Welcome to the end of the NCAA's conference alignments as you have known them before. The big shuffle is underway.
First, Texas A&M said it was bolting from the shaky Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference -- starting the process of conference moves and consolidation. Now, Syracuse and Pittsburgh have started the formal process of leaving the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.
And we just thought the NCAA's games were played on the field. It's all about who's in where and first, in this big grab conference reshuffle that's underway, sure to leave laggards farther behind while bolstering the strength of a few dozen big-time football schools aligned in the biggest powerhouse conferences.
The potential move from the Big East by Syracuse and Pittsburgh is a testament to the shaky landscape of current conference alignments which at this point mean very little until it's all said and done. By the time it's over, the SEC will likely be expanded from 12 schools plus Texas A&M to 16 schools. The ACC could also end up in a 16-school format.
Consider only that one university official says at least 10 other universities have reached out to the ACC wanting to join, like Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
What's happening is quite simple. Threatened by the SEC's apparent power move, adding Texas A&M as the first of what is sure to be others meant that the ACC had to act bold and fast. The league presidents approved last week at an annual meeting increasing the fee to leave the ACC to $20, an increase from about $14 million.
Also, the league escalated talks with others schools to join its conference -- resulting in the latest report that Syracuse and Pittsburgh are fleeing the Big East to join the ACC. The New York Times reported the story of the move Saturday, city an ACC official with direct knowledge of the applications to the league.
Texas A&M's move to the SEC, of course, is being hampered by the threat of legal action from fellow Big 12 member Baylor. That's perhaps one reason why Syracuse and Pittsburgh are remaining quiet about escalating to the formal process of leaving the Big East.
Schools want out of current alignments, in the effort to gain long-term strength and stability in the shuffle that's fast-gaining momentum, but they don't want into gnarly litigation. But Texas A&M isn't the only school apparently wanting to leave the Big 12, as Oklahoma's board of regents will meet Monday to discuss the school's intent to leave the Big 12 to join the Pac-12.
In other words, the big shuffle is underway, and by the time it is over, the NCAA Division 1 conference alignments will look very, very different.