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Conference Realignment Ends: Plenty of Reasons to Be Happy

I am pleased with how things went down yesterday. I really couldn't be happier.

I am far from convinced that super conferences A) can work, and B) are good for the athletes involved. Big egos tend to get explosive when you put enough of them together, after all. Beyond that, it's very easy to forget about the individual athletes who actually are playing the sports we love to watch. Ultimately, college athletics is failing if it doesn't do right by them no matter how much money is raised.

I don't think Texas A&M's Bill Byrne was blowing smoke when he expressed concern over long trips to the Pacific northwest. Sure the football team would only travel there once every few years, but the basketball teams, baseball team, track teams, and nearly all the rest would be going up there every year. It's better for all of them to be in the Big 12.

I'm also happy to see that most traditions and rivalries will be preserved through this process.

Now look, I'm no great traditionalist when it comes to college football. I was seven when the SEC played its first 12-team season; I was 11 when the Big 12 held its first conference championship game. I was not alive during the heyday of the wishbone. I think Notre Dame should join a conference, I'll argue for a playoff until the day one is announced, and I love the newfangled spread offenses that are all over the place.

I do understand how awesome real rivalries and traditions are though. They bring very different kinds of people together in perhaps the only way they can find common ground. When I see the highlights of past games on the Jumbotron at the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, it helps me feel a part of something bigger than myself. Singing "We Are the Boys From Old Florida" between the third and fourth quarters of a football game is one of the coolest parts of being a Gator fan, especially at road games. I know all of you out there have similar feelings about your school's traditions and rivals.

Most of all, I'm happy because the SEC will remain at having the 12 teams it currently has. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times; the SEC as presently composed works on nearly every level. Lord knows it's not perfect, but it's about as balanced as it can get both top to bottom and across the divisions. I don't have anything against the schools rumored to be coming to the league, and it's too bad we couldn't get Arkansas a real rival within the league. If it ain't broke though, don't fix it.

Plus in my 20/20 hindsight, I am incredibly happy that the SEC didn't pick up Texas. I hope it never does.

It has become abundantly clear that Texas doesn't view the point of a conference as being a consortium for the purposes of cultivating relationships between schools and helping everyone get better. Texas appears to view whatever conference it's in as an institution that exists for the sake of enriching Texas.

It apparently saw its joining the Big 12 as doing the Big Eight a favor, and it was ready to ditch it for the Pac-10 at the first sign of trouble. Its reluctance to commit to anyone but Texas was one of the primary reasons why Nebraska fled for the Big Ten. Only a herculean effort from an array of heavy hitters both inside and outside the college sports world was able to give Dan Beebe enough time to broker a sweetheart television deal with Fox and potentially ESPN that would pay Texas enough to get it to stay put.

This is the second time Texas has tried to break up a conference. It showed zero concern for schools outside its state and paid only lip service to helping one of the ones inside its state (Baylor). When—not if, but when—Texas next tries to torpedo a conference, I'm glad it won't be the SEC that it's targeting.

I know the whole SEC unity movement gets on the rest of the country's nerves, and we tend to overdo the S-E-C chant. I don't care. We may have all of our individual hates amongst each other, but like band of 12 brothers, we ultimately are watching out for each other.

I wouldn't have it any other way.