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The conundrum of conference realignment

If you've paid attention to college football's conference realignment headlines during the last two weeks, you probably have heard the following rumors:

Texas A&M to the SEC; Texas A&M back to the Big-12; Texas A&M actually to the SEC; Texas and Texas Tech to the PAC-12; Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the PAC-12; Texas and Texas Tech to the ACC; West Virginia to the ACC; West Virginia to the SEC; West Virginia to absolutely nowhere; Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC; Notre Dame and Penn State to the ACC; UConn and Rutgers to the ACC; Missouri to the SEC; A hybrid super-conference of the Big-12 and Big East remnants; a 22-team hybrid super-conference of the Mountain West and Conference USA; and BYU, Louisville, West Virginia and Cincinnati to the Big-12.

Some of the rumors turned out to be true. The rest? Not so much. But the realignment rumors all have one thing in common - nearly all of them are utterly ridiculous.

I'm not opposed to conference realignment. I'm not even opposed to colleges trying to make as much money as they possibly can. But what I am opposed to is stupidity. Texas to the ACC doesn't even begin to make a modicum of sense. It's laughable. Missouri to the SEC doesn't really make sense either - other than Blaine Gabbert, when's the last time you've heard of a single college football player who went to Missouri? Moving conferences because you can or because you think everybody else is doing it is a really bad idea.

There are legitimate reasons for realignment. Some schools don't really fit in the conferences they currently call home. Before the ACC added Syracuse and Pittsburgh, I'd argue that Boston College doesn't really fit with the rest of the conference. West Virginia in the Big East stopped making sense the minute Virginia Tech left. TCU doesn't really belong in the Big East, and the Horned Frogs should immediately start shopping for a new conference.

Similarly, some schools would be better fits in other conferences. The additions of Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the SEC would create the most powerful college football conference in the country. The conference could boast 10 of the last 13 national championship winners, and every single conference game would constitute a "must-watch" matchup. West Virginia probably does belong in the ACC geographically and football-wise, even if its academic reputation is less than stellar - and certainly is not helped by the school's "Mountain Man" mascot.

Conference realignment also brings us one step closer to the fleeting dream of every college football fan in America - a playoff that crowns the national champion. In two to three years, what's to stop the four, 16-team conferences that will matter in football - the ACC, SEC, Pac-12 and Big-10 - from simply saying no to the BCS, creating their own post-season tournament and splitting participation and revenues between the conferences? The answer is absolutely nothing.

Conference realignment could create such a college football utopia, but right now we're not seeing any of these positive benefits. All we're seeing is a bunch of grown men trying not to be the one left standing in a game of musical chairs involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

In this high-stress, high-stakes environment, the lemming-like mentality almost makes sense. At the end of the day, however, the academic and financial executives making the decisions on conference realignment are, paradoxically, self-interested pragmatists and professional speculators - both traits are practically in the job description. In their hands, conference realignment can be a positive force in college football - if they don't screw it up first.