As everyone knows by now, Colorado has agreed to leave the Big 12 conference in order to join the Pac-10. Although this was already somewhat expected, the news is still a bit shocking; this is the beginning of the Great Conference Realignment. It follows just a day after ESPN reportedthat Nebraska would soon announce its move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. If this does happen, perhaps it would make sense for the Big 12 and the Big Ten to temporarily swap names.
So this is it. Now that the pieces are actually in motion, it's very likely that a lot more is about to happen, causing excitement and/or fear across the college football nation.
I still don't know how I feel about these changes. On one hand, it is pretty exciting to see a possible huge difference in the CFB landscape. On the other, this unfamiliar territory could bring a lot of problems with it, and it will be very hard (if not impossible) to go back once things are done.
Now that the changes are happening and inevitable, I only have one request: CAN WE PLEASE KEEP THE CONFERENCES SEMI-REGIONAL?
First, I present you with this beautiful map that illustrates the regional conferences of yesteryear.
As you can see, the conferences have been quite regional for some time now: the Pac-10 with Pacific coast states, the Big 12 with southern/middle states, the Big Ten with the Midwest/Great Lakes area, the SEC with southeastern states, the ACC with states bordering the Atlantic Ocean, and the Big East with... eastern states. Although there are three conferences overlapping in the East, there's at least a general sense of regionality. (No I did not put enough black or yellow for the Big East and ACC. The purple states are non-Big-Six-Conference states.)
Now, here is a map with the moves of Colorado and Nebraska.
For regionality's sake, this isn't too bad at all. Sure, Colorado isn't a Pacific-bordering state, but they are the westernmost Big 12 state, and now the Pac-10 appears to be turning into the "western conference." Nebraska to the Big Ten makes even more regional sense, because Nebraska may be considered part of the Midwest, already borders the Big Ten states, and was the northernmost Big 12 state.
Some reports have the remaining Big 12 south powers (Texas and Oklahoma) moving to the SEC. This would be fine, although it would no longer be the "Southeastern Conference" but rather the "Southern Conference," regionally speaking. Also, any swapping between the SEC, ACC, and Big East don't really affect the regional argument.
But other reports have certain Big 12 schools (such as Texas) trying to get into the Big Ten, while others (like Oklahoma State) could go to the Pac-10. Now this is where it gets messed up. If Texas goes to the Big Ten, it will certainly no longer be a Midwestern conference. Plus, why would the state of Texas be so far away from the rest of its conference foes? And Oklahoma State to the Pac-10? Oklahoma certainly can't pass for being a "western" state, and would be very, very far from most other conference teams.
HERE is a map on Wikipedia that shows the Census Bureau's four regions of the U.S.: the South, the West, the Mid-West, and the Northeast. I feel like this should be a blueprint for how to keep conferences properly regional. The Pac-10, as a Western conference, shouldn't be adding any states east of Colorado. It will simply span way too much landmass in the U.S. Texas and Oklahoma, if going anywhere, would make most regional sense to join the SEC (but a conference name change would be in order). The Big 12 north states would be sent to the Big Ten. And then the rest could be decided from there.
HOWEVER, I'm wondering if it could be best for the remaining Big 12 teams to simply replace their losses by adding two teams. TCU is an obvious choice for a good program within the region that could be added. Unfortunately, this realignment isn't based on region, function, or what's best for college football. It's based on money. This is why I worry about the regionality staying intact, and how its dissolution could damage college football forever.