With the dust now settling from the first volleys of conference realignment, its time to assess the winners and losers.
Winners (in order)
1. University of Utah--the move to the PAC-10 improves the image of the school athletically and academically by association. The athletic budget stands to gain $9-10M per year more than they currently get in the MWC. Recruiting (especially in CA, OR, and WA) should improve as recruits want to go to a school that A) has a chance for a auto bid and national title, and B) play annually in front of home town friends and family.
2. Nebraska--moving to the Big Ten gives them conference stability, a meaningful financial increase (though not as much as Utah), and more prestige.
3. Boise State--although the financial windfall will not be as great as Utah or Nebraska, Boise will reap an additional $2-3M per year in the MWC over the WAC. It also associates with universities of a higher caliber, which is incredible for a school that was a junior college just a generation or so ago. Admissions and academics also stand to improve as much from this move as the level of competition.
4. Big East--Although there may still be moves to come from the Big Ten, at least for now the Big East is breathing a sigh of relief and shelving the survival plans as it has managed to avoid the doomsday scenarios that had it being cherry picked into oblivion.
5. Big Ten--Thanks to the PAC 10's public coup on the Big Ten's best, Nebraska turned to the open arms of the Big Ten for comfort and security. The Big Ten in return gets an upgrade over the rumored alternative in Missouri, and now sits at a comfortable 12.
6. PAC 10--Although some insist that Larry Scott and the PAC 10 have some egg on the very public failure to lure Texas, et al., I believe that the conference knew it wanted at least Utah and Colorado and decided to make a run at something better, with the former as a comfortable backstop in case the plan didn't work. No harm done and I say kudos to a bold and proactive approach. The conference will now be able to stage a championship game and adjust scheduling somewhat to eliminate a few intra-conference losses that seem to sink any hopes of a second BCS bid year after year. The conference also moves east and finally breaks beyond the scheduling limitations of the Pacific time zone.
7. Colorado--Colorado gets a nod here for finding the home that it wanted. Otherwise, all in, I would say it is about a wash. The PAC 10, financially, will not be much different than the Big 12 and the television visibility will be worse (although Colorado isn't on TV that much anyway); however, the university (both athletically and academically) will improve in prestige and will have more equal representation in a non-Texas dominated conference.
8. The state of Utah--with the state's flagship university now affiliated with the PAC 10, it is a validation of sorts for the community that it is accepted and respected on a national level. The state will also see some budgetary savings due to the significant increases in television funding from the new conference affiliation.
Losers (in order)
1. BYU--Despite what anyone says, Cougar fans and administrators have been holding out hope for a PAC 10 invite for decades. To see it go to your chief rival, and relative new kid on the block, while being left behind is a demoralizing blow. And although yet to be fully understood, there may be detrimental effects on the program as Utah improves its recruiting base, funding, facilities, etc. BYU knew that it would likely not end up in the PAC 10 but was hoping for a seat at the table somewhere when everything settled down. That didn't happen.
2. WAC--The WAC loses Boise State, its only legitimate national player of the last several years. The loss jeopardizes its TV contract with ESPN, its standing as the number 8 conference (just above CUSA), and at least one of its bowl games.
3. Big 12--While the teams that remain managed to right the ship, and there are rumors of more lucrative television deals in the works, the conference took a major hit to is national perception, prestige, and stability. The losses of Colorado and Nebraska will hurt television prospects, and at least with Nebraska, national relevance in football. Dan Beebe (the conference commissioner) also comes out of this looking a bit inept, weak, and reactionary rather than proactive.
4. Fans of the BYU-Utah Rivalry--After more than 100 years of competing for the same conference championship each time these teams took the field, that will come to an end. They will likely continue to play each other annually, probably in every sport, but it will be preseason, non-conference, and less on the line. Thanksgiving weekend won't be quite the same without it.
5. MWC--With a BCS auto bid in sight and the addition of Boise, the MWC was poised to become a major player. The great intermountain void (only states with D1 programs and no BCS bid) on the BCS map (Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico) seemed destined to be filled by the MWC. With Utah (the most populous of those five states) now removed from that equation, the chances have to be diminished somewhat, even if still alive.
6. Utah State--With BYU and Utah now likely to be scheduling annual out of conference games, it is possible that Utah State may be the odd man out and see it without its annual tilts with its in-state rivals. This would be unfortunate for everyone, and may relieve USU of its only guaranteed sellout of the season.