Monday, June 14, 2010

Y'all ain't gonna see a Pac-16 (UPDATED AT BOTTOM)

Well, bummer...what would have been the nation's most impressive, largest and best athletic conference will not happen.

Texas has turned down an invitation from the Pac-10 and will remain in the Big-12, according to ESPN. It is expected that the other 9 current Big-12 schools will quickly make it clear they, too, will remain where they are.

Thus, the Pac-16 will not be born, and the Big-12 will not die.

(Yes, the conference is still known as the Big-12 even though Colorado and Nebraska have announced in recent days they are bolting for other conferences. Colorado is joining the Pac-10, which also presumably will need a new name, and Nebraska is heading to the Big-10, which already had 11 teams before the Cornhuskers came on board.)

If Texas had exited the Big-12, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech would have joined the new Gold Rush heading west.

Texas is one of those elite schools that can make decisions for itself and take other schools along. You can place perhaps 7 schools on such a list, including Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Alabama and Texas. Clearly if the Longhorns were not going to join the Pac-10, none of the other schools in the conference's South Division possesses the muscle to make it happen.

Texas will discuss with its 9 partners (and there is the potential to add two schools to replace Colorado and Nebraska) creating a new television deal which could include a Big-12 television network, akin to what exists in the Big-10. What will be interesting to me is to see if those dollars from any TV deal are equally divided among the schools or if Texas will get a larger pot (not to mention its own TV deal that nets the Longhorns some serious money).

Did UT play the Pac-10 against the Big-12? Possibly. But in an era in which conference loyalties are predicated on financial ties rather than tradition or geography, you can grumble at what Texas did. Or you can admit that if you were in the athletic department at that university, you'd have done the same thing: find the deal that was best for your school.

So, where does this leave the expansion of the large, most prestigious conferences? A few thoughts:

The Pac-10 will go to 12 teams, and I expect Utah to be the first school invited. (And if that happens, you think the loyalty and tradition of Utah and Brigham Young might not take a hit?)

If Utah is offered and accepts, then that reduces the Mountain West Conference (MWC) to 9 teams. Ironically, it expanded just last week when Boise State joined its ranks.

The Big-12 will need to expand to 12 teams in order for it to continue to host a lucrative football championship game. I think one of the invitations will be extended to Texas Christian, a current member of the Mountain West. (Suddenly the MWC could be looking at gaining one school and losing two in a short period of time.) But there is no clear consensus about the next school.

From a geographic standpoint, another school from Texas would reinforce that the Lone Star State is the home for that conference. So, let's eliminate any other schools from there at least for now. Moreover, no other Texas school has a national reputation.

Brigham Young would be a nice fit, but the poor MWC would get raided yet again! BYU's move would make even more sense if Utah does move to the Pac-10.

Arkansas would be a nice fit, but I don't see any reason for the Razorbacks to quit the Southeastern Conference for the Big-12.

It was just a few weeks ago that the potential seemed real for perhaps four super-conferences to be created. The likelihood of that happening has been reduced but not necessarily eliminated.

But today's news confirms what should have been clear already -- Texas calls the shots in the Big-12.

UPDATED: 8:35 p.m. EDT: There might not be an expansion in the current Big-12. The media reports I'm reading and hearing suggest Texas is happy with its own television network and then splitting any conference television pie 10, not 12, ways.

Staying with 10 also eliminates the dangerous conference championship game during which a football team could run the regular-season table and then get bumped off against a lesser-ranked school thus denying that team a chance at playing for the (mythical) national championship.

So perhaps the Big-10 adds one and the Pac-10 adds two, thus allowing each to have a conference title game, while the Big-12 cuts back.

As comedian Yakov Smirnoff so eloquently told us: "What a country!"

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