In the third season of The Sopranos, just after Tony's nephew Christopher becomes a "made guy," there's a scene where shortly after getting his stripes officially, Chrissy is in the pizza parlor wearing a brand new $1,000 suit with one of a handful of Soprano family lackeys in tow. A fight breaks out in the pizza parlor where stuff gets broken, pizza goes flying, and Coke gets spilled (the carbonated kind, not the white powder; with Chrissy involved, you have to specify). Chrissy turns to his lackey, says "I really can't be seen in a place like this anymore," throws his hands up and storms out.
That's right, despite being a few rungs down on the Soprano family tree, Chrissy was acting like a hot shot. We're all fine with Tony acting this way; he's the boss. When Chrissy acts that way, it's just kind of funny, I guess.
So if you're keeping score on Day Whatever-It-Is of Big 12
potential extinction realignment, Texas is still Tony Soprano and now Nebraska has evolved into Chrissy Moltisanti -- the "few rungs down" nephew who is all of a sudden too good for the Big 12 pizza parlor. (For the record, this does make Dan Beebe a dude who makes pizzas and it does mean that Oklahoma is Paulie Walnuts. I let all of you decide who is the Big 12's Vito Spatafore.)
With that in mind, here's my take on the latest realignment news...
And where does Notre Dame stand in all of this? I posted all of the reasons yesterday as to why this is far less of a "no brainer" for the Irish than people make it out to be. The buzz yesterday with regard to Notre Dame, depending on whom you believe, was that (1) there are NO ongoing discussions with the Big Ten, (2) there are people who donate big to Notre Dame (not me, I can barely pay my electric bill) who want to maintain football independence, and/or (3) Notre Dame would rather see the Big Ten expand to sixteen teams than be the sole "newbie." (Like any social situation, it's always easier when the room is full of other people who don't know each other -- apparently, this applies to college football conference expansion as well.)
In the meantime, there's a nice little border skirmish brewing between Colorado and Baylor over whom would receive the final slot on the pending Pac-10 six-team invite to join that league, with Baylor regent (and lobbyist) Buddy Jones (always good to have a "Buddy" on your side) doing everything short of calling Colorado's fans and students a bunch of dope-smoking hippies. (Sopranos comparison -- Colorado and Baylor scuffling is basically the fight between Benny Fazio and Artie Bucco on Benny's back porch, two barely relevant characters duking it out over stealing from each other.)
But Nebraska has now asserted itself as the "swing school" in the absence of Notre Dame doing anything other than staying on the outside of the fray and watching the fireworks as an independent.
If Notre Dame remains football-independent, the next move is up to the Big Ten and Nebraska. We'll see how hard and fast the imposed decision deadlines are that Dan Beebe made for Nebraska and Missouri. (By the way, just came to me -- Sopranos comparison for Notre Dame? Hesh Rabkin, not an official member of any mob family, but influential with certain pull amongst key members of the mafia community. And very, very rich.)
So if you're keeping score right now, on the Pendergast Realignment Strength-o-meter (their PRS rating, if you will -- scale of 0 to 100, totally subjective) things look like this --
SEC -- 12 teams, sitting back counting their money, deciding whether or not to invade the ACC or pilfer Texas and/or Texas A&M PRS RATING: 100.0
TEXAS -- Controls its own destiny in that if they choose not to go to the Pac-10, then the Big 12 will survive in some form and still remain strong, regardless of Nebraska's decision. Barring a major screwup, they have no bad options in this whole thing. It's good to be king. PRS RATING: 99.4
BIG TEN -- 11 teams right now, they're gonna get somebody, the questions are will it be Notre Dame, Nebraska, or both as part of a 16-team format? PRS RATING: 96.2
PAC-10 -- 10 teams, with likely scenarios still in play being 16-team uber conference with Big 12 South (or most of it, at least), 12-team conference adding some combo of Colorado, Utah, BYU, or someone else, and stand pat (doubtful, but possible) PRS RATING: 87.1
NOTRE DAME -- Controls its own destiny in that they can choose their path, as opposed to dozens of teams whose paths will be virtually chosen for them once this all shakes out. Question is will they choose the right path? Remains to be seen. PRS RATING: 78.8
NEBRASKA -- Possibly waiting on the Big Ten and Notre Dame, although reports have emerged that Nebraska has a Big Ten invite. I'll let that report simmer a bit before I adjust their score. For now, know that the PRS rating doesn't allow you a higher score than any entity you are waiting on to essentially decide your fate; you may have "hand" on Missouri and Iowa State, Husker Fan, but not more "hand" than Notre Dame. Sorry. Also, negative PRS points if you end up having to go back to your old conference foes and act like nothing ever happened. PRS RATING: 73.4
ACC -- 12 teams, but could get pilfered any minute by the SEC (they're like the field mouse being circled by the hawk on the Discovery Channel). Conference with major identity crisis brought together in its current format solely to make money at football. PRS RATING: 62.5
BIG 12 -- On the verge of total collapse. Only saving grace right now is that it's marquee member (Texas) says they want to keep the family together, and that's about it really. PRS RATING: 45.2
BIG EAST -- Only 8 teams, none of them football powers that can carry a conference. The Big East's non-football roots may catch up to it this go-round. PRS RATING: 34.1
The question I have been asked the most the last week or so by fans, by listeners, by co-workers, by Channel 39 is "Why is this happening to such a great football conference like the Big 12?"
This latest noise on Nebraska is a clear illustrator as to why it's happening -- the Big 12 is a house divided. It's a conference with a relatively short history, brought together partially out of convenience and amidst the wreckage of the Southwest Conference, and amidst acrimony over partial qualifiers between two Texas and Nebraska. It's easy for the other, stronger football "mob families" to come in and pick away at the bones when one family is divided.
One thing we know -- if Texas and Nebraska do indeed end up truly being the college football version of Tony and Chrissy, Longhorn fans should be happy with how things play out.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.