Sean Pendergast

Guide to College Football's Nonsensical 2024 Power Five Realignment

The Texas Longhorns are officially members of the SEC.
The Texas Longhorns are officially members of the SEC. Photo by Jack Gorman
Living here in the great state of Texas, we know as well as anybody about the craziness and chaos that have unfolded in collegiate sports realignment. The phenomenon is largely driven by football, because that sport is what paves the money trail for everybody else.

There had been some small shifts in conference membership in the '80s and '90s and even the early 2000s, when the Big East as a football conference essentially disintegrated, making the Power Six a Power Five. In the early 2010s is when realignment began to land in our backyard in Texas, most notably with the Texas A&M Aggies moving to the SEC from the Big XII.

Then, after roughly a decade of realignment peace, Texas and Oklahoma dropped a grenade on the college football world, choosing to move from the Big XII to the SEC, a move that was made official on Monday. It was this move that essentially injected college football conference geographical knowledge with meth. A year after Texas and Oklahoma announced their decision, USC and UCLA chose to move to the Big Ten, where the closest team geographically to both was Nebraska. Repeat, NEBRASKA!

After that it was chaos. The entire Pac-12 went scurrying for life rafts in other conferences, geographical sense be damned!

So here we are, with a total of 15 FBS schools changing conferences this summer, including several in the Power Four. Oh what's that you say? You thought it was the Power FIVE? Yeah, it WAS, until the Pac-12 exodus left Oregon State and Washington State as two college sports orphans. Hard to call the Pac-TWO a "power conference."  To help you keep track of all the moves, here is a primer on the changes that will go into effect this season:

BIG TEN (18 teams)
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Maryland
Michigan
Michigan State
Minnesota
Nebraska
Northwestern
Ohio State
Penn State
Purdue
Rutgers
UCLA
USC
Oregon
Washington
Wisconsin

SEC (16 teams)
Alabama
Arkansas
Auburn
Florida
Georgia
Kentucky
LSU
Mississippi State
Missouri
Ole Miss
Oklahoma
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
Texas A&M
Vanderbilt

Big XII (16 teams)
Arizona
Arizona State
Baylor
BYU
Cincinnati
Colorado
Houston
Iowa State
Kansas
Kansas State
Oklahoma State
TCU
Texas Tech
UCF
Utah
West Virginia

ACC (17 football teams)
ACC
Boston College
Cal
Clemson
Duke
Florida State
Georgia Tech
Louisville
Miami
NC State
North Carolina
Pitt
SMU
Stanford
Syracuse
Virginia
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest
(Notre Dame is a non-football member)

There is so much silly, insane, and somewhat exhilarating stuff going on here. Just a few thoughts on this new conference structure, in which the most ratchet Magic 8-Ball could not have generated a sillier outcome with some of this stuff.

SILLY: West Coast schools in the Big Ten
The nice thing about the pre-realignment universe was not only the conferences making geographic sense, but they each had their own culture and feel, that admittedly reflected the geographic. The Big Ten was cold weather, in the trenches, tough guy football. The Pac-12 was laid back, high flying, offensive fireworks. So UCLA and USC (and Oregon and Washington) make no sense culturally, not to mention the fact that all of their non-football sports have to travel to places like Minnesota and Rutgers for road games. Silly.

INSANE: The ACC, which has the word "Atlantic" in the name!
Okay, it's bad enough that the Big Ten has West Coast schools as conference members now, and sure, the Big Ten now has 18 schools, but there is nothing dumber, nor more insane in realignment, than a conference with the word "Atlantic" in its name having SMU, Stanford, and Cal as members. Cal and Stanford literally are minutes from the PACIFIC F-ING OCEAN! I'd bet big money on the ACC disintegrating sometime in the next five years.

EXHILARATING: Coach Prime is in the Big XII!
Okay, now for the good, for those of us in Texas. In 2024, the Big XII actually picks up one of the biggest stories from 2023. Coach Prime, the Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, and the Colorado Buffaloes were THE story in college football for the first month of the 2023 season, largely because of the brash persona and a couple big upset wins. The season did not end well, as the Buffs wound up going 4-8, but they still enter the 2024 season with some buzz, with Shedeur Sanders, son of Deion, a top Heisman candidate and likely top 10 pick in the 2025 NFL Draft.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast, on Instagram at instagram.com/sean.pendergast, and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast