College football preview: How the sport’s direction hangs in the balance

For years, summer has been known as Talking Season in college football—the July conference media days produce a river of rhetoric from coaches and administrators that prime the pump for the blocking and tackling to come. But the past two summers have become Plundering Season as well, with the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten making blockbuster expansions at the expense of the Big 12 and Pac-12. That has, in turn, affected the nature of Talking Season.

Lately, the speeches from conference commissioners have been more anticipated, scrutinized and second-guessed than anything the coaches have to say. With revenue at an all-time high and collegiality at an all-time low, the boardroom drama is more fascinating than the actual games. The direction of the entire college athletics enterprise hangs in the balance, which is of greater gravity than which teams had the best offseason in the weight room.

We’ve now reached a lull—dare to dream, maybe even a cessation—in realignment. We’ve heard from every conference commissioner as they assess the landscape. We saw flexing from Greg Sankey of the SEC and Kevin Warren of the Big Ten. We heard brass-tacks business talk from new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark. We got a dose of pushback and perspective—wistful and weak to some critics—from ACC boss Jim Phillips. And we got a mixture of dismay and defiance from the Pac-12’s George Kliavkoff.

With Talking Season over and Poaching Season on pause, where do we stand in college sports? Where has realignment taken us, and where could it be heading in the future? Our writer roundtable tackles six issues.