Are you ready for some mega-conferences?

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ATLANTA (AP) - The Big Ten has 12 schools. The Big East is branching out to Texas. And if that’s not confusing enough, the Big 12 may soon be the Little Zero.

So much for all that grand talk recently from college presidents about reining in their out-of-control cash machines, also known as college football.

Tradition means nothing anymore. Neither do rivalries nor geographical logic. Certainly not the so-called “student-athletes.”

All that matters is money, money, money.

So, if padding the coffers requires some conferences bulking up to 16-team monstrosities and others going away for good , well, so be it. If that means some schools becoming richer than a small country and others left with a few bread crumbs, well, that’s the breaks.

“I see schools that emphasize football so much and athletics so much, kind of breaking away and really dominating the landscape. Whether that’s good or not depends on your orientation about where athletics fits in higher education,” said Stephen Dittmore, an assistant professor of recreation and sport management at Arkansas.

“Is it an integral part of the student experience,” he went on, “or a commercial venture?”

The latter appears to be winning, hands down.

It was only a year ago that talk was rampant about four 16-team super conferences basically seizing control of college football _ everyone else be damned.

Now, we appear headed that way again. On Monday, the Texas A&M board regents authorized the school president to do whatever he wants on conference realignment, which clears the way for a possible move to the Southeastern Conference.

But that’s just the first domino, and you might want to cover your eyes while the rest of them fall into place _ especially if your favorite school isn’t a chosen one.

A quick primer on how we got here:

Last year, the Big 12 lost two members _ Nebraska became the 12th school in the Big Ten and Colorado joined the Pac-10-turned-Pac-12 (along with Utah) _ but managed to stay in business by basically selling it soul to Texas.

The Longhorns wanted to form their own television network, or they were bolting if they couldn’t. Go ahead, the Big 12 (actually 10) said, holding up its arms. Take whatever you want, just don’t leave us hanging.

Well, along came ESPN, gladly forking over $300 million to the folks in Austin to help fund their little TV venture over the next 20 years. Uh-oh, thought the other nine Big 12 members, what chance do we have now? Especially when the Longhorn Network announced plans to show high school football games, a rather convenient recruiting tool.

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