Pac 10 Expansion Rumors
Will Texas and Oklahoma jump ship?
And now, for this week's latest rumor … the Pac 10 wants to expand, and it's not thinking Fresno State and Utah.
With the Pac 10 holding its meetings in San Francisco, the new rumor floating around is that Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Colorado are the league's main targets to create a 16-team superconference.
There's also a rumor floating around that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was seen carrying a carton of Cherry Garcia and a copy of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.
It's open season on the Big 12 as the more impressive, more attractive, and more popular conferences are taking aim. The Big Ten has all but put Nebraska and Missouri logos on its letterhead, and now the Pac 10, realizing that taking on Fresno State, Utah, BYU, and Boise State in the expansion game would give the league about as much extra coverage as a Venus Williams tennis outfit, appears to be looking to make sure it has a chair when the music stops.
It's all speculation and nothing has happened yet (remember, the Big Ten hasn't actually done anything except float out a bunch of trial balloon leaks to the press), but it shows that the Pac 10 is going to be proactive in carving out a bigger place for itself in the college sports world.
And now the Big 12 has to come up with a big plan, or it's likely going to become the Big Conference USA. Whatever the league does and whatever happens, it has now, more than ever, become obvious that it's about to become a shadow of its former self. More than losing a Nebraska or an Oklahoma, losing Texas means the Big 12 would be officially irrelevant.
In the pecking order of conferences, everyone wants to be in the Big Ten. The league not only gives out close to $23 million per member in bowl and television revenue, but the academic reputation, the massive alumni bases, the strong TV exposure (helped by the time zones, a killer for the Pac 10 in the equation), the tremendous markets, the soon-to-be reach to the New York market with Rutgers, and the expected growth of the Big Ten Network, makes it the club to join.
If Texas really is in play for the Pac 10, who doles out around $10 million a year in TV and bowl money to each of its teams and has a limited exposure because of the time zone, then it's over: the Big Ten will pounce. And while it doesn't make geographic sense for the Longhorn women's volleyball team to make a trip to Ann Arbor, it's not like going to Seattle can be done by bus. In other words, there's no real reason for Texas to consider going to the Pac 10, if it's going to join any conference, and the Big 12 had better come up with something, anything, to provide hope and a reason not to start exploring every option.
However, if the Big Ten takes Nebraska and Missouri, as expected, and Colorado is gone to the Pac 10, as is almost certain to happen, then Texas might have to come up with a decision if Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech join the Buffs in the Pac 10. The Big Ten, mainly because of academics, doesn't appear to have any interest whatsoever in the schools from the Big 12 South other than Texas, so that leaves the big program in the latest round of crazy speculation with four options.
1) Join the Pac 10 along with the other Big 12 South types. (Unlikely. The West Coast time zone isn't a plus for the Texas brand and exposure.)
2) Join the SEC and make the ESPN TV package even bigger. (Unlikely … Texas wants to be seen as an elite academic institution, and going to the SEC doesn't do that.)
3) Join the Big Ten along with Missouri, Nebraska, and Rutgers from the Big East, and then Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany makes a full-court press to Notre Dame to create the most powerful of powerful 16-team leagues. (Possible, but not without a sweetheart of a deal.)
4) Go independent, create a Texas Sports TV Network, keep the yearly games with Oklahoma and Texas A&M, set up some sort of Notre Dame-like deal with the BCS, and make gobs and gobs of money. (Possible, but only for the short term until the dust settles on expansion.)
Texas, like Notre Dame, can choose any conference it wants to go to any time it wants to join. In a great position where money isn't an issue, the program can pick and choose where it wants to go and isn't in any rush to do it. In a chicken-and-egg scenario, Fox, ESPN/ABC, and others, aren't likely to figure out a big package with the Pac 10 if several Big 12 teams are involved and Texas isn't, while Texas isn't likely to sign on without knowing it'll get something special to offset the dollars and the academic reputation the Big Ten would offer.
In any event, the Big 12 appears to be hosed. Its TV deals, academic reputation and markets simply aren't attractive enough to go pick off teams from other leagues and expand. Getting TCU doesn't move the needle, and it's wishful thinking to try to go grab an Iowa or an Arkansas in a desperate attempt to upgrade the league's cachet. The Big 12 future would likely be filled with a combination of Mountain West and Conference USA schools, with a possible Boise State brought in, to join Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, and Kansas State in the land of misfit teams. The Pac 10, on the other hand, has to strike now, make the first move, and let the national dominoes would then start to fall.
The SEC might go grab Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, and Miami from the ACC to counterbalance whatever the Big Ten ends up doing. The ACC would snag West Virginia, Syracuse, Louisville, and hope Connecticut and Pitt become spurned by the Big Ten. The Big East would likely take whatever scraps of Conference USA it could get, or cease to be as a football conference, and the Big 12 would become about as relevant as the Indianapolis 500 in the spots consciousness as it tries to find a TV package from someone other than Vs. with Utah, BYU, Houston, and TCU to sell.
Again, it's important to remember that everyone is talking and no one is doing. There's a lot of chest-puffing, a lot of wacky scenarios, and a lot of interesting marriage proposals being considered by athletic directors all across the country. The one thing that's for certain is that the Pac 10 and the Big Ten are going to get very, very rich, and that in five years, college athletics won't look anything like it does right now.
And there still won't be a playoff.