College football's game of conference realignment is finally ending

In the children's game of musical chairs, the big loser is the kid who can't find a seat when the music stops.

In college football's game of musical chairs, the big loser is probably Connecticut.

Or, in the expanded game, toss in Boise State, Cincinnati, Central Florida and maybe Brigham Young.

After years of pillaging, plundering and back-stabbing — some of it during the season! — one of college football's most distasteful chapters is happily ending.


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Conference realignment, which dirtied up an entire decade starting with the Atlantic Coast Conference raiding the Big East of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College, is finally setting in wet cement.

The irony: It took the league that started it to stop it.

The ACC, which somewhat recklessly set off the dominoes when it frontally attacked the Big East, found itself vulnerable after it completed its redesign by adding Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville.

The Big Ten countered by stealing Maryland from the ACC with maybe a thought of going after Georgia Tech. The Big 12, decimated by what the ACC started, might have had a retribution eye on Florida State and/or Clemson.

Last year, though, the ACC effectively stopped this nonsense by getting its members to consent to a "Grant of Rights" agreement. This means any school that leaves the ACC between now and 2026-27 must surrender all its television rights back to the league.

This is simply not ... going ... to ... happen.

Call this positive news the calm in a summer of storms.

There was a heavy price to pay for some, but the final contortions are almost complete.

The divide between the 65 schools in the Power Five conferences and everyone else, which existed before even if some didn't want to believe it, has now been officially ratified.

The NCAA's recent vote to cede the wealthy football leagues autonomy basically codified the divisional lines.

If you didn't find a home before the music stopped, you got left behind.

How the shakedown shook out:

— The ACC finally completes its alignment box set by adding Louisville this year. The Cardinals bailed just in time as the Big East dismantled and reformed as a lesser union called the American Athletic Conference. Louisville joins Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which split the Big East last year.

The ACC is set with its 14-school alignment, championship game, and protected place in the new College Football Playoff.

— The Big Ten's gurgling stops after adding Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the former Big East. The Big Ten now has 14 schools, divided into East and West divisions, a huge branding improvement from the fiasco of "Leaders" and "Legends" divisions.

Maryland and Rutgers join the more difficult East division, which includes Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.

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