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Conference Realignment Hits the Brakes With Logical Moves Made

Category: Featured News, Pac-12 Expansion & Realignment

When the news first hit that Texas, along with Texas A&M;, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St were considering a move to the Pac-10, the conference landscape shifts seemed plentiful. A sixteen school Pac-10 might be enough to trigger the Big Ten to follow suit, after their expansion to twelve with Nebraska. The SEC got involved, as Texas A&M; sought refuge from the Pac-10 in that conference…which would have likely triggered the SEC to expand with a 14th school. Meanwhile, you have what appeared to be five Big 12 schools about to be left behind. The Big East had it’s eyes on them as Missouri, Kansas, Kansas St. and Iowa St. could grow the football conference to twelve schools from the current eight, and the basketball membership to twenty schools. Even the Mountain West, fresh off their addition of Boise St. as the tenth member, was watching how things played out with hopes on grabbing Kansas, Kansas St. and Missouri. And while the more powerful conferences were all set to make moves, even CUSA was sitting back, prepared to invite Baylor and Iowa St. if they were left behind.

When all was said and done, it was very likely that we’d have membership changes in many conferences that would be pushing us to the brink of a new era of “Super Conferences”.

We could have seen:
Pac-10 grow from 10 to 16
Big Ten grow from 10 to 16
SEC grow from 12 to 14
Big East grow from 8/16 to 12/20
In other scenarios, we could have seen the Mountain West grow from 9 to 14 and CUSA grow from 12 to 14, or even the 5 remaining Big 12 schools regroup and expand

And then a combination of sanity and big dollar signs came into play, putting the brakes on such drastic movement.

Today’s announcement by Texas, that it will remain in a ten school Big 12, along with the Texas A&M;, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St., was the result of an apparent last ditch effort by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to keep the conference alive. Schools will all make more money, and the power brokers like Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M; will make as much if not more than the SEC schools.

The quick brakes put on expansion resulting in what will likely be a total of (4) moves this time around. And all 4 of these moves seem to make the most sense.

Nebraska to Big Ten: 
The Cornhuskers leave the Big 12 – North, the division that has seemed to be the forgotten half of the Big 12 family. They join the Big Ten, where they already fit into much of the existing culture that comprises that conference. Geographically, they remain on the fridge, but this time to the west instead of the north in a Texas-centric conference. The revenue numbers will be a boost for Nebraska compared to the previous television contract, and on par with the revenue the new “Big 12 Minus 2” will get.

But the move made sense for the Big Ten. It improves the quality of their football product. It gives them a 12th school and a conference championship game. It improves their revenue stream. That’s what the Big Ten wanted and that’s what it got. Sure, Texas and Notre Dame were the top choices, but neither school was ever a realistic candidate to join the Big Ten this round of expansion.

Colorado to Pac-10:
In the 1990’s, the Pac-10 was interested in expanding to 12 schools with Colorado and Texas. Colorado has always been on the Pac-10 radar. But it wasn’t until now that the Pac-10 made it’s move. With a goal of launching it’s own television network, adding the Denver market was crucial in obtaining potential cable subscribers. Texas remained an option and the Pac-10 made a bold attempt to land the big fish. Texas would not join the Pac-10 by itself, so the conference conceded enough to allow 4 other schools join with them: Texas A&M;, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St.

Next Pac-10 Member?

The move to a Pac-16 was done for one reason: to get Texas. With Texas and the rest of the Big 12 schools remaining, it puts the Pac-10 where it was in the beginning: their best expansion options remain Colorado and Utah.

The Pac-10 has achieved it’s goal of getting the Denver market for their TV deal. And they will likely go forward with an invitation to Utah, to secure the Salt Lake City market.

Adding Colorado and eventually Utah to form a Pac-12 might not be as impacting as adding Texas & friends. But the move is exactly what everyone knew the Pac-10 needed to do to expand. Kudos for commissioner Larry Scott for thinking outside the box with the Texas invitations. He came close to pulling off the biggest coup in college sports. But by “falling short”, he still is giving the conference everything it needs and could realistically get: Denver market (and likely Salt Lake City market), and 12 schools for a conference championship game.

Boise St. to the Mountain West
This is a move we’ve seen coming for some time. The Mountain West has needed Boise St. to join in their attempt to gain a BCS automatic bid.

While potentially losing Utah would stunt those plans, there is still hope. The MWC is just on the cusp of gaining the bid. And one can hope that with this last round of expansion being completed (or almost complete) and the moves made based on logic, that the BCS will do the logical thing and reward the Mountain West for their years of success. Losing Utah will hurt…but they’d be replacing them with arguably the best of the non-BCS schools.

So as the expansion push seems to come to an end this round, it has been very much like a typical spring: the news or drastic change came in like a lion, but ultimately there were 3-4 moves that were quiet like a lamb in comparison.

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