conference realignment, PAC 12 implosion
(Mike Allen)

In the summer time, the temperatures may heat up, and college athletics may cool down — unless we’re talking about conference realignment.

This past week, the never-ending carousel of universities swapping their athletic allegiances has rocked the sports world again, with several major programs shifting around and essentially imploding one of the Power Five leagues.

The Big 12, with its shockingly aggressive approach, welcomed Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah this past Friday evening, just days after poaching Colorado (back) from the Pac 12. Not to be outdone, the forever-misnamed Big 10, one year after landing USC and UCLA, snatched up Oregon and Washington, bringing their total number of members to 18. So if you’re keeping track, that leaves the Pac 12 with four teams as of now — California, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State — which effectively makes it not much of a conference moving forward.

As for local ties, these moves directly affect the Oklahoma State Cowboys, competitively and potentially monetarily. Although the it may lack a traditional “blue blood” program in its ranks, the Big 12 is positioning itself solidly as the third most powerful conference. This will affect current and future television contracts, which is what this game of musical chairs is all about in the end. (Did you think it was about academics?) The SEC, for all its might, has stayed on the sideline this go-round, so there isn’t presently much change for the OU Sooners.

College sports are astonishing, and perhaps unique in the sports world, in how quickly things can change, with seismic shifts at that. In the last handful of years, we’ve seen rule changes authorizing name image likeness payments (NIL), as well as a change in how often a player can transfer schools and how quickly they are able to play afterward. Add onto that an expanded football playoff coming in 2024, and you have a very different landscape in a short amount of time. It’s truly head spinning when you think about it, and the rumblings are that there is plenty more to come. An apt phrase might be “Get your popcorn ready,” or at least a cup of tea.

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