MORGANTOWN - The Big East can probably rest easy for a while and not have to worry about looking over its shoulder to see doom, gloom and the Big Ten approaching.
Whether or not the league should rest easy, well, that's another matter entirely.
It is, after all, only a matter of time. It always is and for the foreseeable future always will be. As the BCS league with the most to lose and the least to gain in any sort of shuffling and realignment of the 64 current college football power brokers, the Big East as it is currently constituted will always be vulnerable.
So why can the league rest easy for the time being? Well, there are those who will argue that it cannot. Look at how rapidly the conference landscape changed just in the last week. One day the Big Ten was sticking to its 12- to 18-month expansion timetable and the Pac-10 wasn't even considered a player, at least in the short term. Within a week, the Pac-10 had added Colorado, the Big Ten had plucked Nebraska, the Big 12 was - in a span of just 48 hours - left for roadkill and then revived in an even stronger form, and the Pac-10 - in that same two-day time frame - went from college sports' potential Goliath right back to David in a sense, having lost the chance to add Texas and Oklahoma and being left to debate the relative merits of Utah.
Shoot, look even at the Big East, which one day was salivating over the prospect of adding Kansas and Missouri and the next was back to perhaps foraging for Conference USA's best.
Those who will argue that no one knows when the same sort of rapid-fire, mind-boggling shifts might occur are right, but only to a point. It could very well happen and probably will. But not this week or next, not this month and probably not this year. Truth be told, college football may be safe from such upheaval for at least a few years.
The reason? Presidents, purely and simply.
No one can deny that all of this maneuvering is simply an arms race. There is absolutely no other reason for the Big Ten or the Pac-10 or any other league to begin recruiting members other than to make themselves bigger and badder. The bigger and badder they get, the more money they reap from television. The more money they have, the bigger and badder they can continue to get.
University presidents, though, will sully themselves only to a point in such a battle for pigskin preeminence. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany talked in the weeks leading up to those recent events about how his league didn't want to be seen as igniting some sort of collegiate athletics Armageddon. You can trust that the message came straight from the Big Ten presidents for whom he works.
Each and every one of them is loathe to be painted as anything other than an academician first. Yes, they all understand the significance of college athletics and the branding it brings to their universities, but to be responsible for orchestrating the calamity that would befall victims of conference expansion (i.e., the member institutions of the Big East, Big 12, etc.), well, that is so against the very principles they stand for as to be positively repulsive.
And guess what? Nothing that happened last week painted a single college president in a light other than that of looking out for the best interests of his university while treading not the slightest on anyone else. Talk about your sighs of relief. The Big Ten added television value and got to the 12-school level needed to stage a football championship game, the Pac-10 did the same with Colorado and Utah, the Big 12 not only survived but will now thrive with much the same value and fewer spoons in the pot, and the Big East (as well as the SEC and ACC) were not affected in the slightest.
Don't think for a moment that every Big Ten president isn't absolutely thrilled with that outcome. They have a stronger, soon-to-be richer conference, and in order to get there they sacrificed no other institutions. Plus, they have perhaps staved off congressional intervention, which was certain to be an issue had multiple institutions been adversely affected (and still looms in regard to the BCS itself, although Utah's move to the Pac-10 might get Orrin Hatch off their collective backs). And so now, if anyone has the temerity to go to those presidents asking that they further expand by raiding the Big East or the ACC, the answer is simple: We've already won. Let's leave it at that for now.