- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
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And so the Great School Grab of 2011 began its final act Sunday. The Southeastern Conference welcomed the University of Missouri into the club, the Tigers wiped their paws on a century of tradition and rivalries in the Midwest, and any day now, we may witness the admittance of Boise State into the Big, um, East.
So where are we?
The Big 12, which slimmed two sizes this season, could cinch another belt loop for 2012. If Missouri leaves as planned and West Virginia's entrance is delayed, the members will play eight conference games instead of nine. Hey, Texas, you can fill that new nonconference opening with Texas A&M. Texas? Hello? Anyone home? That's the same response the Aggies get.
Texas and the rest of the Big 12 believe that West Virginia will fill Missouri's slots in the master schedule in 2012, just as TCU stepped in for Texas A&M. The Big East believes that West Virginia will live by its agreement and remain in the conference for two more seasons. The judicial system will decide what happens. Prediction -- the money spent on attorneys' fees would fund several non-revenue sports.
The Big East will have nothing in common with how it began 20 years ago, save for its name and Rutgers. In other words, the Big East will have name recognition and little else that looks familiar, while Rutgers, which played in the first-ever college football game on this date in 1869, will continue its 142-year search for a football identity.
The ACC, which prides itself on collegiality in the finest Southern tradition, picked the Big East's pocket for Pittsburgh and Syracuse. To be fair, both schools leapt out of the pocket of their own accord. Syracuse, a founding member of the Big East, will continue to act as if it did nothing shameful.
The SEC added Mizzou as a 14th member because 13 is such an unwieldy number. (Yeah, it worked for the Founding Fathers, but they never had to create a football schedule with two divisions of different sizes). The excitement over Missouri isn't approaching the league's decision to add Texas A&M earlier this year.
The conference sought the Aggies to open the door to the television market in Texas. The SEC sought Missouri because it had to bring in someone, right? The Tigers may deliver good-sized TV markets in St. Louis and Kansas City. But there's a reason that they call the trustees of the University of Missouri "curators." They are the people who work at museums, which is the only place you'll find a Tiger trophy in football for the foreseeable future.
Missouri, in its 11th season under coach Gary Pinkel, is enjoying its most sustained success in decades, this season (4-5, 2-4) notwithstanding. The Tigers have won at least 10 games and divisional championships in three of the past four seasons.
Even with that, the Tigers have won exactly one football championship in the past 50 years. That would have been in 1969, the year of the last all-white national championship team. Not that Mizzou is in a dry spell.
And now the Tigers, visions of long-term security in their heard, are stepping up their level of competition. The Tigers are like the Midwestern executive who takes a job in New York because it pays more. Only when he gets to Manhattan and discovers the price of rent and groceries does he understand that the rise in pay will include a decline in the standard of living.
Missouri's athletic budget in 2009-10 was roughly half of the $105 million that Florida spent. The world will spin a lot faster where the Tigers are going, just as it will for the Texas Aggies.
The latest round of realignment will end soon. Athletic programs will try to pick up where they left off, businesses that identify themselves as branches of academe, enterprises that pay lip service to the amateur ideal as they pay debt service to maintain the pace in the arms race. If you are a college fan, if you are to continue to enjoy Saturdays, you will understand more clearly the words of gangster Hyman Roth in "The Godfather II."
"This is the business we have chosen."
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to him at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN.com.
Missouri's move to the SEC is just the latest blow to the current conference structure.