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Confusing as it is, conference shuffling still isn't finished

Let's see now...

The Big Ten has 12 teams.

The Big 12 has 10 teams and will have nine when Texas A&M moves to the Southeastern Conference next fall. Word is they are sticking with the Big 12 name.

Confusing isn't it?

This is a product of conference realignment and it is only the tip of the iceberg. Geographical considerations have been tossed aside.

The Atlantic Coast Conference will expand from 12 to 14 teams starting next September when Syracuse and Pittsburgh jump from the Big East.

This will leave the Big East with only eight colleges who play football and jeopardizes its future as a conference for all sports.

There had been speculation that the Big East and Big 12 might merge if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State hopped over to the Pacific 12 (formerly the Pacific 10). But last week those two colleges said they would stay put. At least for awhile.

The root of this conference chaos is greed and money, of course. Television money to be specific. Even more specific: ESPN money.

Case in point: It's been no secret that the University of Texas is the straw that stirs the Big 12. It was that way when the Longhorns ruled over the Southwest Conference for so many years.

When ESPN agreed to operate the Longhorn Network, Texas got a windfall of at least $250 million over 20 years. This did not set well with longtime rival Texas A&M and other members of the Big 12 Conference.

In 2010, Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12. Then Texas A&M, Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State started to look around.

Texas A&M, which has lived in the shadow of Texas for 117 years, decided it had taken enough abuse and accepted an invitation to join the SEC. The Longhorns had pushed the Aggies too far when they formed their own TV network.

With the dysfunctional Big 12 about to fall apart, the board of directors finally decided it didn't want one school (Texas) driving the bus. Last week, they agreed in principle to turn over the TV rights for its best football and basketball games to the conference.

While still a bit fuzzy, it appears this six-year agreement, when signed, will prevent Texas from getting a larger cut of the TV money than the other eight members of the conference. No word on whether there will be any restrictions on the Texas Longhorn Network.

The Big East situation is in flux. It appears the University of Connecticut, a basketball powerhouse, is still very interested in becoming part of the ACC if it decides to expand to 16 teams.

Notre Dame may hold the key.

The Irish, whose basketball team plays in the Big East, have to be concerned about the future of the beleaguered conference. The ACC would love to bring Notre Dame into the fold.

If the Big East is dissolved, Notre Dame may be forced to rethink its long-held preference to stay independent in football. Should the powers in South Bend decide to change their minds, you can bet that every big conference will come courting.

I am told that there are special ties between UConn and Notre Dame, which might work in favor of the ACC.

And if the ACC goes to 16 teams you can bet other conferences will follow.

Who will be the first to call themselves The Big 16?

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