Alabama hoisted the crystal-ball trophy about six months ago. Louisville cut the Final Four nets in April. The spring-sports titles are in the books. But college sports officially closed the operating year Sunday and opened the ledger for 2013-14 on Monday.
It also meant the first day of new conference addresses for 49 schools in NCAA Division I.
These moves are largely realignment trickle-down — fallout from changes in previous years that reshaped the Southeastern, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast and Pac-12 conferences.
Oh, there are some heavyweight moves: Notre Dame enters the ACC for sports other than football, and Syracuse and Pittsburgh bring all their sports to the basketball-centric, 15-school conference.
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The Big East as we know it is gone, replaced by two entities: the football-playing American Athletic Conference, and the non-football new Big East with familiar names such as Georgetown and Marquette linking with newcomers Butler, Creighton and Xavier.
Remaining power-league moves — Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten and Louisville to the ACC — happen in 2014.
This year, it is about Conference USA, the Colonial, Sun Belt and Western Athletic. They all made moves to strengthen and survive. The WAC was on life support a year ago but will continue without football and keeps its automatic-qualifier status to the NCAA basketball tournament.
University of the Pacific became the 10th member of the West Coast Conference, which has included Gonzaga since 1979.
One conference did not survive. The Great West officially dissolved Monday, ending a 10-year run.
The Great West, which was down to five members in 2012-13, could never obtain an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for its champion, which ultimately doomed the conference.
After ACC commissioner John Swofford welcomed Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame at a news conference, he said further expansion isn’t on the agenda.
“It’s not a topic of conversation for us right now,” he said. “I would not anticipate it being in the future, but we’ll see. I don’t predict the future much anymore; I’ve learned better.”
As for the present, Swofford said, “I think it’s more than fair to say this is the strongest collection of basketball programs that has ever been assembled in one conference.”
Schools and conferences at the top level seem content to move along with current membership and see how the College Football Playoff, beginning after the 2014 season, shakes out.
Also, media contracts signed by the major conferences in the last few years extend into the 2020s and beyond.
But here is something to consider. The next phase of realignment might not involve schools jumping conferences, but the richest conferences banding together to form a new classification, complete with its own financial structure and rules.
In a new classification, richer schools and conferences could determine issues such as stipends for athletes — or even allowing them to cash in on their likenesses — allowing them to operate without restrictions that apply to other schools because they don’t have the same budgets or ambitions.