The story of college football over the past few decades cannot be told without a large section on conference realignment.

And it might not be close to finished yet.

Last year, major news dropped that Big 12 staples Oklahoma and Texas planned to leave for the SEC. While another wave of realignment was always inevitable, that decision kickstarted a flurry of moves and will be the impetus for more changes in the near future.

Realignment itself is not necessarily a problem. It's been part of the landscape for decades.

However, both the uncertainty and threat of realignment will present an obstacle in some impending conversations, including the possibility of College Football Playoff expansion.


The Driving Force

Let's start at the very beginning: Money.

When the ACC expanded in the early 2000s, the league bolstered its revenue with Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. The major changes in the 2010s—led by the Big Ten and Pac-12—and the SEC's recent shocker all had dollar signs in mind.

According to USA Today Sports, Texas totaled the most operating revenue ($224 million) of any athletic department during the 2020 fiscal year. Oklahoma ranked eighth at $163 million.

The SEC, which already boasts the largest per-school payout annually, is now poised to add those financial powers.

Competitive balance is fun to discuss. Decision-makers, though, are focused on the balance sheet.