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September 15, 2011 8:52 am

SPORTS GUY: Here we go, again

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The college football landscape is changing. Again. Still.

There was a brief window of time where it appeared everything had settled down this off-season. Nebraska to the Big Ten. Colorado to the PAC-12. TCU to the Big East. BYU out the door to independence and Nevada and Fresno State into the Mountain West. That was supposed to be the end of the drama.

Then Texas A&M had to go and stop the music. Suddenly everyone is scrambling for the closest empty chair once again.

It’s anyone’s guess what ultimately will happen. The speculation changes almost daily, but most national pundits are in agreement that the Big 12 — that San Andreas Fault of college conferences — will be fortunate to survive in any form vaguely resembling its present make-up.

Texas A&M is a dropped litigation threat away from joining the SEC. Oklahoma reportedly rebuffed a weekend attempt by Texas at keeping the band together and has its sights set westward. T. Boone Pickens has voiced a desire to see Oklahoma State in the PAC-12 — when billionaires talk, university coffers listen.

Meanwhile, those 1.2 million red-clad Nebraskans preparing to invade Laramie next week are trying hard to not laugh and say we told you so.

For good or bad, the framework of college football appears poised for a shift that will likely redefine the sport as we know it. Some are even openly speculating that we’re heading for a “Big 64” — four superconferences of 16 teams each.

For once-upon-a-time WACers like Wyoming, the wisdom of a 16-school conference may seem questionable. For dollar-hungry campuses and fans longing for a college football playoff, the move makes perfect sense.

But what then? 

Lost amid the clamor and hype of a possible Big 64 is the question of what happens to college football’s “Other 56.” For that matter, lost amid the conversation is the fact that, if you add up the membership of all six current BCS conferences, you get a sum of 66 schools.

Someone that’s in the big-money party now suddenly won’t be seated with the popular kids, and that’ll get mighty ugly in a hurry. That’s not good news for the Utahs, Vanderbilts, Iowa States and Syracuses of the world. And what of some of the high-profile independents or non-BCS types?

Notre Dame is a no-brainer, but what about newly-independent BYU? How about Navy? Houston and its huge television base? Boise State?

If you think a Big 64 sounds fun, try sitting down for a few minutes and figuring out who the 65th team should be.

Keep going down the list and the questions become more disheartening. How many Mountain West, WAC, MAC, Conference USA and Sunbelt teams really have an interest in fielding football when there’s no longer any chance at being a part of the post-season party? Will there be enough interest to hold scholarship funding at current FBS levels? Will fans and boosters continue supporting programs that aren’t a part of the Big 64? How many schools will decide it isn’t worth the expenditure and scale back to FCS levels?

How many simply decide to stop fielding college football teams altogether? Hey, Title IX is out there, so don’t think for a moment that the idea won’t be discussed on at least a few campuses.

Look, I want a college football playoff as bad as the next guy. I want to see ownership of that crystal football determined on the field. But not at the expense of the game I love. Not at the expense of teams like Wyoming being able to compete.

It’s time for the NCAA to realize that we’re rapidly approaching a point of no return. The umbrella organization needs to step in, call a time out and study the ramifications of such a move to the sport in general before that threshhold is crossed.

The price of failing to do so could simply be too costly to a sport that’s fanatically followed by millions.

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