The college football landscape is about to be scoured and reshaped by an irresistible wave of TV money, beginning with Nebraska's move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten for a doubling of its conference network payout.
We're talking about the potential for drastic conference realignment. Texas in the Pac-10, probably, or maybe even whisked away to the SEC in an even greater surprise. Nebraska in the Big Ten, almost certainly, and that formal announcement could come as early as Friday. Florida State and Miami in the SEC, incredibly, should the shape-shifting revolution reach it's most stunning extreme.
Cats and dogs living together, in other words, with changes so geographically and psychologically stunning that even fiercely independent Notre Dame may be tempted to forfeit its independence and agree, at long last, to join the Big Ten as Penn State did 20 years ago.
How much of this manic speculation will actually come to pass? About half, we'll say for now, with the SEC standing pat, and that's plenty for one summer. Any more than that and all you playoff-system pushers out there will start howling to wipe the entire slate clean and start over with or without the blessing of the NCAA.
Money, naturally, is what matters most in this speculation over regrouped conferences and renegotiated TV deals, but there's another question to ask.
What kind of move improves or decreases your favorite team's opportunity to win a national championship?
Do Miami and FSU, for instance, really want to wade through an SEC schedule that includes Alabama, Florida, LSU, Tennessee and more on the way to the BCS title game? The ACC load, lighter overall, has proved too much for the Hurricanes and Seminoles in recent years. Doesn't make sense to switch, unless the ACC gets gutted to the point that the conference loses its automatic BCS bowl berth.
Of course, there are side items here that surpass the normal bounds of logic.
Miami might sign a pact with the devil if it meant getting the Gators on the schedule every year. Likewise, Florida might try to block its two in-state rivals from joining the SEC, not wanting to share the advantages the program has earned as a 1933 charter member of the league. It would take a positive vote from nine of the SEC's 12 presidents to approve any new member, by the way, which means no one school could issue a blackball.
Texas, the cash cow everybody wants to corral, has the most power here. If the Longhorns don't jump to the Pac-10 or even the Big Ten, taking Texas A&M with them, maybe nobody else will move at all. Fat chance, meanwhile, on Notre Dame sticking a finger in the dike and stopping everything right where it is by joining the Big Ten.
Howard Schnellenberger, eternally proactive, dreams of a scenario that might involve his Florida Atlantic Owls.
FAU jumped all the way up to the Div. I Sun Belt league in 2003, the last time there was a seismic conference shuffle. FAU, Florida International and other growing programs are positioned now to climb into the Big East should that conference require a raft of replacement teams to replace the ones it may lose.
Central Florida deserves the first shot at something like that, but there's no telling how many teams the Big East might soon need in response to a raid of its own roster, or whether there will even be enough of that league left to warrant an automatic BCS bid.
"We certainly are amenable to moving into a BCS conference," said Schnellenberger, who won the national title with Miami in 1983 and needs an absolute lightning strike of unforeseen opportunity to get another shot. "Obviously, everything has to line up just right.
"It might be coming too soon with us sitting here still without a stadium and with the basketball arena being very small. It may not be the right time, even if it would happen."
Perhaps, then, there is an important baby step coming, something on the order of an invitation for FAU to join Conference USA, a league that may be hard pressed to keep UCF, East Carolina, Houston and others if the fur really starts flying.
That may be closer to a lateral move than FAU needs, however, even though the Sun Belt has fewer bowl tie-ins than Conference USA.
Oh, and did we mention that there actually are sports other than football to consider in the cost analysis of any particular school's potential realignment?
That's a worry for another day. Right now, it's the coming avalanche that commands attention, and survival of the fittest is on every university president's mind.