The biggest realignment winners 

June, 16, 2010

The conference realignments seem to have played out for the time being. So, at this point, who are the early "winners" in this game?

I decided to rank 10 such candidates. Feel free to chime in comments-style.

1. Texas A&M Aggies
For a school whose proud football program has slid off the national radar and is now viewed much more closely to Texas Tech than to Texas, A&M can puff out its chest after this game of Texas Hold 'em.

The Aggies, who have taken some big financial hits of late and are roughly $16 million in debt, had much of the nation (at least from an SEC view) propping them up. People were lauding Texas A&M for what it would potentially bring to the league that has won the past four BCS titles. Heady stuff.

In the end, the Aggies leveraged into the first class cabin of the new Big 12 with the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners and scooped up some money (albeit evenly-distributed) in the process. They stood up to Texas and won big. They even get to keep their rivalries. Better still, if they had gone to the SEC, it would've probably resulted in a net loss in recruiting. It would have invited teams such as the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs to recruit more in the Lone Star State. In addition, some Pac-10 programs would've received a boost from a Texas-tinged Pac-16.

2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Few people breathed a bigger sigh of relief than Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly that there wasn't a major conference meltdown. In fact, I spoke with him yesterday:

"What scared me more than anything else about conference realignment is [that] I don't want to be marginalized," Kelly said. "I don't want to be in a Big Ten footprint for recruiting. I worry about that. I know if we can recruit coast to coast as an independent, I have a better chance of getting the kinds of guys that we need to get here to succeed and still beat Alabama. That's the key here -- still beat Alabama or whoever is the national champion."