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Freud: Welcome to the new world of the NCAA football

The official announcement that the University of Colorado has joined the Pac-10 was made at the football stadium with the campus and foothills in the background at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo., on Friday, June 11, 2010. Speaking at the podium is Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano, with him on the stage are Athletic Director Mike Bohn, left, Larry Scott, Pac-10 Commissioner, University President Bruce Benson and CU Regent Steve Bosley. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
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On behalf of the region known as the West Coast, I’d like to welcome ye denizens of The Centennial State to the ever-burgeoning Pac-10.As an orientation exercise when the sun sets tonight, look toward the fiery orb and you know where 10 of your new conference foes are located.Honestly, the thought of the Buffs heading to the Pac-10 is not new. The Pac has had an eye on CU for more than 20 years – in the past with BYU and later on with Utah. But the rapidity and scale of the this week’s events in college conference realignment is stunning.With the Big Ten courting Nebraska to make its ranks actually 12, the magic number for a conference championship game and the accompanying gobs of money, the Pac-10 and Colorado saw the writing on the wall. (Buffs fans, if you don’t like this new arrangement and want someone to blame, it’s Nebraska, which should come easily.)CU jumped to the now-Pac 11 Thursday, while Nebraska all but joined the mathematically-challenged Big Ten Friday, leaving the old Big 12 at 10 teams, no football championship game and on the verge of oblivion.On Tuesday, by all reports, the Big 12 will cease to exist when five of the conference’s southern teams Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State jump to the soon-to-be Pac-16.Yes, welcome to the Surf and Turf Conference, the Yuppies and Rednecks League, the bud and Bud circuit. And despite these polar opposites, this is a fantastic thing for all-involved. The current Pac-10 gets the respect it has been so thoroughly-lacking under the BCS system – contrary to the current set-up which does not believe that college football is played west of Lincoln, Nebraska. The ensuing scramble to create four super-conferences of the Pac-16, the Big Ten (which will likely end up with lots more), the SEC, and some form of the ACC pushes us closer to a pseudo-playoff system. And as an added bonus, CU will benefit from it all.Remain calm, CUTo CU fans’ first concern, shut up. You don’t have a rivalry with Nebraska, so you’re not losing anything when the Huskers bolt to the Big Ten/New Big 12? CU-Nebraska was only a rivalry when Bill McCartney said so and when television created it with the advent of the Big 12. Nebraska leads this series 48-18-2, and 10 of those Buffs’ wins came by 1960 or before. Eight wins in nearly fifty years does not a rivalry make.Seriously, if Nebraska is going to play one of their old rivals from the Big 8 or 12 days as a new nonconference game, it’s going to be Oklahoma, not CU. Little more tradition there.The key rivalries will continue in the Pac-16, as opposed to the way the old Big 12 essentially destroyed Nebraska and Oklahoma. All the Pac-10 natural rivalries live on as does The Lone Star Showdown (Texas-A&M), Bedlam (Oklahoma-Oklahoma State) and Red River (Texas-OU). For CU, your conference games will have a familiar look. You’ll still play Texas, A&M, Tech, OU, Oklahoma State – but every year – along with Arizona and Arizona State. And then every four years, you’ll play two each from the original Pac 8 teams. Think about it – USC at Folsom. Better yet, UCLA and Rick Neuheisel in Boulder. Seriously, West Coast exposure is better for recruiting than playing Iowa State, Kansas, K-State and Missouri. (And the only reason you are lamenting the loss of these four schools is not tradition, but that you’ve been able to beat them.) CU gets to play better teams in better locales and that’s better for the program in the long run.Heck, CU’s first real road game this year – after Colorado State at Invesco – just happens to be at Cal. Consider it practice, though Cal will win.History lessonTo everyone else’s concern, I can hear it already from the fans of six new Big 12 schools. “The Pac-16 Eastern Division (the sextet and Arizona and Arizona State) will be the meat of the new conference and Texas and/or OU will win every year, especially after USC got dope-slapped by the NCAA this week.”How quickly people forget. When the Big 8 became the Big 12 in the mid-1990s, the old Southwestern Conference teams – Texas, A&M, Tech and Baylor – seemingly all had been touched by NCAA sanction in one form or another – directly or by association with said league. (Read SMU’s death penalty.) Oklahoma and Texas were down and everyone thought that the winner of the Northern Division in this new conference – Nebraska, CU and Kansas State – were going to be the de facto champions.That sort of changed, didn’t it?Everything goes in cycles, people. USC likely will suffer in the wake of the Reggie Bush/Pete Carroll debacle, and not be at powerhouse status in 2012 when the Pac-16 starts. But this isn’t the first time SC has had NCAA issues and each time the Trojans come back badder than ever.In the meantime, Big 12 fans and the rest of the country might realize there are some good teams in the current Pac-10. Every year, schools like Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Cal pop up, Just ask USC, which has seen its BCS chances go down at the hands of Oregon State and Stanford the last few years.And don’t forget that while USC (38 titles, dating back to Pacific Coast Conference days) is certainly the big dog in Pac-10 football, Washington (14) and UCLA (17) are traditional powers and will rise again. The Pac-10 is a great conference and only getting better with the new Big 12 six.This is going to be marquee football from the conference opener to the Pac-16 title game rotating annually through the Rose Bowl, University of Phoenix Stadium and Cowboys Stadium. Pretty cool to imagine, huh?More shoes fallThe dissolution of the Big 12 and the emergence of the Pac-16 and the Big Ten-and-Growing is only the beginning, peeps. It’s hard to see the Big-Mathematically-Challenged Conference staying at 12 with so many attractive teams out there.First, there is Notre Dame, which was and remains the league’s first choice for expansion dating back to the Penn State days in 1990. Whatever Big Ten officials say, the door is always open to the Irish. (Honestly, the Pac-16, the SEC or the 3A Western Slope would take Notre Dame without condition.)The reason the Irish will finally accept the natural fit in the Midwest eventually is that even with its NBC contract, lowly Indiana, better known for hoops than the gridiron, gets more money from television from the Big Ten Network. Money talks and Notre Dame will walk.Since the Big 13, hypothetically with Notre Dame, is just a silly number, the conference can pick anywhere from 3-5 more teams. So let’s build a league, shall we? Missouri seems logical, despite the way its stock has been falling. But look for the rest of the eventually-Big 16 to go east.How about Pitt, Boston College and some combination of Connecticut and Rutgers? There are kinks with the Big East and ACC, but the Big Ten/16 goes from Lincoln to the Northeast in some form.Now a lot of this will depend on how the SEC, ACC and Big East respond. The SEC started this 20-something years ago by snagging Arkansas from the old Southwest Conference and bringing in South Carolina. The SEC is the original super conference and still the king of college football.But sitting pat is losing ground when everyone else is adding teams. It’s not if, but where for the SEC. Does it double-down on the southeast by bringing in the likes of Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech and some combo of Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and so on? (This would be cool. All Florida-Florida-State-Miami games become SEC contests, not to mention Georgia-Georgia Tech.)Then what do the Big East and ACC do? Do these conferences raid each other? Do they fight the SEC for the South or the Big-10-and-Counting for the Northeast?The big get biggerWhile the Pac-10 becomes the Pac 16 Tuesday and the current Big Ten will likely start inviting teams after that, most of the rest of college football realignment will occur gradually over the next five years. Remember the NCAA has a BCS contract with ESPN through 2014.But look for the current Pac 10, Big Ten, SEC and some form of the ACC to emerge as super-conferences of up to 20 teams.My bet is that the SEC eventually eats up Miami, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Virginia Tech for example. The ACC probably keeps Boston College away from the Big Ten and pillages everything else from the Big East. The Big Ten will make inroads in the Northeast with Syracuse and UConn and also take an East Carolina and/or Texas Christian or the like, while the Pac-16 becomes the Pac 20 with Hawaii, BYU, Utah and Boise State eventually. (Please, no whining about geography. It’s already messy with Pac-10 in Texas and the Big Ten ranging from Nebraska to Pennsylvania.)That leaves the Big East as a nominal football conference, but a big basketball league with football stragglers like Kansas and Kansas State and so on. Eventually, 80 of 120 teams of the Football Bowl Subdivision (aka Division I-A) will be under this umbrella, which will represent most of the schools who have a shot at what we know as the mythical national championship.No complaining about the small schools. Big-time college football has always been unfair to the little guy and all about big business. But it does bring us closer to a true playoff with all the true major players in the running. With the four super conferences, their title games in December serve as a de facto first round of the playoffs.Their champions can play each other in a rotating system of the current BCS bowls with at-large teams (again mostly The Big Four) filling out the other major bowls. The winners of the bowls between the conference champs play in as close to a true national championship game as we ever will get. In the meantime, Buffs fans, get used to looking at the sunset.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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