstacle, while others see obstacles in every opportunity."
Good luck with all that.
Winner: Chris Petersen. One of the nation's top coaches jumped from Boise State just in time and caught a lifeboat to
Loser: Boise State. The Broncos had an incredible run in a BCS system that was stacked against schools from mid-major conferences. In 2010, in fact, Boise State came within a missed field goal at
Boise and San Diego State tried to make a football run for the Big East, but were forced back to the Mountain West after the Big East collapsed.
Gone, seemingly, are days when schools such as Boise will make national charges by defeating two power-league teams in nonconference and then running roughshod through the Western Athletic or Mountain West.
Not only will the selection committee have a more discerning eye toward conference strength, the old-school contenders are already beefing up their future schedules against other power-league schools.
One of the questions asked in a recent ESPN survey of coaches was whether schools from power leagues should even play schools from the non-power leagues.
Petersen checked the box for "no."
He later backtracked and said that's not what he meant.