The Big Ten Conference became the first pillar to officially collapse Tuesday in terms of Power Five leagues to postpone football this fall, with the Pac-12 tumbling just behind it.
With the SEC and ACC squarely in the corner of playing, the onus was put on the Big 12 to make a decision that likely would tip the scales of the college football landscape in one direction or the other.
Just before press time Tuesday night, reports began surfacing that the Big 12’s presidents had agreed to allow schools to play football in the fall with a revised schedule to be released soon after approval was given by athletic directors.
SoonerScoop.com was the first to report the news.
But did the Big 12’s decision really matter? I’d argue on a national level, no.
It really depends on what you want to see accomplished by some conferences playing and others not playing. Just want some football on Saturday? Want to see league supremacy battles? Need to avoid corn mazes and pumpkin patches with the family?
OK, then let’s do it.
However, I don’t want to hear anything close to the words “College Football Playoff,” or “bowl game,” or “postseason awards." Because like it or not, the Big Ten’s decision took all of those things off the table.
The way I see it, as much as fans of teams from each league love to beat their chests and scream about league supremacy in individual sports, the conferences are about to find out just how much they need each other right now.
Because, what happens if the Pac-12 and Big Ten do play in the spring and the Big 12, SEC and ACC go in the fall, what does anything really even mean?
Are there going to be two separate national champions crowned for this year? And without all five leagues, what has anybody really even won anyway?
Because as hard as it is for a good number of sports fans in West Virginia to admit -- and I still struggle to understand the hatred from West Virginians toward Ohio State -- you can’t crown a national champion without Ohio State playing. The Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 in the preseason coaches poll, with a total of nine teams in the top 25 representing either the Big Ten or Pac-12. (No. 7 Penn State, No. 9 Oregon, No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 15 Michigan, No. 17 USC, No. 18 Minnesota, No. 20 Utah and No. 23 Iowa are the other eight.)
That’s 36 percent of the top 25 not playing this fall. Take 36 percent of the teams away from MLB or the NFL and hold a season. Sound fair to you? Not to me either, although in full transparency, I’m of the belief you could eliminate roughly 87 percent (26 of 30 teams) from the NBA and still end up with the same result.
One thing is for sure: If the three leagues carry on this fall and crown a “national champion,” I better never hear another word against UCF’s claim on the 2017 title.
Even beyond championships, what about individual accolades? Can you release an All-America team when a good percentage of “America” didn’t play? And if you can’t do that, no way you can vote on a Heisman Trophy winner, right?
Then where do bowl games fall in such a scenario? Are some held in the fall and others in the spring to accommodate possible dueling seasons? If only the Big Ten and Pac-12 move to spring, is there just a league-versus-league showdown in bowl games similar to in-season conference challenges in basketball?
And what does any of this have to do with the remaining Group of Five leagues save for the MAC and the Mountain West, both of which have already punted on the season? Would their commitment to the fall -- or spring -- convince more bowl games to move that way as well based on nothing more but a higher number of possible teams to select from?
Even more discord could follow in the coming days. Monday night, reports surfaced that Nebraska would look for another league to play in should the Big Ten cancel football. A logical step would be back to the Big 12 where it could rekindle old rivalries against the likes of Texas and Oklahoma.
Could we be seeing the infancy of the next massive wave of conference realignment? Could we be seeing the beginning of the end for the NCAA in general?
I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does.
But with the Big Ten and Pac-12 officially out, I know what we won’t be seeing -- meaningful football on the national level.