2010 Conference Expansion Revisited – How Colorado found its way into the Pac-12

It was five summers ago that Colorado was formally invited to join the Pac-10 conference. It’s hard to remember all of the stress and politics which led to Colorado and Utah joining the Pac-12, which came very close to becoming the Pac-16.

Remember how Missouri openly courted membership in the Big Ten? How it looked like there might be a Pac-16, with Colorado and Baylor reportedly battling it out to be the sixth team invited (and how the BU administration bashed Colorado?) Remember how it came down to Colorado and Nebraska pulling the trigger, setting off a series of moves which forever reshaped the college football landscape? Remember Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott saying those magic words: “We wanted to get Colorado first” and “Texas politics” killed plans for a Pac-16?

Below is an admittedly lengthy recap of the stories posted here at CU at the Game during the spring and summer of 2010. If you want to skip ahead to the stories surrounding the announcement of CU joining the Pac-10, scroll down to the stories of June 10th.

But, if you have the time, it’s fun to relive the drama and tension of the days and weeks leading up to the fateful announcement …

 

May 6th

If you expand it, they will come

It is considered axiomatic that the Colorado football program will be better off in recruiting if the Buffs move to the “Pac-12”.

But is that actually a true statement?

It is widely known that the second largest contingent of student population at the University of Colorado comes from California (second only, of course, to the in-state students from the state of Colorado). This leads to the belief that, should Colorado be asked to join the Pac-12, that there are thousands of alumni in the state of California ready, willing and able to attend away games. Fair enough.

But will the Buffs be able to recruit more California players to come to Boulder, knowing that, at least once every season, they will be heading to the Golden State to play before family and friends?

The current Colorado roster, as well as the 2010 and 2011 recruiting lists, seem to bear this out.

Let’s start with the current Colorado roster. Excluding the incoming Class of 2010, the Buffs’ roster shows a total of 24 players from “Pac-10” states, with 21 players from California and three from Arizona. Meanwhile, Colorado is carrying only four players from “Big 12” states, all four coming from Texas. There are no current Buffs on the roster from the states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, or Missouri.

The recruiting Class of 2010 also shows a lop-sided tilt towards the West coast. Of the 21 members of the class signed this February, ten (including both junior college signees) came from Pac-10 states (nine from California; one from Arizona), while only two of the recruits came from Big 12 country (both from Texas).

The trend is not new, and is not likely to end with the Class of 2010. In reviewing the players Rivals.com lists as known to have offers from the Buffs, the lead for the Pac-10 states is not as large as the current roster would suggest – 16 offers to players from California, Oregon, and Arizona to 14 offers to players from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. (Though it must be said that the only two known verbal commitments from the 2011 Class are from Big 12 country: quarterback Dexter Foreman from Manvel, Texas, and center Shaun Simon, from Oklahoma by way of Hutchinson Community College in Kansas).

However, if you look at the athletes Colorado has made offers to, the most prized recruits the Buffs wish to sign are from the West coast. Looking at Scout.com’s list of prospects interested in the Buffs (to give equal time to both services), of those players ranked in the Top 40 at their position nationwide who have at least expressed an interest level of “Medium” in the Colorado program, 11 of the 35 players who meet these criteria hail from California or Arizona, while only four (three from Texas; one from Oklahoma) are from Big 12 states.

This is the fifth season of the Dan Hawkins’ era at Colorado. With very few exceptions, the roster is made up of his recruits. It is not surprising, with Hawkins having his roots in playing and coaching on the West coast, that his recruits would tend to come from areas with which he is familiar. But, as most Buff fans know, recruiting in California is not a new concept in Boulder. On the 1990 national championship team, there were 36 players from Pac-10 states, including such well known names as:  Eric Bieniemy, Chad Brown, Christian Fauria, Deon Figures, Joe Garten, Darian Hagan, Jim Harper, George Hemingway, Tim James, Charles E. Johnson, Rico Smith and Mark Vander Poel. True, the “Houston bookends”, Kanavis McGhee and Alfred Williams, were on the national championship Buffs, but there were only 11 Texans on the roster that season. If you count only “Big Eight” states, there were only six Buffs who hailed from a state in which the Buffs played a conference road game.

Anyway you slice it – whether you look at history, the current Buff roster, or the recruits Colorado covets for the Class of 2011, California is where the Buffs mine gold. The potential losses in Texas recruiting wars by not playing a game or two in the state of Texas each year would be far out-weighed by the inroads the Buffs could make if the players they are already recruiting and signing would be able to play some of their road games close to their hometowns.

From a recruiting standpoint, moving to the Pac-12 is a no-brainer …

“We are certainly not a win-at-all-cost program”

Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn has been on the job for five years. He has hired two men’s basketball coaches (Jeff Bzdelik and Tad Boyle), two women’s basketball coaches (Kathy McConnell-Miller and Linda Lappe), and one football coach, Dan Hawkins. Only once in Bohn’s tenure has one of the three major programs at Colorado posted a winning record (the 2007-08 women’s team).

That being said, it’s not surprising that in an interview discussing his first five years in Boulder, Mike Bohn chose  to emphasize success off the field. “I believe the one thing I’m most proud of is the way we run our operation,” Bohn said. “We (the athletic department) want to be able to interact with the faculty members, key leadership on campus, and build a similar confidence with them. I’m a firm believer that trying to be everything to everybody is a formula for failure. But we have made progress with the unity effort.”

The unity effort?

“To the normal fan, that might be, ‘What the heck is he talking about?’ (Okay, I guess I’m a “normal fan”). But I believe one of our biggest remaining challenges is a unified push as a program – one that involves the academic leadership on campus, our faculty, fan base, alumni, boosters, donors, media, the community at large,” Bohn explained. “While we might not understand or like certain issues, we’re all pushing for the same thing.”

So, as long as we’re “unified”, the wins and losses don’t matter?

“We’re certainly are not a win-at-all-cost program,” said Bohn. “By that I mean that we’re not going to cut corners on our academic requirements or the social responsibility of our student-athletes and staff. We’re not going to break NCAA rules … we’re going to do all the things that are right despite the fact that some constituents don’t care about those aspects of how we run a program.”

Apparently, if taking notice of the accumulating “L’s” is of importance to you as a fan, you don’t care about living up to academic requirements or keeping players out of the police blotter … but I would beg to differ. There are any number of programs a “normal fan” could name which have high academic standards, obey NCAA rules, run a clean program, and yet still manage to field teams which win more than they lose.

So, let’s cut to the chase…

How many wins will Dan Hawkins have to post in 2010 to still be the Colorado coach in 2011?

“I believe that every season and each game is pivotal for us, for the reasons we’ve been talking about – perceptions, recruiting, fan base, fan interest, media interest, respect in a very competitive conference,” Bohn said. “I’d like to believe every football game we play is a significant event here.”

Bohn then went on to take a thinly veiled jab at those disgruntled fans who have not renewed their season tickets, or have indicated that they are not supporting the team as long as Dan Hawkins remains as coach. “When have we been best in home football games? When we have a great environment and we come out with a focused effort – then some good thing happen,” Bohn said. “That’s why sustaining that interest and indivisible presentation is so important. The kids are inspired by it … that’s why I’d like people who follow our program to understand that (all games) are important.”

Translation: If the Buffs lose, it’s the fault of the fans who don’t support the team …

Even if you grant Bohn the “we need fans to support the team in order to be successful” argument carries some merit in games played at Folsom Field, how does that argument work when you note the Buffs are 2-19 on the road under Dan Hawkins? …

When asked about where he expected the athletic department to be in five years, Bohn still hedged his bets when it comes to wins and losses. “It would be ideal if the intensity of interest and the product of our football enterprise allow us to sustain or maybe exceed an historical number (of WINS?) of season-ticket holders and to create an environment that is inspirational to others and recruits, to coaches and to national TV,” said Bohn.

No mention of actually posting wins, going to bowl games, competing for the Big 12 title …

On the issue of conference expansion …

Either Colorado athletic director is playing coy, or he is out of the loop …

Let’s hope it’s the former.

“It does appear to be pretty quiet. As I like to say, it’s like crickets out there,” Bohn said just this past this past Wednesday, when the internet was abuzz with comments from athletic directors and commissioners from coast to coast. “We’re certainly active in monitoring the marketplace and understand the importance of ensuring that (Colorado) is in a league that allows us to continue to grow,” Bohn said. “Anytime you have movement surrounding BCS institutions, it creates unrest among the entire group.”

In the next few years, Colorado will either: 1) join the Pac-12; 14 or 16; 2) remain in the Big 12 as nothing comes of expansion; or 3) left behind during the expansion re-alignment, left in an hollowed-out Big 12 (minus Missouri, Nebraska, and perhaps Texas and Texas A&M) or – even worse – a diluted Mountain West Conference with no BCS ties and no national attention.

Mike Bohn will be playing a major role in future of Colorado athletics over the next few seasons …

How confident do you feel?

—–

 

May 10th/11th

Is conference expansion finally here? Big Ten Commissioner says “no extension of offers made”

Has all the conjecture finally come to an end? Will we finally see the conference expansion talk go from talk to action?

Okay, let’s start with the source – a Kansas City radio station, WHB-AM/810 cites “multiple sources close to the negotiations” that Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Rutgers have been extended invitations to join the Big Ten/14/16. The story was picked up by madison.com, which covers University of Wisconsin sports, and now by ESPN. (Thanks, Ben, for the tip!).

The story goes on to state that Missouri and Nebraska would be teams 12 and 13 in the “Big Ten”, with Notre Dame to be No. 14. If Notre Dame declines, Rutgers would get the nod as team No. 14, with the option to extend invitations to two additional schools. If Notre Dame and Rutgers both accept, then one more team would be added to make the conference total 16 teams.

The report goes on to state that the Big Ten wants to have commitments this summer, and to have Big 12 schools Missouri and Nebraska give one year notices (an expensive proposition, considering early withdrawal penalties the Big 12 would inflict).

Big Ten coaches and athletic directors meet in Chicago starting next Monday (May 17th), so this could actually be happening sooner rather than later …

The move by the Big Ten, if it comes to fruition, would be bold and profitable. Nebraska and Missouri bring fans (mostly Nebraska), and regional rivalries (Missouri). Rutgers would bring in the New York television market, and Notre Dame … well, Notre Dame brings in all of the above.

The implications for Colorado are, of course, immediate and significant. Two of the major concerns about Colorado leaving the Big 12 were the $$$ it would cost to leave, and the inference that the Buffs, in a down cycle, are trying to run away from tough games in hopes of finding easier opponents in the Pac-12. If Nebraska and Missouri pave the road for the Buffs, leaving will be all the easier. Plus, does any Buff fan want to be a part of a Big 12 which might potentially have six teams from Texas? Or a Big 12 which does not have a Nebraska or (potentially) a Texas (if the Longhorns take off for an expanded SEC, which might feel compelled to expand in order to meet the financial ante upped by the new “Big 14” or “Big 16”)?

Let’s hope Mike Bohn is on the phone with his Pac-10 counterparts, lobbying hard for the Buffs’ admission to the new and improved Pac-12 …

UPDATE (5/10): The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a Big Ten spokesman has told them that “nothing has changed” with regard to Big Ten expansion, and that a 12-to-18 month timetable still in play for the Big Ten. Nebraska, for its part, is denying the report. Chancellor Harvey Perlman, when asked to verify the validity of the reported offer of admission to four schools, including Nebraska, said that there was “none whatsoever”. Still, a statement issued by the university stated that Nebraska “would consider any (conference realignment) opportunity that would advance the interests of the university”.

UPDATE (5/11): Big Ten Commissioner denies extension of offers

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has laid to rest – for five days or so – the report that the Big Ten has extended offers to Nebraska, Missouri, Notre Dame and Rutgers. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith confirmed that Delany had sent an email, “telling us there’s no true to (the rumored offers), which we knew. There’s been no extension of offers that have been made, so that’s not true.”

As to the meetings scheduled for Chicago next week, Smith attempted to downplay expectations. “This is our normal meetings, the ones we have every year,” Smith said. “He’ll give us an update, and then move on to what he’s been doing … the timeline hasn’t changed, but there won’t be any action next week.”

For those interested in reading the tea leaves, you will note that the quote from the Ohio State AD is that “no extension of offers have been made”, not  that “no expansion discussions are taking place.” It would make sense for the Big Ten to keep quiet until deals are done – especially after the Big Ten was publicly rebuked by Notre Dame not all that long ago.

The rumors will continue to swirl, but it’s fairly safe to say at this point that, while there might not yet be a fire sighting, there is definitely an accumulation of smoke …

The Big Ten athletic directors’ meetings start next Monday, so stay tuned …

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May 14th

Ringo gets one-on-one with Pac-10 commissioner

This week, Kyle Ringo, the CU beat writer for the Boulder Daily Camera, got a one-on-one interview with Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott. Here is a link to the entire article:  http://www.buffzone.com/ci_15073895 Below are some of the highlights:

Timetable for expansion, if it is to take place: “(the Pac-10) is going through an examination of our conference and different strategic options that we have going forward in preparation for our upcoming media negotiations, which start in 2011,” Scott said. “So this year is the time frame within which we are examining this …”.

“Concepts and ideas” which were discussed last week in Phoenix between Big 12 and Pac-10 athletic directors: “I guess the very concrete area of cooperation through such a strategic alliance would be television rights,” Scott said. “If you take all the Big 12 markets and the Pac-10 markets, you’ve got 33 percent of the all U.S. television households. It would be a very significant and formidable alliance from a media value perspective”.

The hiring of consultant Creative Artists Agency: “They have been asked to work with us in looking at different scenarios we’re contemplating regarding expansion and comparing it to our current structure and trying to place a value and give some analysis,” said Scott. “What would be the concrete media value to the conference of different scenarios.”

On keeping an eye on Big Ten expansion: “We’re going about our work analytically, strategicially and deliberately, and nothing has changed,” Scott said. “I don’t see what the Big Ten does that is going to tangibly affect us or our analysis of options … we’re looking at expansion to the extent it could add value for our conference, and that really hasn’t changed … I don’t know when the Big Ten might decide and what they’re going to do, but it’s not going to affect our timing.”

If the Pac-10 expands, what the conference is looking for: “First and foremost, we’re looking at the value proposition in terms of our media reach and the revenues that would flow to our conference. That is twinned with the fact that the current NCAA regulations you have to have 12 teams in your conference to have a football championship,” said Scott. “We’re also looking, of course, at athletic excellence and academics”.

The importance of academics (a true plus for Colorado compared to other candidates): “It will be of paramount importance to our presidents. Seven of our ten schools are AAU research institutions and the other three are very high Carnegie Research institutions,” Scott said. “Our conference very much prides itself on its academic excellence twinned with athletic excellence … We’re looking for that academic, cultural and athletic fit, and that will be the lens that this all gets looked at from.” (Colorado is both an AAU research institution and a Carnegie Research institution).

On the Pac-10 helping a new member defray the cost of giving notice to its old conference: “That is a hypothetical I don’t want to comment on.”

Concerning next month’s Pac-10 summer meetings: “Certainly we will be discussing this topic. Our presidents and chancellors are very engaged generally, and very specifically with this topic, and they are the group that would ultimately make any decisions,” Scott said, before adding, “But don’t expect any definitive decisions or any news to come out of our meetings.”

What to take from Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott’s comments … Not really a great deal new here, but that was to be expected. Every utterance on expansion made by a commissioner, athletic director, or coach, anywhere across the country, is being quickly posted and dissected nationwide. Larry Scott wouldn’t have made it to the position he is in if he were not media savvy. Still, there are nuggets to be mined from Ringo’s interview.

First and foremost is that, as we know, it will all come down to dollars. Can Colorado, or any other potential Pac-12 member, add value to the conference coffers? “We’re looking at expansion to the extent it could add value for our conference, and that really hasn’t changed”, said Scott. Colorado does, at least on paper, add more value ($$$) to the Pac-10 footprint than any other candidate in the Pacific or Mountain time zones. Of course, if Texas wanted to go west, the game changes, just as Notre Dame changes the expansion scenarios for the Big Ten.

Second, the Pac-10 is looking for the right “fit”, both athletically and academically. “Our conference very much prides itself on its academic excellence twinned with athletic excellence … We’re looking for that academic, cultural and athletic fit, and that will be the lens that this all gets looked at from,” Scott said. Again, this is heartening for Colorado fans, as Boulder, both culturally and academically, is a good fit for the Pac-10.

The main issue for Colorado, though, is whether the Pac-10 expands at all. While almost every other conference other than the Big Ten and SEC are subject to potential raids from other conferences, the Pac-10 is in no present danger of losing any of its members. In fact, if the Pac-10 petitions the NCAA to change the rule requiring 12 members for a championship game – “It is something we have discussed amongst other conferences, and we believe we have support for such a proposal,” Scott said – then the Pac-10, if it can form a television alliance with another conference (like the Big 12, or, as is now being discussed, the ACC), then the Pac-10 members can gain the additional revenue from a lucrative television contract without having to alter its footprint or share proceeds with any new members.

June is the month for summer meetings, with the Big Ten getting everything started with its meetings next week in Chicago.

This could be the most active June in college football history … or just the one with the most internet activity.

Missouri governor on joining the Big Ten: “We should look at it if it’s offered”

Missouri governor Jay Nixon is a big sports fan.

He is also a big fan of Missouri joining the Big Ten conference the moment any such invitation is extended. Citing academics, Nixon noted that Missouri, like all of the current Big Ten schools, are AAU members.

This is not the first time the Missouri governor has snubbed his counterparts in the Big 12. Last December, when asked about Big Ten expansion, Nixon put his foot in it. “I’m not going to say anything bad about the Big 12,” Nixon said just before he did just that,” but when you compare Oklahoma State to Northwestern; when you compare Texas Tech to Wisconsin, I mean, you being looking at educational possibilities that are worth looking at.”

Ouch (of course, the slam doesn’t sting for Colorado fans – we’re in the AAU).

Nixon wasn’t finished. “If a significant conference, with a long history of academic and athletic excellence, talks to you about joining them,” said Nixon, “you shouldn’t say, ‘We’re from the old Big Eight and I remember when’ … If they want to talk, we should talk. We should listen.”

Even with the potential buyout penalties from the Big 12, the move for Missouri is a no-brainer. The past few seasons, Missouri has netted between $8.4 million and $10 million in revenues from the conference. Big Ten members last season pocketed $22 million. Missouri could, quite literally, pay its exit fees (80 percent of its revenue if the notice is given by June 30th; 90 percent through the end of 2010) from the additional revenue it will receive as a new member of the Big Ten (Colorado could not expect to do the same as a new member of the Pac-10. Revenues for Pac-10 schools, at least until the new television contracts are renegotiated, are on par with what Big 12 schools are earning).

Then there is this – the Kansas City Star reported this week that Missouri athletic director Mike Alden, Missouri system president Gary Forsee, and Columbia campus chancellor Brady Deaton met last week to discuss the chances of Missouri leaving for the Big Ten.

All of which has left Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe in a precarious position. The Big 12 summer meetings are coming up the first week of June, and there is liable to be some heated discussions. “We need to come to terms with, and we need to have a frank conversation in Kansas City,” Beebe said this week. “We need to talk about where we’re going and who’s on the plane when it takes off. I will be very direct and talk about that with our membership.” Beebe went on to say that it is his belief that the Big 12 will stay together. “We’ve got a lot of good things in store for us if we stick together,” Beebe said. “It would be a shame, given that all boats have risen with this tide created by the Big 12, that they think they can have a better future somewhere else … I truly believe that.”

The fact that Beebe felt compelled to make such comments, to me, is the clearest indication to date that Big Ten expansion will affect the Big 12. Whether that is Missouri, or Missouri and Nebraska, remains to be seen. Also left undetermined is what affect such defections will have on other schools, most notably Colorado and Texas.

Oklahoma president: “I think the conference will stay intact”

Perhaps it is just whistling past the graveyard, but Oklahoma University president David Boren, for his part, doesn’t believe any Big 12 member will defect.

“We’re very happy with the Big 12 conference, and we certainly expect to stay in the Big 12 conference,” Boren said. “I really think that the likelihood of any school leaving the conference is really blown out of proportion. I think the conference will stay intact.” Boren went on to fire a shot across the bow of any team contemplating leaving. “I think when you look at where we’ve been, the revenue growth of the member schools of the Big 12 has been quite significant,” Boren said. “I really think that if any member decided to leave, they would regret it later on. Financial considerations are not the only considerations.”

While acknowledging that other conferences – notably the Big Ten and SEC – have television contracts far more lucrative than the Big 12 enjoys, Boren sees the discrepancy as merely a matter of timing. Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione agrees. “Some of the other leagues haven’t been at the table to finalize their negotiations yet, so currently, there’s a wider gap” Castiglione said. “But once the television negotiations take place, that gap will narrow some.”

Some, but not all the way. No one believes that the Big 12 will be able to command the numbers presently being earned by the Big Ten and SEC. And, if some of its members left, the conference footprint – and the number of households watching – would be diminished. If any combination of Colorado, Nebraska, and Missouri were to leave the Big 12, the size of the Big 12’s viewership (assuming some of the replacement names being tossed out, like TCU, Houston, and Tulsa, were asked to join) would be roughly what the old Southwest Conference had.

And we all know what happened to the SWC …

—–

 

May 16th

All about the AAU

When Big Ten and Pac-10 commissioners and athletic directors actually comment on the issue of conference expansion, they often tout how many members of their current conferences are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU). Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said that academic reputation “will be of paramount importance to our presidents”, going on to state “Seven of our ten schools are AAU research institutions, and the other three are very high Carnegie Research institutions.” Translation: If you want to be a part of the Big Ten / Pac-10 expansion discussion, it certainly doesn’t hurt a school to have “AAU member” on its resume.

So who all is in the AAU?

There are 61 members of the AAU in the United States (oddy enough, there are two AAU members in Canada). A non-profit organization, the AAU, according to its website, “focuses on national and institutional issues that are important to research-intensive universities, including funding for research, research and education policy, and graduate and undergraduate education.”

Okay, so who is in this exclusive club? The Ivy League, as you might expect, is well represented. There are also such renowned research institutions as MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Johns Hopkins. Of the 63 schools in the AAU, 35 are schools in one of the six BCS conferences. The breakdown:

Pac-10 – As we know from above, seven schools are in the AAU. The three which are not members are Arizona State, Washington State, and Oregon State;

Big 12 – Seven schools are represented, including five of the six schools in the Big 12 North (The one which is not a member? It’s the school with the, ahem, “liberal admissions policy”, Kansas State). Only two schools in the Big 12 South, Texas and Texas A&M, are AAU members, while Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State are not;

Big Ten – All eleven members of the Big Ten are AAU members (so you think they would be able to count to 11);

ACC – Five schools are members: Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia are long-time members, with Georgia Tech joining just this spring;

SEC – crickets … okay, Florida is a member, along with Vanderbilt; and

Big East – Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are the only Big East schools which are AAU members.

It is not a coincidence, then, that when the discussion turns to the possibility of the Big Ten looking east for members, that Rutgers, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh are in the mix, while Missouri and Nebraska are under consideration for midwestern additions. All five are AAU members, and would keep the Big Ten’s record of 100% participation in the AAU intact.(Notre Dame, as it turns out, is not an AAU member, but here’s guessing that Big Ten presidents could be persuaded to overlook that fact).

Here is a link to all of the members of the Association of American Universities http://www.aau.edu/about/article.aspx?id=5476

Colorado, it’s worth noting, has been a member of the AAU since 1966.

T. Boone Pickens weighs in

“I’m going to be in the Big 12 until somebody tells me we’re going”, said T. Boone Pickens this past week, reminding everyone who pulls the strings in Stillwater.

Pickens has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the Oklahoma State program, believes that his upgrades have placed the Cowboys in an “attractive” position for any potential conference realignment. “Back there (before his donations which led to $286 million in upgrades), I could see if we did not get into a serious football program that we were going to be left at the post,” Pickens said. “I could see that we were struggling, and I didn’t want to be one of those.”

Pickens’ puffing aside, Oklahoma State is one of those schools which could be left on the outside looking in. If Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado depart for other conferences, the Big 12 runs the risk of disintegrating. Texas might bolt for the SEC, or, as some are now suggesting, go independent, a la Notre Dame (I don’t see it. Texas is still a state school, and isn’t going anywhere without Texas A&M). Without Texas and Nebraska in the Big 12, Oklahoma might look for a better deal, leaving Oklahoma State to hope that any invitation Oklahoma might receive (from the SEC) would also include the Cowboys.

For all the dollars T. Boone Pickens has pumped into the Oklahoma State program, there is only one certainty when it comes to the Cowboys with regard to conference realignment …

… Oklahoma State is still reliant upon the whims – and clout – of big brother up in Norman.

—–

 

May 18th

Big Ten Commissioner: “We’re months away”

With teams and fans from coast to coast watching every move made by the Big Ten, the meeting of conference officials in Chicago was much discussed and much anticipated.

Much ado about nothing?

“(The timeline) continues to be roughly 12- to 18-months,” said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. “Could it be 19 (months)? I hope not. Could it be 11? It may. But 12-18 months makes sense.” The timetable was first announced last December 15th, which would put a decision on expansion off until after the end of the 2010 regular season, and perhaps off until next summer.

The Big Ten presidents and chancellors are meeting June 6th at Big Ten headquarters in Park Ridge, Illinois. It was anticipated that at those meetings, discussions would take place as to extending offers to as few as one, and as many as five, other schools. “There will be no vote,” said Delany. “That’s not in our time frame … We’re months away.”

As for what the Big Ten will be looking for as the expansion review goes on, Delany pointed to two factors: the growth and expansion of the Big Ten Network, and the acknowledgement that the population of the country is moving south. As to the latter factor, Delany was to the point. “As far as the shifting population, that is reason, by itself, to look at the concept of expansion,” Delany said. “You do want to look forward to 2020 and 2030 and see what that impact would be on our schools.”

There is also academics to consider. “AAU membership is an important part of who we are,” Delany said. All curent Big Ten members are AAU institutions, as are candidates Rutgers, Missouri, Syracuse, Nebraska, and Pittsburgh (see story on the Association of American Universities, below).

When the time comes for offering membership, “I’ll give someone a heads-up”, said Delany. “Then will know it. Schools will have to apply, and then they would have to receive eight votes (for admission) … The heads-up anyone would get would be before a public announcement, but probably not months before a public announcement.”

So, does this kill expansion talk for the next six months to a year? Probably not. Michigan athletic director noted that “change is in the wind”, while Indiana athletic director Tom Crean stated that expansion was “a topic of conversation” this week in Chicago. As long as the powers that be are keeping open the topic of conversation, rumors will persist.

And then there’s this …

On Monday, Missouri officials denied an Associated Press request for documents related to the school’s possible interest in the Big Ten. The university cited an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act request related to ongoing contract negotiations. Missouri issued the denial even though it indicated that it had not been determined if such records even existed.

Perhaps Missouri’s officials doth protest too much …

—–

 

May 22nd

ESPN writer makes a case for Nebraska joining the Big Ten

With actual news on expansion once again pushed into the background (at least until the Big 12 and Pac-10 directors meet in early June) Pat Forde of ESPN has made a case for the Big Ten expanding by one team. Rather than adding Notre Dame, Missouri, or a Big East school, however, Forde offers up a rationale as to why the best choice for a 12th team for the new “Big Ten” is, in fact …

… Nebraska.

The 16-team formula won’t work in the Big Ten. Before making his case for adding just one team, Forde first eliminates the option of the Big Ten expanding to 16 teams, rhetorically asking Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, “Do you really want to be the guy who pulls the pin on a grenade that blows up college sports as we currently know it?”. Expansion to 16 teams would require raiding both the Big 12 and the Big East, which, for starters, “would destroy whatt little collegiality is left in college sports.” Scheduling would also be a nightmare. Two eight-team divisions? Four four-team “quads”? Forde notes that Michigan and Ohio State would have to be paired together, and, if you went East/West, you would have to include Penn State in that grouping, giving the Big Ten East dominance currently enjoyed by the Big 12 South.

Forde also points out that if the Big Ten expanded to 16 teams, the SEC would little option but to raise its ante in the collegiate arms race. Adding either a foursome from the South (Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech) or from the West (Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) would allow the SEC to resume its dominant position in college football. (Forde notes that the Big Ten hasn’t won a football national championship since 2002; none in men’s basketball since 2000; and none in women’s basketball since 1999 – and that trying to get into an arms race with the SEC would only make matters worse for the Big Ten).

What about 14 teams? This is a possibility, assuming the three new members are Missouri, Rutgers, and Nebraska. All three, Forde notes, “are believed to be waiting by the telephone with held breath and crossed fingers, just hoping you’ll call.” However, such an expansion would not get the Big Ten either of the teams which would bring in the greatest increase in dollars – Texas and Notre Dame.

If only one team is added, why Nebraska? Forde concludes that Nebraska is the best fit for the Big Ten, but only after first eliminating the other possibilities …

Notre Dame. “The Fighting Irish play who they want to play, when they want to play them, and where. They have a spot at the BCS table, a fat TV contract, and perpetual staying power in spite of their recent mediocrity. Why trade a Thanksgiving weekend game on prime time against USC for an 11 a.m. kickoff in Champaign?” …

Texas. “It’s a geographic joke to consider transporting non-revenue teams from Austin to State College or Minneapolis … Plus, you cannot get the Longhorns without also getting Texas A&M, which is only a moderately attractive wingman”.

Missouri or Rutgers. Both offer television markets as well as rivals for current members, but, as Forde puts it, the Tigers and Scarlet Knights do not have what Nebraska has to offer – “the most football cachet.”

Nebraska. While Forde concedes there would not be many new televisions added to the Big Ten Network, he argues that the Cornhuskers’ football appeal is nationwide. Plus, “the fan base is among the most rabid in America – they care too much to tolerate any long-term lapses in football, which means the Cornhuskers should always be viable. Fans everywhere will tune in to watch Nebraska play Michigan and Ohio State. Not sure the same can be said for Missouri or Rutgers.”

The final argument Forde makes for adding just one team to the Big Ten is that with the addition of Nebraska, there would be the establishment of a championship game, “making (the Big Ten) relevant into December … There will still be geographic divisional issues, but they are surmountable.”

Forde’s arguments are reasonable and rational, and I, for one, would have no problem with the Cornhuskers bailing out of the Big 12 and heading off to the Big Ten. It would only serve to improve the chances of Colorado turning its attention westward to the Pac-10.

—–

 

May 26th

“Nothing’s off the table”

This just in … Texas is the prettiest girl in school – and she knows it.

Texas has enough money and national cache that it may be the only school other than Notre Dame to have the option of going it alone. “We’ve had those conversations. We’ve thought about (going independent)”, said Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds. “You could do it in football. It hurts basketball badly unless you find a conference. It’s got a lot of flaws.”

Still, Dodds hasn’t closed the door. “Nothing’s off the table,” Dodds told USA Today.

“It’s not something we have to think about. It’s something we are thinking about,” Dodds said. “If we have our way, we’re never going to get caught in a situation where we’re not part of something that’s really viable nationally. If that’s the way the world goes, then we’ll go with that world.”

Also feeling pretty confident that they will land on their feet is Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. When asked about expansion on Tuesday, Stoops replied that he thought Oklahoma would be “pretty attractive” to any conference (SEC?) which might come calling. If Missouri, Nebraska, and/or Colorado left the Big 12, Stoops said that he believed the conference could add teams and remain a national player, “or, if not, we may end up going somewhere else.”

What’s coming …

This week – The Big East is conducting its meetings in Ponte Vedra, Florida, amid speculation that its conference could be gutted if the BCS map turned into a group of super-conferences.

Next week – The SEC and Big 12 conduct their meetings in Destin, Florida, and Kansas City, Missouri, respectively, with Pac-10 officials convening in San Francisco later in the week.

Of most interest to Colorado fans … how far Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe will push his members for a commitment to stay intact. Beebe stated this past week that he will be pushing for a deadline, perhaps as early as this summer, for members schools to affirm their commitment to the league, or face even stiffer consequences than are already on the books for school which tries to leave.

“I want to call the question soon, so we know,” said Beebe. “We have negotiations to enter into this year. We’re finalizing bowl contracts for the next go-round. We’re strategizing for how we’re going to position ourselves for the future in media rights and governance in the NCAA — all sorts of matters that aren’t going to lend themselves to holding on and waiting to see what might be offered.

“So, in my judgment, institutions need to come to that conclusion, and if that means they have to go back to possible suitors and say, ‘This is our time frame, so you better let us know,’ then that’s what I think should happen. Again, I’m the commissioner. The board may or may not agree with me.”

—–

 

May 31st

SEC / Big East keeping an eye on the Big Ten

SEC spring meetings start Tuesday, June 1st, in Destin, Florida. Expansion, as with other conference summer meetings, is not an “official” agenda item. However, with twice the usual media turnout expected for the SEC meetings this week, expansion is a topic which will be hard to avoid. SEC Commissioner Mike Silve has already stated that the SEC is working on a plan should the Big Ten expand. Jimmy Hyams, a veteran broadcaster in Knoxville, cited a source close to CBS reporting that Silve has met with the network to discuss potential targets Texas, Texas A&M, Clemson and Florida State.

Meanwhile, Paul Tagliabue, former NFL Commissioner and a special advisor to the Big East conference, believes his conferenced also needs to be proactive. “I don’t think that anyone, not in the Big East, is waiting for the Big Ten,” said Tagliabue. “We are looking ahead proactively. It starts with ESPN … Depending on how (the negotiations with ESPN) go, people would look at other alternatives, but it has to start with ESPN. That’s where others have ended up. The SEC ended up there. The ACC ended up there.”

The Big East’s current football contract expires at the end of the 2013 season. If the Big Ten expands by more than one team, it is likely that the Big East (Pittsburgh? Syracuse? Rutgers?) will be raided. The loss of one or more of the premier teams in the league, along with possible losses to the ACC should that conference lose members to the SEC (see above), has the Big East, which has 16 teams for basketball but only eight for football, very nervous.

—–

 

June 1st

Big 12 meetings will be anything but dull

“I’m going to put to our membership that they quit deciding how to react and just go forward”, was the gauntlet thrown down by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe several weeks ago when discussing this week’s Big 12 meetings. “We’re going forward, this plane is going to take off and we’re going to see who’s on board.”

Beebe has backed down somewhat since making that statement, but with “conference membership” officially on the agenda this week, Beebe acknowledges that his strategy this week will consist of “convincing, cajoling and making recommendations.”

Three schools who have not been involved in the expansion discussion had leaders weigh in supporting Beebe’s stance.

“Everybody has to have patience,” said Kansas University athletic director Lew Perkins. “This is very serious stuff. I think we need to be very careful to not overreact. We must make sure we have all the facts and make sure we know what we’re doing and make sure we’re communicating with each other.”

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione believes Beebe will present the membership with compelling reasons to stay the course. “The commissioner has been working diligently with everybody who could have some bearing on possibilities for change,” Castiglione said. “The greatest amount of his effort has been to identify ways we can strengthen our conference. We will hear directly from (Nebraska and Missouri) when we meet face-to-face. I think it’s very wise to have a very frank conversation about our unification.”

Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder, there is an acknowledgement that there are dollars out there for Missouri and Nebraska (and, potentially, Colorado) to make with other conferences, but he also believes that Big 12 members are just a few years away from reaping the benefits of new television contracts of their own. “It’s going to take a little bit of faith in the future on the part of everyone (in the Big 12) to be really willing to look past what the disparity is now in income and say that will change in the future,” Holder said. “You’ve got to be a real believer in this conference.”

At the end of the day, Holder believes that expansion talk this week will come down to two questions. “Do you believe strongly in the future of the Big 12 Conference? And does that outweigh the attractiveness of moving to another pasture?”.

While it is unlikely that any decisions of substance will come out of the Big 12 meetings this week – Will Beebe convince the membership to change its television distribution plan? Will the buyout for departing members be increased? Can Beebe obtain votes for – and enforce – some sort of loyalty vote? – the fact that such discussions are taking place is a fair indication of how far the issue of expansion has come.

—–

 

June 3rd

“This is serious, serious, serious”

Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins knows of what he speaks. With Big 12 meetings underway, and Pac-10 meetings coming up, the issue of conference expansion has become very serious business.

To get you up to date on the stories from Kansas City …

Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton said that Missouri remains a “proud member of the Big 12”, but Deaton also said, “We’re not shutting our ears to anything. I’m sure every school here has a responsibility to its own institution … Conference realignment is something we do for our athletic programs. That’s what we’re looking at right now.”

What about Nebraska? “It’s important to understand I don’t think the Big Ten knows what they’re going to do”, said Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne. “They might add one (school), they may add three, they may add five. So we have no indication right now even what’s going to happen.” (First impression – ‘ol Dr. Tom didn’t put in the possibility of “they might add none” to his Big Ten expansion hypothetical. Just one more log on the fire of expansion being a “when”, not an “if”).

Osborne also noted that there may be more news out of Kansas City on Friday. “I think your story is going to come when the presidents are here,” said Osborne – and I don’t think he was talking about the expected announcement of future Big 12 title games being played in Dallas.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who had stated recently that his goal of these meetings was to display conference unity, and to obtain a commitment of loyalty from the membership, is not as optimistic now. “There’s a lot of interest by a lot of the athletic directors to try and get to the same goal I have – some sort of conclusion on the commitment of all institutions,” Beebe said. “I just don’t know if that’s possible or not. The presidents and the board are the ones who have to answer that.”

As for the Buffs, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn did nothing to quell the rumors of potential moves. “Colorado has been committed to the Big 12 all along,” said Bohn, before going on to say, “However, when there’s so much uncertainty out there, you have to begin to think about what that means for potential challenges down the road. It will be great having the presidents and chancellors with us tomorrow.”

Sounds like fun – tune in tomorrow for more from the Big 12 meetings in Kansas City.

Meanwhile …

Are you ready for the “Pac-16”?

An article first published on Rivals at Orangebloods.com (link: http://texas.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1090740) has exploded onto the internet today. For the non-Rivals members, the gist of the article is that, when the Pac-10 meetings get underway this weekend, the Pac-10 may be the first to make a bold move in the conference realignment sweepstakes.

According to the article, the Pac-10, as early as this weekend, may invite Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado to join its league, according to “multiple sources close to the situation.” The six refugees from the Big 12 would join Arizona and Arizona State to form one division, with the remaining eight schools from the Pac-10 in the other.

The upside? Huge dollar signs.

The new league would be in a position to operate its own television network (akin to the Big Ten Network), and, with seven of the country’s top 20 television markets (not to mention half of the United States) the Pac-16 could command television revenues which could easily double the roughly $9 million that Big 12 and Pac-10 schools presently receive.

The Orangebloods article does state that Texas A&M and Oklahoma may not be enamoured with the idea of joining the Pac-16. Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne has been quoted as being critical of the possibility of his athletes heading west two time zones to compete, and then having to return to College Station in the early morning hours of the following day. Meanwhile Oklahoma, which has been playing the unity card in the Big 12 meetings in Kansas City (remember the “they’ll be sorry if they leave” comment from last week from the Sooner athletic director?), is rumored to be more interested in joining the SEC that the Pac-10 should realignment become a reality.

The article concludes: “The Pac-10 doesn’t want to waste time by going out on dates with the Big 12 with a non-conference football scheduling alliance. It wants to take half of the Big 12 and get married. Now, we’ll see who, if anyone meets them at the altar.”

My first reaction, as is usually the case when Colorado is mentioned as part of conference realignment, is one of relief. I am very fearful that all of this conference juggling is happening at the very worst time for Colorado. The CU athletic department has no money in the bank to pay defection fees, and all three of the high profile sports are in prolonged losing streaks. Such was not the case in 1994. The last time the Pac-10 last came calling, Colorado was a perennial national contender in football.

First and foremost, I don’t want Colorado to be left behind when the realignment trains pull out of the station, so if the Pac-10 comes calling, the Buffs should leap at the opportunity.

That being said, the “Pac-16”, as discussed in the article, does not strike me as a good deal for the Buffs. The idea behind going west was to get away from the discrepancies Colorado faces in terms of revenues in the Big 12. Get away from Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska, the argument goes, and compete with schools of similar size, financial backing, and academic standing.

If Colorado was to be invited to be a part of the six team defection, Colorado would compete in the same division as Texas and Oklahoma. Does anyone see that as a plus for the Buffs long term?The Buffs could well become to the “Pac-16 Eastern division” what Baylor is presently to the Big 12 South – a school allowed a seat at the adult table, but not allowed to participate in the title discussion.

Plus, one of the main benefits of joining the “Pac-12” was to be that Colorado could increase its recruiting presence in the state of California. With the Pac-16 model discussed, Colorado could have seven games of its season against other members of its division, which would mean the majority of conference road trips will be to the states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Arizona – not bad, but not much different that what Colorado has now, with predictable results: second tier players after Texas and Oklahoma have cherry-picked the best players. California would become, at best, a once a season trip, and perhaps only twice every four seasons as the Buffs worked their way through the rotation of “Pac-16 West” teams.

Would it be better for Colorado to join the Pac-16 than to be left uninvited? Absolutely. But would it help restore the program to national prominence? I don’t think so. I would still much rather be a part of a Pac-12 expansion (regardless of the identity of the other new member).

Finally, there is this one satisfying thought …

The Orangebloods article notes that, while Nebraska is often rumored to be a part of the Big Ten expansion, such might not be the case. “There also appears to be a chance Nebraska will not get invited to the Big Ten,” wrote Chip Brown, “which means the only school the Big 12 stands to lose to the Big Ten is Missouri”. Brown also states, “The Tigers already have one foot in the Big Ten. But Nebraska has no assurance it will be invited to the Big Ten, and could be completely left out of the power conference structure if it’s not careful.”

Let that one sink in for a second.

A world in which Colorado is part of a super conference …  Nebraska is not?

Priceless!

Bohn Comments on Pac-16

It is being reported that Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn is lending credence to the Pac-16 rumor. “The longer that we were together in Kansas City, it appeared that the rumor or speculation did have some validity to it,” said Bohn. “We’re led to believe that may be the case (invitations being extended), but, again, there are so many different reports and different dialogues and different developments within our league and outside our league that prevents me from being able to predict what will happen.”

In response to the report, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott issued a statement. “We have not developed any definitive plans,” Scott said. “We have not extended any invitations for expansion, and we do not any such decisions in the near term.”

—–

 

June 4th

Is Dan Beebe the new Nero?

“I am comfortable”, said Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe as the Big 12 meetings in Kansas City came to their conclusion. “There’s still a process we’re going through, but based on the conversations we had, I think we’re in a very good position.”

While Dan Beebe fiddles, the Big 12 is burning, perhaps to the ground …

After four days of meetings, the Big 12 presidents and athletic directors returned to their respective corners, but left Kansas City anything but unified. Instead of ending the meetings with a “We are the World” sing-a-long, the teams seem more and more likely to go their separate ways.

The latest …

The Associated Press is reporting that it has confirmed that the Big Ten is interested in pursuing Texas. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State (and former president at Colorado  – a quick aside: both my wife, an Ohio State grad, and I, have diplomas signed by Gordon Gee) told Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany in an email that he, Gee, had spoken with Texas president Bill Powers about Texas joining the Big Ten conference. Powers, who was scheduled to attend Dan Beebe’s press conference Friday, did not attend. Read into that what you will.

With Nebraska, Missouri, and Texas in the mix for the Big Ten, and the stunning report Thursday that six Big 12 schools – Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech – were being considered for membership in a super “Pac-16” conference, schools such as Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Baylor may be left scrambling to form a new league, or rebuild the Big 12.

“We are committed to our membership in the Big 12, and we are optimistic that the conference will remain in tact,” said Iowa State president Gregory Geoffroy in a letter to alumni. Geoffroy did concede, however, “we also recognize that the long-term viability of the Big 12 conference is not in our control, it is in the hands of just a few of our fellow members.”

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe spent the week touting how well the conference is doing, and that he expected huge financial windfalls when the Big 12’s contracts come up for renewal. His announcement that the Big 12 had distributed a record $139 million to its members this past fiscal year sounded good … until the SEC a few hours later announced that it was distributing $209 million to its members.

Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn may well have prematurely let the cat out of the bag on Thursday when he told the Daily Camera that six Big 12 teams were under consideration for membership in the Pac-10. However, it is worthy of note that no one in authority from any team in this discussion has denied that the option is in fact being explored by the Pac-10.

The Pac-10 meetings get underway in San Francisco Saturday. Look for more quotable quotes generating more banner headlines this weekend.

Just don’t look for them to come from Dan “Nero” Beebe.

—–

 

June 6th

The latest from Orangebloods.com

Chip Brown, who writes for Orangebloods.com, and was the first to post the “six teams from the Big 12 to the Pac-10” story, has posted his latest version of events (link for those with Rivals.com subscriptions – http://colorado.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1091537)

Interesting tidbits include …

A Big 12 athletic director has told Orangebloods.com that the Pac-10 has indicated that it might be willing to invite Baylor instead of Colorado in order to avoid a political storm that could hold up negotiations with other Big 12 South schools.

It appears that the future fate for Colorado, and the rest of the Big 12, may rest with … Nebraska.

At the Big 12 meetings in Kansas City, nine schools were willing to commit  to the future of the conference, but three were not – Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado. Orangebloods.com is reporting that it was not just Nebraska and Missouri which were given deadlines of next Friday to commit to remaining in the conference (see below), but that Colorado was as well. Still, Nebraska remains the key. The sentiment is that the Big 12 conference could survive the loss of Missouri, and that Colorado might not get invited to join the Pac-10 unless its a package deal with Texas, leaving Nebraska the school which will preserve – or topple – the Big 12.

If Nebraska will not commit to staying in the Big 12, Texas may feel compelled to look elsewhere for its future home. If Texas leaves, the Pac-10 may in fact add six teams, including most – or perhaps all – of the Big 12 South.

Will Colorado lose out to Baylor in the super-conference sweepstakes? Baylor beat out TCU for Big 12 membership in 1994, when the old Southwest Conference was folding. Powerful lawmakers in Austin leveraged Baylor into the new Big 12, leaving TCU to wind its way through, for the past decade and a half, the WAC, Conference USA, and now the Mountain West Conference.

It could happen. With the Buffs’ mired in a four-season losing streak in football, not fielding competitive basketball teams, and not competing at all in other sports such as baseball and gymnastics, Baylor may prove to be a more attractive alternative. If Nebraska and Missouri then also leave, Colorado could be left with the remaining unwanteds – Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State – to forage for a new alignment. Certainly, any such new conference, or any reconfiguration of the “Big 12” without Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, would not command as many dollars in the lucrative wars for television revenue, and would be hard pressed to maintain its BCS status.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There were four scenarios given to Pac-10 presidents this weekend by commissioner Larry Scott: 1) a non-conference, made-for-TV merger with the Big 12; 2) a six team expansion; 3) a two team expansion (Colorado and Utah); and 4) do nothing at all. In only one aspect of the four proposals – a six team expansion which does not include the Buffs – does Colorado come out worse off than the present alignment. As noted below, Scott has been given the green light to explore all expansion options, and he is said to favor the six team plan (one which includes Colorado).

Of course, the way things have been going for the Buffs the past few years …

“The Pac-10’s in a very fortunate position”

The final day of the Pac-10 conference meetings ended with commissioner Larry Scott given all the authority he needs to expand the Pac-10.

“What direction that process takes still could go in different directions, everything from remaining as we are as a Pac-10 that’s got some very bright days ahead of it to a bigger conference footprint,” said Scott. “I have the authority to take it in different directions, depending on various scenarios and discussions we’re going to have.”

Scott would not discuss specific schools the conference is interested in inviting, but there is at least a new deadline for the Pac-10 – the end of this year. However, the speculation now is that the expansion announcement target date may be July 27th, the first day of the Pac-10 media days in New York.

As far as how many schools may be invited, Scott was non-committal. “You’ve read about an awful lot of ideas,” said Scott. “I’m not sure I’ve read every single one, but we probably have contemplated or are contemplating almost everything you’ve read about.”

Money, of course, is the great motivator, but what about all of the discussion we’ve heard over the past few months about the Pac-10 wanting only AAU schools, and schools which meet other conditions of tradition and academics? “I can’t say for sure sitting here today that there are options which will achieve these goals (exponential growth in revenue) where the Pac-10 can stay true to its DNA and its special values,” said Scott. “But there are some very exciting possibilities out there. That’s why we’re investing so much time and effort.”

“In or out?” – Cornhuskers/Tigers may need to make a decision soon

Two “highly placed officials of two Big 12 schools” are being quoted by the Austin Statesman as stating that Missouri and Nebraska have been given an ultimatum by the Big 12. The two schools have been told that they have until this Friday (June 11th) to decide if they want to remain in the Big 12, or entertain the possibility of joining the Big Ten. “Nebraska has until 5:00 p.m. on Friday to tell us what they’re going to do,” said one official. “The same deal for Missouri. They have to tell us they’re not going to the Big Ten, or …”.

The quote was also cited by CBSSports.com, who also had a source which said, “I know that (Nebraska has been given an ultimatum) for a fact”.

The problem for Nebraska and Missouri is that the Big Ten, at least so far, is sticking with its “12-to-18 month” scenario, with six to twelve months to go on that timetable. What if Nebraska and Missouri opt for the Big Ten – and then are not invited? Adding intrigue to the story is that Big Ten presidents are meeting Sunday at a regularly scheduled meeting at league offices. Will the Big 12 ultimatum speed up the Big Ten’s timetable? Will Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, expected to address the media Sunday, have any to add?

As for the expansion of the Pac-10, the statesman.com story had conflicting quotes. “I’ve talked to the Pac-10”, said the Big 12 official, who expects a resolution within two weeks. “There is an invitation. When it comes, it’ll come fast.” Meanwhile, a Pac-10 athletic director told the Statesman, “There’s still a lot that has to happen. It’s nowhere near done.”

The last word went to what was described as a “political figure heavily connected to Texas”, who said, “I know the war drums are beating. This is way beyond gossip.”

Why do we care about “political figures” in Texas?

See below.

Baylor in, Colorado out?

Orangebloods.com, the Rivals.com site which first broke the story about the Pac-10 inviting six Big 12 schools to join their league, is now reporting that members of the Texas state legislature are going to push for Baylor, not Colorado, to join the new league along with Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech.

“If you’re going to have an exported commodity involved in this, do you think we’re going to allow a school from outside the state of Texas to replace one of our schools in the Big 12 South? I don’t think so,” said what was stated to be a “high-ranking member” of the Texas state legislature. “We’re already at work on this.”

Meanwhile, at the start of the Pac-10 meetings in San Francisco, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott reportedly laid out a number of scenarios to the conference’s athletic directors: 1) some sort of merger with the Big 12 (pre-packaged non-conference games for television); 2) merging with six Big 12 schools; 3) merging with just Colorado and Utah; and 4) doing nothing. Scott is scheduled to brief school presidents and chancellors on Sunday.

——

 

June 7th

Pac-10 to invite five – and leave Colorado/Baylor question dangling?

According to Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com, who seems to be the one reporter out there ahead of everyone else when it comes to breaking news on the issue of conference realignment, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott could be extending invitations to five Big 12 schools to join his league, and may do so as early as this week.

That’s right – five.

The sixth invitation? It “still appears to be up in the air”, said Brown.

According to multiple sources, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech are getting invitations. Whether Colorado or Baylor gets the sixth invitation may well depend on how much a problem not inviting Baylor would cause the proposed expansion (see “Baylor fighting hard to boot Buffs”, below).

Notre Dame on the clock?

As noted below, Nebraska may hold the key to whether Texas bolts to the Pac-10. But what Nebraska does may be completely dependent upon what Notre Dame chooses to do. There is now speculation that Notre Dame has been put on the clock, much like Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado. The Big Ten’s first choice in expansion is to add just one team – Notre Dame – and go about its business as a lucrative 12-team league.

But … if Notre Dame balks, and decides it would rather remain independent (not as clear a choice, with the possibility of a four 16-team super conferences is beginning to look more and more like a reality), then the Big Ten may pull the trigger on adding three or five teams to its league, which could well involve Nebraska.

If Nebraska bolts to the Big Ten, then it makes it easier for Texas to just say “no” to the Big 12, and turn its attention to accepting admission into the Pac-16. If Nebraska stays, Texas might stay in the Big 12, whether or not Missouri leaves for the Big Ten.

If Texas does decide to leave, it will likely be taking five of its Big 12 brethren with them (side issue: If eight teams leave the Big 12, who will be left to assess the penalties for leaving early?). Will the sixth team be Colorado or Baylor? The choice could become the question in college football – at least until the dominos start to fall in other conferences.

There is much concern on the internet boards that Colorado, unlike Baylor, has been very quiet. There have been no leaked emails, no pronouncements of how much better the Buffs would be for the Pac-10 than the Bears, no press conferences.

It may not be a bad thing. Colorado, remember, has been in the discussion from the beginning. When the Pac-10 was rumored to be looking at two teams, it was Colorado and Utah. When the first story was posted about the Pac-10 looking at six teams, Colorado was on the list. Geographically, historically, and symetrically, Baylor would have been a more obvious choice. If you are going to take five teams from the Big 12 South, why not just take all six?

Simple answer: The Pac-10 would prefer Colorado. The simple fact that Colorado was part of the initial grouping tells you that the Pac-10 officials, with every team in the western half of the nation to choose from, looked to Colorado. It was not “the Big 12 South five plus Utah”, or “the Big 12 South five plus TCU”, or the “Big 12 South five plus Baylor” – it was the “Big 12 South plus Colorado”. We have to trust that the Colorado administration – and for many of us, that’s a stretch – is working the phones with their counterparts, and having alumni, professors, and administrators talking up the University of Colorado.

Besides, at the end of the day, it is not Baylor which stands between Colorado and an invitation. It is the fear that Texas might back out if the political pressure gets too great. Without Texas, there is no way the Pac-10 would reach as far east to add teams to its league. Without Texas, there might not be any reason for the Pac-10 to expand at all. Without Texas, all bets are off.

If Texas says “Baylor” … the Pac-10 says, “Welcome, Bears!”

So, if you are afraid the Buffs will be left out of the Pac-16, you might hope for – of all things – that Notre Dame joins the Big Ten. That would keep Nebraska in the Big 12, which would keep Texas in the Big 12.

Which would get us back to reading preseason magazines, wondering how the Buffs will piece together six wins and a bowl bid.

Baylor fighting hard to boot Buffs

A strong lobbying effort is being made by legislators and lobbyists in Texas to try and keep the four members of the Big 12 South together in any expansion discussion. Prominent Austin lobbyist and Baylor regent Buddy Jones has launched a campaign to have Baylor included in any Pac-16 discussion, to the exclusion of Colorado.

“My guess is that Colorado hasn’t taken enough broadside hits to sink their boat yet, and they may be well on the invite list,” Jones said in an email to Baylor alumni and supporters. “I hope I’m wrong. But there’s still time left to change the scoreboard. We aren’t through.”

In another email, Jones urged alumni in the Texas legislature to contact officials from Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, providing them talking points on how to lobby for Baylor’s inclusion. “It is imperative that whatever happens, the four Texas schools (and hopefully Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) agree to stick together,” Jones wrote. “United we stand. And the three public Universities you all are contacting understand the importance of an issue that touches 20 of their bosses in the Legislature.”

Then there is this. Chip Brown, the Orangebloods.com writer (formerly of the Dallas Morning News) had this to say. “I’ve been told that Larry Scott, the commissioner of the Pac-10, is going to leave it up to the folks here in Austin,” said Brown. “If they feel that strongly about Baylor, then Baylor is in”.

The main problem for Colorado in this rapidly developing story is that the Pac-10, while it’s membership may favor Colorado – its academics and its television market – those same members may not want to fight for the Buffs if the fight means getting bogged down in a bitter fight with the Texas legislature.

Put yourself in Larry Scott’s shoes. If you, the new Pac-10 commissioner, get Texas – the cherry, the plum, the ultimate prize – you don’t care that Texas Tech and A&M come along for the ride. You don’t care that Baylor comes along instead of Colorado. If the Pac-10 gets Texas – it wins the expansion sweepstakes. Period.

So, Baylor is lobbying hard for inclusion in the new “Pac-16”. Emails are flying; calls are being made; strategies launched.

Meanwhile, back in Boulder … crickets. If you are a glass half-full Buff, then you believe that the CU administration is working the phones behind the scenes, reminding  their Pac-10 counterparts of all that the University of Colorado would bring to the conference. If you are glass half-empty Buff, however …

If Colorado winds up in the Mountain West, or a diluted Big 12, Buff fans will look back at this month as the time when Colorado lost its status as one of the top 20 programs in college football history.

—–

 

June 8th

CU Board of Regents meet to discuss conference realignment

The University of Colorado Board of Regents met tonight to discuss a “specfic legal matter”. The Daily Camera described the meeting as a “secret meeting”, but the Board of Regents is not actually allowed under state law to conduct “secret meetings”. What the Regents did was convene a Special Board meeting, at which time the recessed into executive session to discuss what the agenda described as a specific legal matter. There was no public access to the meeting, and no formal action was taken.

Now, what the Regents discussed is anyone’s guess, but it would be safe to assume that it did not involve a party to celebrate the Buffs being asked to join the Mountain West Conference. Best case scenario: the invitation to join the Pac-12 or Pac-16 was extended, and the Board needed to meet to discuss particulars about giving notice to the Big 12, and financial repercussions about such a significant move. Worst case scenario: the Regents are coming late to the party of trying to influence the Pac-10 officials, and are scrambling to catch up with the Baylor political machinery and media bashing of the University of Colorado.

The question now is …

Will COLORADO be the first team to leave the Big 12?

None other than Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com – who has become the insider quoted by every other new service in the country on this topic – is speculating that the meeting of the Board of Regents was to discuss the possibility of bolting from the Big 12 NOW, rather than wait to see how the other chips may fall nationwide. As it would be non-sensical for Colorado to assume the worst, and prematurely leave the conference for the lesser Mountain West Conference, the speculation is that Colorado will announce it has accepted a bid to join the Pac-10.

Such a bold move by the CU administration, after days of being bashed on the internet for sitting idly by while Baylor alumni and supporters bashed all things Colorado, would rightly give the Buffs the chance to be smug. But we are getting ahead of ourselves …

If Colorado accepts a bid to join the Pac-10, it would not only undercut any attempts by Baylor to sway the Texas legislature to force an invitation to the Bears, it might also put the Buffs into a position to gain a landscape which many fans (including this one) want the most … a Pac-12 instead of a Pac-16.

If Texas wanted to join the Pac-16 without Baylor, so be it. At least Colorado would have acted in its best interests, and will not finish without a chair at the big boys table when this game of conference musical chairs comes to a close.

But if Texas were to decide it wanted to stay in the Big 12 – with or without Colorado, Nebraska, and/or Missouri – the Pac-10 could still act on one of the scenarios proposed to its membership last weekend, namely to expand by two teams (Colorado and Utah), rather than by six.

Dare to dream …

Update: There will be no announcement about Colorado’s future, at least not tonight. Ken McConnellogue, a spokesman for the University, said that there was no offer on the table from the Pac-10, and that there would be nothing more from the school concerning the meeting of the Board of Regents. McConnellogue did say that Buff fans could be assured that the Board of Regents and Colorado administration are looking after the school’s best interests with regard to conference expansion.

Sleep tight, Buff fans, for at least one more night …

—–

 

June 9th

Nebraska decision Friday?

All roads lead to Lincoln, at least this Friday.

The Nebraska Board of Regents will convene this Friday, and, in one of the worst kept secrets of the week, will discuss the ramifications of joining the Big Ten. The best anyone can say right now is that there is a “good chance” that Nebraska will vote to join the Big Ten, that summation coming courtesy of ESPN. Ken Schroeder, a member of the Nebraska Board of Regents since 1998, said that he expects a presentation by Nebraska President Harvey Perlman and athletic director Tom Osborne as to whether the school will change conferences or remain in the Big 12.

Of course, if Nebraska had every intention of staying put, there would be no reason for the buildup for the meeting. The Cornhuskers, either at the Big 12 meetings in Kansas City or upon receiving the “ultimatum” about making a decision, could have turned their back on expansion and sung the praises of the Big 12.

The silence out of Lincoln speaks volumes.

One significant sticking point remains, however …  Nebraska is on the verge of accepting an invitation which has not yet been extended.

Notre Dame, of course, remains in the mix for Big Ten membership, and there are as many opinions about what the Irish will do as there are websites to post those opinions. Notre Dame could calm the expansion seas considerably by capitulating and joining the Big Ten, but that doesn’t appear imminent. “I always thought this would play out over the summer,” said Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. “This (recent reports about conference realignments) reaffirms it more than it changes it … I expect whatever change will happen will occur in the next 45 to 60 days.”

“45 to 60 days”? Nebraska doesn’t have that many hours!

So, does Nebraska take the leap of faith, dumping the Big 12 on the promise (hope? assumption?) that Big Ten membership awaits? I cannot believe that Tom Osborne would make such a move unless he was supremely confident that Nebraska would be invited to participate in the Big Ten.

That being said … how would an announcement by the Cornhuskers of their intent to defect affect the rest of the conference?

Missouri, as noted below, has its own set of meetings scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Long considered a front-runner for Big Ten membership, the Tigers seem to be fading a bit. The ESPN report states that “Missouri appears to be falling down the list of priorities for the Big Ten”, while Orangebloods.com is reporting that an athletic director “with knowledge of the Big Ten” has told that website, “Missouri is getting the cold shoulder from the Big Ten.”

So, what if Notre Dame stays independent, and the Big Ten expands by only one school … Nebraska?

Nebraska has been the linchpin for Texas, according to multiple reports. If Missouri and/or Colorado bolt, the Longhorns’ preference would be to maintain its status as the big dog in the Big 12. But if Nebraska leaves, it’s time for Texas to make its deal with the Pac-10.

Of importance to the other players in the expansion lottery is that Texas A&M and Texas boards will be meeting on Thursday. The reason for the meeting is for the two schools to present a united front (Texas A&M, at different times, has flirted with the SEC), as well as to discuss the Baylor v. Colorado issue.

There has been much discussion on the internet about the various merits of having either Baylor or Colorado in your conference. Neill Woelk of the Daily Camera gave a spirited defense of the Buffs in his column today (http://www.buffzone.com/ci_15257376) but the arguments are, if you don’t mind the pun, academic. As I have noted before, it has less to do with academic performance or athletic prowess, and more to do with what Texas wants. Would Cal, or any other Pac-10 school which didn’t want Baylor in their conference, kill the deal with Texas on principle? You would like to think that the Pac-10 would like to maintain its image as the “Conference of Champions”, but it seems that even Pac-10 members get blinded by the overpowering light of the dollars being flashed before them. As one writer put it – “If Texas wants Stephen F. Austin (to join the Pac-10), it’ll be Stephen F. Austin”.

Colorado remains in a very precarious position. Kansas, Iowa State, and Kansas State are already looking at the post-Big 12 landscape (Mountain West Conference? Conference USA? A rebuilt Big 12?). Schools like Texas Tech and Oklahoma, on the other hand, get to go along for the ride in the wake of big brother Texas. Colorado, meanwhile, could have

1) the perfect scenario: Colorado and Utah to the Pac-12 / Nebraska shut out of a BCS conference;

2) a good scenario: CU part of the Pac-16, but in a four-team “pod” with Oklahoma State and the Arizona schools;

3) an “at least we’re in the BCS scenario”: CU part of the Pac-16, but stuck playing in a division with Texas and Oklahoma, with most seasons ending well short of conference title participation;

4) a decent fall-back scenario: Colorado to the Mountain West, but with enough other decent schools (the other Big 12 refugees, Boise State, Fresno State) to make up a 16-team conference which has a place at the BCS table; to

5) the worst case scenario: Colorado to the Mountain West with little help. Colorado is lowered in stature and prestige to the level of Colorado State, UNLV, and San Diego State. More wins, perhaps, but far less income from television, and almost no chance at a national title.

It’s a big fall from scenario No. 1 to scenario No. 5, but, as we stand today, all five are still in play.

Colorado Regents – “We have to see how it unfolds”

The Board of Regents took no official action at last night’s meeting, and there were no official pronouncements. “Right now, we’re committed members of the Big 12”, said spokesman Ken McConnellogue. “There’s a lot of publicity and discussion in the media about what’s going to happen,” said Steve Bosley, chairman of the Board of Regents. “Our legal team advised us of all of our options, and we have to see how it unfolds. It is a moving target.”

There was one nice little dig at all of the public lobbying being done by Baylor officials about being included in the Pac-10 expansion. “I think the fact that our Board of Regents is meeting and having discussions about this shows that the university is engaged,” said McConnellogue. “Are we engaged in a public way with lawmakers? No. Baylor is doing what Baylor needs to do.” Take that, Buff bashers!

So, for the moment – and I emphasize “moment” – Coloado is out of the national spotlight. This is not altogether a bad thing. First, because it allows the Buffs to continue to work behind the scenes to get the best deal possible for the university. Second, there is a report that the APR results are coming out today (Wednesday), and that Colorado will be losing scholarships in both football and basketball. While this is not unexpected (APR results are a rolling four year average, so the football team went without scholarships last year in anticipation of this announcement), the announcement will be more ammunition for the Baylor “We are better than CU” contingent. For now, it may best to say nothing – until there is something to say.

Meanwhile … Nebraska is back on the front-burner

It is being reported by several sources that Nebraska’s decision to stay with the Big 12, or cast it’s lot with the Big Ten, could come as early as this Friday. The consensus seems to be that Nebraska is leaning toward joining the Big Ten, but won’t do so without an invitation, or at least assurances that an invitation will be forthcoming. As the Big Ten has not moved from its “12-18 month” timetable (December, 2010 – June, 2011) , Nebraska could be in a very precarious position – responsible for blowing up the Big 12, yet without a place to land if the Big Ten gets Notre Dame and shuts its doors to further expansion.

“I think before too long – I don’t know exactly what the timeframe is – we’ll be able to put this to bed,” said Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne Tuesday, adding, “because I’m getting tired of it.”

Administrative meetings are scheduled at both Nebraska and Missouri later this week, with the Nebraska Board of Regents meeting on Friday, and the Board of Curators at Missouri set to meet Thursday and Friday. While agendas for these meetings are not fully disclosed, it has been noted that the Board of Curators will meet in closed session upon convening on Thursday, and that such a move is unusual.

More throughout the day on this fluid story as information becomes available …

—–

 

June 10th

COLORADO INVITED TO BECOME 11th MEMBER OF THE PAC-10!

It was just a scant 63 years ago when the University of Colorado ditched the Mountain States (Skyline) Conference to join the newly formed Big Seven Conference (which had been the Big Six until the Buffs changed the math). In 1947, Colorado played to a 3-3 conference record in the Mountain States Conference, beating BYU, Colorado State, and Wyoming, but falling to Utah, Denver, and Utah State. The following year, Colorado went 2-3 in its first season in the Big Seven, defeating Nebraska and Kansas State, but falling to Kansas, Iowa State, and Missouri (it wasn’t until 1950 that Colorado and the other member of the Big Seven, Oklahoma, could schedule conference games).

In 2012, Colorado will once again, after 65 years, shift conference opponents, once again taking a step up in competition and national prestige.

“The University of Colorado is a perfect match – academically and athletically – with the Pac-10,” said Colorado president Bruce D. Benson. Chimed in Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, “The University of Colorado is a great fit for the Conference, both academically and athletically, and we are incredibly excited to welcome Colorado to the Pac-10”.

“On behalf of the University of Colorado students, faculty, alumni and fans, we are proud to accept this invitation from the Pac-10, and join the most prestigious academic and athletic conference in the nation,” said CU-Boulder chancellor Philip P. DiStefano.

Discussion concerning Colorado joining the Pac-10 has been going on for several decades. It almost happened in 1994, when a narrow vote by the Board of Regents rejected an offer to join the Pac-10 conference. This time, however, the Board of Regents was on board. At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Board of Regents gave Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn the go-ahead to secure an invitation to the Pac-10, and the deal was finalized on Wednesday.

Now Colorado coaches, with 23 Californians on the roster (compared to three Texans), can start to recruit more heavily in California … or can they?

Still to be determined over the next few days,weeks, months, and years, is how many teams will wind up in the Pac-10, and how conference games will be scheduled. If Colorado ends up in the Pac-16 East, with Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas, Arizona State and Arizona, and if every teams plays every other team in their division, that’s seven games out of an eight or nine game conference schedule. That does not leave many trips to the states of California, Oregon, and Washington left available to schedule.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

For now, just sit back and savor the joy that comes with knowing that Colorado will not be relegated to the Mountain West Conference. Enjoy the knowledge that, for all of the crowing coming out of Waco that Baylor was a better choice for the Pac-10, it was Colorado that the Pac-10 wanted.

In 1947, Colorado made the right choice, jumping into the Big Seven, even though that meant leaving a conference it had dominated (five titles; three second place finishes in 11 seasons in the Mountain States Conference), to take on the opportunity to square off with national powerhouse Oklahoma on an annual basis.

In 2010, Colorado again made the right choice.

Meanwhile …

Now that Colorado has pre-empted the “Texas four pack” discussion, what is next for the Big 12, the Big Ten, the SEC? The Mountain West … ?

Nebraska to the Big Ten

Multiple sources are reporting that Nebraska has, in fact, been extended an invitation to join the Big Ten, and that an announcement that the Cornhuskers are leaving the Big 12 (now 11) to join the Big Ten (which will now have 12 teams) will be made Friday. There is the possibility that the Big Ten might stop there, awaiting further developments (read: hoping to add Notre Dame) before moving any further. “It’s going to happen (Nebraska to the Big Ten), unless something crazy happens in the final hours,” said a source from the Big Ten.

The loss of Nebraska has been widely reported as bringing an end to the Big 12, as Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech are to be extended invitations to the Pac-10, essentially gutting the conference.

But …

Texas A&M to the SEC?

Texas A&M and Texas officials met today (Thursday) to discuss options. Presumably, the two major Texas state schools in play in the conference realignment shuffle wanted to get together to present a unified front, with the speculation being that once Nebraska officially left the Big 12, that they would bolt for the Pac-10.

But … Orangebloods.com (no, I don’t care much for Chip Brown personally, either, but he was the one who broke the “six teams – including Colorado – to the Pac-10 story”, so he does have credibility) is reporting that Texas A&M is seriously considering looking east instead of west, and is looking into joining the SEC instead of the Pac-10. One particular member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents is being particularly vocal about his wishes to go with the SEC. It’s none other than Gene Stallings, who led the Alabama Crimson Tide the to the national championship in 1992. Also adding fuel to the speculation that Texas A&M is having reservations about joining the Pac-10 are the comments made last week by Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, when Byrne publicly expressed his dislike of having his teams travel long distances to the west for conference play (Byrne, ironically enough, used to be the athletic director at Oregon).

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive is reportedly working behind the scenes to get the two Texas schools to join the SEC, but is having a hard time with Texas, which is reportedly not that excited about joining the already powerful SEC.

There is also the possibility that the remaining ten Big 12 schools might try and make a go of stay together as a conference (the best scenario for Colorado!). This might particularly be true if the Big Ten stops with Nebraska and – at least for now – does not immediately extend an invitation to Missouri.

Pac-11?

While the Texas schools (along with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) wait for the formal announcement that Nebraska is leaving the conference, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has hinted that his conference might just cap its expansion – for now – at 11.

Let that one sink in for a moment.

Baylor

Thursday, the Baylor Bears officially joined the ranks of the Big 12 also-rans, joining Kansas State, Iowa State, and Kansas on the island of misfit schools. “It’s probably 90 percent sure that the other Texas schools are gone (to the Pac-10),” said one Baylor official. “but we have to hold onto that 10 percent that something could change.”

Considering how poorly the Baylor alumni and fans treated Colorado – when no one in Boulder earning a paycheck from the University said anything bad about the Bears – it makes the October 16th matchup in Boulder a much more enticing affair.

What’s a Commissioner to do?

As for Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, he remained upbeat, even as his conference disintegrated around him. “I continue to work through the process that was agreed upon last week by our Board of Directors,” said Beebe in a prepared statement, “and are working tirelessly towards the long term viability of the Big 12.”

An argument could be made that Beebe did all he could to preserve the Big 12, and that there was nothing he could have done to prevent the disintegration of his conference … but I’ll wait for someone to convince me. Texas set the rules for revenue distribution, the conference championship, in case you didn’t notice last week, found a permanent (if now time-limited) home in Dallas, and the Big 12 offices have moved south.

Thanks for the memories, Dan, and farewell.

Program Note:

There will be much to discuss (CU press conference, 11:00 a.m. Friday) as the next few days unfold. Will Nebraska, as expected, join the Big Ten? Will the five teams from the Big 12 South not named Baylor join the Pac-10? What will Colorado have to pay in penalties, if any, for leaving the Big 12? Will Texas A&M decline to join the Pac-10, opening the door for another school to join the conference, like say Utah, or even Kansas?

There will be much to write about in coming days and weeks, but for now, as noted above, it’s time to sit back and relax. Like the existing members of the Pac-10, Big Ten, and SEC, the University of Colorado no longer has to worry about the game of musical chairs being played out in the world of college football …

… the Buffs have found a home!

“Source: Colorado already has Pac-10 invite”

Such is the headline on ESPN this morning.

“Colorado has received an invitation to join the conference, while five other invitations will be extended to Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.”

An unidentified Big 12 football coach said that the Pac-10 favored Colorado over Baylor due to the desire to attract the Denver television market.

The article http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=5270048 goes on to state that, in the event that Nebraska opts to leave the Big 12, but is rebuffed by the Big Ten, that the Pac-10 might stop at 12 teams, and might invite Nebraska to join its league.

How much would Colorado fans love that? Get to play in the Pac-12, avoid having Texas and Oklahoma on the conference schedule, get several trips to the west coast (read: recruiting!), and be able to lord over Nebraska fans that it was Colorado which paved the way for little ‘ol Nebraska to find a new home.

To paraphrase Bill McCartney: “That would be as sweet as it gets!”

—–

 

June 11th

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott: Adding Colorado a “bold first step”

“I think history will recognize and reward the bold first step that we’ve made together,” said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott at the press conference held Friday at Folsom Field to announce the acceptance of Colorado as the first new member of the Pac-10 since 1978. “While the Pac-10 is known for its storied history and traditions academically and athletically, I think we’re also going to be known for leading the way into the future.”

On a beautiful day in Boulder, with the Flatirons as a backdrop, the University of Colorado accepted its invitation to join the Pac-10 conference. Colorado President Bruce Benson, Chancellor Phil DiStefano, and athletic director Mike Bohn were on hand to welcome a delegation from the Pac-10, including commissioner Larry Scott. The common theme of the speeches was that Colorado was a “perfect fit” for the Pac-10, with special emphasis made on the academic virtures Colorado brings to the table. Seven of ten universities in the Pac-10 are members of the American Association of Universities. “That will make eight of 11”, said Scott. “We’re very proud of that.”

While noting that the Pac-10 is the “Conference of Champions” – the Pac-10 has 380 NCAA titles, 150 more than any other conference – Larry Scott did note that Colorado was bringing to the table 21 national championships. Of course, all but four of those titles are in skiing, which Scott joked was the latest sport to be added to the Pac-10’s list of accomplishments.

The lack of “Olympic sports” at Colorado was brought up at the press conference, and did make Colorado officials squirm just a bit. Athletic Director Mike Bohn noted that it was 30 years ago – to the day – that Colorado athletics suffered its blackest day, when a number of sports were cut, including baseball, wrestling, and gymnastics. While not promising any increase in non-revenue sports at Colorado, chancellor DiStefano did acknowledge it was being discussed. “I think as we look to the future, we should be thinking about adding sports,” DiStefano said. “Baseball is one I would like to see; although the weather here in the spring isn’t always conducive towards playing baseball.”

In a nice gesture from the Buffs’ new partners, the Pac-10 delegation brought Libby Wright, the Chairman of the Rose Bowl Management Committee. Ms. Wright brought roses for everyone at the podium, and stated, “We are thrilled to be here today and be part of this announcement.”

There was one good laugh at the press conference which might not make it to the morning papers. Chancellor DiStefano was discussing the already long and storied history involving Colorado and members of the Pac-10. DiStefano noted that Colorado had played Stanford in football all the way back in 1904. DiStefano then said, “I should probably ask Dave Plati if he knows the score of that game …”, at which time Plati, in the background, said “33-0, Stanford”. To laughter, DiStefano then said that he should probably have asked Dave about the result in private before he started his remarks.

Program Note: This weekend we’ll take a look back at some of the memorable games Colorado has already played with current members of the Pac-10. This side of Dave Plati, you would be hard pressed to find more details about the Buffs’ history than right here in the CU at the Game archives. Help yourself!).

Nebraska pulls the trigger

In a much anticipated move, the Board of Regents at the University of Nebraska voted Friday to apply for membership in the Big Ten Conference. Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman said that the move offered stability “that the Big 12 simply cannot offer.” The move will not be official until the Big Ten presidents give their approval, but that is expected to merely be a formality.

Two items of note from the Nebraska announcement:

First, both Perlman and athletic director Tom Osborne went out our their way to say, in essence, “the implosion of the Big 12 isn’t our fault”. Perlman noted that Nebraska’s leaving did not require the dissolution of the Big 12. “One school leaving a conference does not destroy a conference”, Perlman said. “Nebraska did not start this discussion. After the Big Ten announced it planned to consider expansion, we saw reports that Missouri would want to go to the Big Ten, including a statement from their governor, a member of the board of curators, and chancellor – comments that were clearly not supportive of the Big 12.” Osborne agreed. “As we read the tea leaves and listened to conversations, some of the schools that were urging us to stay,” Osborne said. “We found some of them had talked to not only one other conference or two but even three, and those were the same ones urging us to stay.”

Me thinks Dr. Tom doth protest too much …

The other interesting tidbit came when chancellor Perlman indicated that Nebraska was proposing to begin play in the Big Ten in 2011, a year earlier than most projections have the move being finalized. This proposal, if it can be worked out with other conferences and schools, would mean that Nebraska would not make a final trip to Boulder Thanksgiving weekend next year.

At the Colorado press conference Friday, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was asked about the Buffs starting conference play in 2011. “We do not foresee that moving up (the 2012 timetable for Colorado to join the Pac-10), but if it did, if there are some things that happen within the Big 12 that necessitated us starting things earlier in 2011, we are prepared to do that as well.”

So, what about Missouri?

Remember back in the good old days, say … three week ago? When “Missouri to the Big Ten” was main topic of conversation with regard to expansion?

What happened? Well, the Missouri curators met the end of this week, but with much less fanfare than the meeting of the Nebraska Board of Regents. There was no vote to join the Big Ten. There was no reason to – Missouri doesn’t have an invitation to accept.

“We have obligations to our Big 12 Conference, first and foremost,” said Missouri system president Gary Forsee. What?

“We are trying to be patient,” said board chairman Judy Haggard. “We are committed to the Big 12 at this time.” Really?

Go back and re-read those quotes, and see if you can do it without at least a smirk coming across your face. Go ahead, I dare you.

Puh-lease. Scroll down to May 14th on this very page (I know I’ve written a lot since then, but trust me, it’s down there), and you will see the following, under the heading: Missouri governor on joining the Big Ten: “We should look at it if it’s offered”

This is not the first time the Missouri governor has snubbed his counterparts in the Big 12. Last December, when asked about Big Ten expansion, Nixon put his foot in it. “I’m not going to say anything bad about the Big 12,” Nixon said just before he did just that,” but when you compare Oklahoma State to Northwestern; when you compare Texas Tech to Wisconsin, I mean, you being looking at educational possibilities that are worth looking at.”

Ouch (of course, the slam doesn’t sting for Colorado fans – we’re in the AAU).

Nixon wasn’t finished. “If a significant conference, with a long history of academic and athletic excellence, talks to you about joining them,” said Nixon, “you shouldn’t say, ‘We’re from the old Big Eight and I remember when’ … If they want to talk, we should talk. We should listen.”

Now, with Nebraska and Colorado gone, and no Big Ten invitation for Missouri in sight, Tiger athletic director Mike Alden said Friday, “We aren’t looking at any other conference”.

With Colorado’s administrators popping the bubbly this weekend, pulling off a coup many other schools across the nation would die to have right now (including Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, and Baylor) you almost have to feel sorry for Missouri.

Almost.

11’s across the board

Welcome to June 11th, where the college football world, at least for a few moments, is perfectly aligned for the University of Colorado – 11 members in the Pac-10; 11 members in the Big 12; and 11 members in the Big Ten.

Just don’t look for the perfect alignment to last.

By June 12th, the Big Ten is expected to have 12 members, as Nebraska is expected to announced Friday that it has accepted an invitation to join that league. The Nebraska Board of Regents is meeting today, and every indication is that the Cornhuskers have been extended an invitation, and that they have accepted.

The conventional wisdom has been that if Nebraska left the Big 12, that the conference would come to an end, with five of the six Big 12 South schools opting to head west to play in the Pac-10. However, two scenarios remain in which that might not happen. First, there is still a chance, especially if Missouri is not offered admission to the Big Ten, that the Big 12 could stay together. The athletic directors for both Texas and Texas A&M have stated that this would be their preference, but, with a conference already heavily weighted toward Texas, the loss of Nebraska and Colorado would only diminish the clout of the Big 12 in terms of television revenue. “It’s on life support,” said one source about the Big 12, “but people have come off life support before.”

There is also the chance – which seems to be picking up steam of late – that Texas A&M may opt for playing in the SEC. According to sources, A&M regent Gene Stallings (see below), A&M system chancellor Mike McKinney, and former coach R.C. Slocum have been pushing for A&M to go east instead of west. The problem for the Aggies is that Texas has no interest in the SEC, and if A&M split off from their big brother, the Longhorns would retaliate by cutting off all contests between the two schools (and it would be tough to be an Aggie, where the school song is all about beating tu, to just dump that history).

Still, there is time for those hoping to keep the Big 12 together, or for other moves to be made. It was announced on Friday morning that the University of Texas regents will meet on Tuesday, “for discussion and appropriate action regarding athletic conference membership”.

So, the Big 12 lives on – at least for four more days …

——

 

June 12th

Buffs doing it right

For an athletic department not having much in way of success of late – four straight losing seasons by the football team, not much better success on the basketball court, and facing a week in which it was announced that Colorado (and Colorado alone amongst 1-A teams)  would be losing football scholarships due to poor APR scores – the administration sure had a good week.

When the week opened, Baylor alumni and supporters were in full “Bash the Buffs” mode. Prominent Austin lobbyist and Baylor regent Buddy Jones launched a campaign to have Baylor included in any Pac-16 discussion, to the exclusion of Colorado. “My guess is that Colorado hasn’t taken enough broadside hits to sink their boat yet, and they may be well on the invite list,” Jones said in an email to Baylor alumni and supporters last weekend. “I hope I’m wrong. But there’s still time left to change the scoreboard. We aren’t through.”

In another email, Jones urged alumni in the Texas legislature to contact officials from Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, providing them talking points on how to lobby for Baylor’s inclusion. “It is imperative that whatever happens, the four Texas schools (and hopefully Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) agree to stick together”.

Meanwhile, there was silence out of Boulder. Buff fans worried that Colorado was on the verge of being left behind, and was doing nothing to stop the move to relegate the Buffs to the Mountain West Conference.

Instead, behind the scenes, Buff administrators were doing it right – they were doing it behind the scenes. Work was being done. The Regents convened on Tuesday, and gave unanimous consent to joining the Pac-10. Negotiations continued, and, on Thursday, it was time to make the announcement.

On Friday, Colorado continued to do it “the right way”. Buff administrators met Pac-10 officials, including commissioner Larry Scott, at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport – aboard a CU bus. “It’s been a very structured process, and a lot of business and a lot of serious discussion, so it was an opportunity to really show what makes college sports so great,” explained athletic director Mike Bohn. “It’s the mascots, coaches, student-athletes. That’s what it’s about.”

Colorado also drove home the importance of the day to its visitors with its delegation. In addition to administrators, the bus carried former CU head coach Bill McCartney and former Buff – and now College Football Hall of Fame inductee – Alfred Williams. Colorado governor Bill Ritter also made an appearance.

Larry Scott was impressed.

“That was an amazing reception, and it blew us away,” said Scott at the press conference, not looking at all that he was saying so because his pre-pared notes told him to. “To see the support that was there and then to see the governor change his schedule at the last minute to greet us really was overwhelming. Just to see the level of importance that decisions like this have … It’s fascinating. It really gives me a great feeling of what we’re doing.”

Now, the hard work begins. Whether the Buffs are part of a Pac-12 or a Pac-16, regardless of whether the Buffs play in a six team division, an eight team divison, or a four team pod, it will be hard not to see Colorado as underdogs in almost every matchup they face.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to reinvent ourselves,” said Ceal Barry, former women’s basketball coach and present administrator. “We’ve had some good and some bad years in the last 13 years, and I think it’s a great opportunity to set our standards a little bit higher; a standard of excellence, and to have that expectation from the top down.”

“The school can be successful, and its proven out in the past, it’s just not successful now,” said former quarterback Joel Klatt. “So, I believe that this gives them the kind of shot in the arm that it takes to go and really get something going.”

Reality returns September 4th, when the 3-9 Buffs take on the 3-9 Rams, to see which team is ready to make 2010 better than 2009.

For now, though, reality is 2 1/2 months away.

For today, the Buffs and their fans can revel in the knowledge that the Colorado administration did it right, and came out winners as a result.

Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State to join Pac-10 next week

The Dallas Morning News and the Austin Statesmen are reporting that four more schools will be offered membership into the Pac-10 next week, with Texas A&M remaining “on the fence” between joining the Pac-10 and the SEC.

“The decision has been made,” said what was quoted as being a “highly placed anonymous official from a Big 12 school”. “We’re bringing everybody to the Pac-10 but A&M”. Official offers are to be made this weekend, with Texas leading the way to acceptance after their Board of Regents meeting on Tuesday.

In essence, then, Texas A&M has three days to decide if they want to go with the Pac-10, or opt to try their luck with the SEC. Potential replacements for A&M, should the Aggies look east instead of west include Kansas, Utah, and even Baylor.

—-

 

June 14th

Texas announces that the Big 12/10 will play on

Given a sweet deal by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, Texas opted Monday to stay with the Big 12, declining an offer to join the Pac-10. Shortly after the announcement, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M also pledged their allegiance to the reduced league.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott announced that the Pac-10 would not be expanding into Texas. “University of Texas President Bill Powers has informed us that the ten remaining schools in the Big 12 conference intend to remain together,” said Scott. The wording of the announcement is telling. It was not Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe making the announcement, it was Texas president Bill Powers. If there was any remaining doubt as to the center of power in the reduced Big 12, it has now been eliminated.

So, what will Texas get for staying?

According to Orangebloods.com, Texas will make out the best from the new television contracts. The Longhorns will stand to earn $20 to $25 million in televison revenue, including their own television network, which could generate another $3 to $5 million. Oklahoma and Texas A&M will receive around $20 million.

The other seven schools? They get to come along for the ride for around $17 million per year.  Still, while Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor stand to perhaps double their television revenue, you need to read between the lines.

Is this a boon to the Little Seven? Yes, they get to stay, for now, in a BCS conference (though one without a conference championship). And yes, the new television money promised will increase revenues.  But … every conference which has renegotiated its television contracts of late have reaped huge rewards – it’s the nature of the market.

What the Little Seven did to keep their BCS affilation, though, was sell their souls. The new “Big 12” will be the Texas conference. It will be all about the mighty Longhorns. The Little Seven have acknowledged as much in agreeing to an unequal distribution of revenues. For every extra dollar coming into their coffers, Texas gets an extra two. Even Texas A&M and Oklahoma, who would rather die than agree to wear burnt orange, have conceded that they are second class – above the Little Seven, but still second class.

What will happen to Colorado and the Pac-10?

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott would not comment on Texas deciding to decline the offer to join the Pac-10, but focus will now clearly shift to Utah. One of the goals of expansion for the Pac-10 was to add a revenue generating conference championship game. With 11 schools, the conference is still one team short. With the Texas schools out of the equation, there are few other options for the Pac-10. If Scott really wanted to stick it to Texas, he could still invite Kansas. That would give the Pac-12 a group of six natural rivals, and give the conference a basketball power. However, it would have made sense for Texas to secure a promise from Kansas to stay in the Big 12 if Texas declined the Pac-10’s offer.

If Utah does get the nod, the scenario Buff fans wanted most will come true. A 12-team conference with schools which are academically and athletically on par with the Buffs. There would be an issue of how the divisions would line up – Does Colorado/Utah go with the Arizona schools and the southern California schools? (probabaly not – Cal and Stanford probably would be against giving up an annual trip to Los Angeles – though this is exactly the scenario a Denver television station is reporting); Does Colorado/Utah go with the Arizona schools and the Washington schools?; or does Colorado/Utah go with the Washington and Oregon schools to form a division?

Interesting stuff. But, as we know, it’s not a great idea to get ahead of ourselves. We’ll have to see what Larry Scott will do. (Remember, Scott did, at one point last week, state that there was the option that the Pac-10 would stop at Colorado, but that was seen as a negotiating ploy. Now …. ?).

So, Colorado will be out some revenue …

Now that the Big 12/10 is staying together, the Buffs and Cornhuskers are going to owe some money to the rest of the league. Or, more precisely, go without 50% of the revenue Colorado and Nebraska would otherwise have received over the next two seasons.

How can the Buffs, who couldn’t afford to buy out $3 million of Dan Hawkins’ contract last fall, go without $8-$10 million over the next two years?

First, the choice to move to the Pac-10 was not just an athletic department decision, it was a University of Colorado decision. While the athletic department is always counting pennies, the University of Colorado, and its Foundation, have other resources. At worst, the athletic department could do what it did several years ago when the Gary Barnett contract was bought out – borrow the money from the University, and pay it back over time. With the additional revenue coming in from the Pac-10 contracts starting in 2012, this can easily be accomplished.

Will it hurt short term? Yes. The Buffs will be marked by Big 12 teams in competition the next two years, and it will be expensive to leave. Plus, a Pac-16 television contract would certainly have generated more dollars than a Pac-12 television contract.

But … and it is an important but … we are looking long term here. Long term, Colorado can and should be competitive with other teams in the Pac-12. Other than USC and Oregon (Nike), the Buffs are on par with the other schools in the league in terms of resources and capabilities. Colorado would never, EVER, have had that in a league with Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.

Especially in the new “Texas and the  nine dwarfs” conference.

It may not seem like it right now, but years from now, Colorado fans will be looking at the announcement today from Austin as a great day in Buff history.

Will Texas stay in the Big 12?

Orangebloods.com, which has been leading the way in breaking news concerning conference realignment, is reporting that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has convinced Texas to stay in the Big 12.

The selling point? Texas would be able to pursue its own distribution platforms (read: television network), which would not be possible under any arrangement Texas would have as a member of the Pac-16. Beebe has got the votes of the Kansas schools, Missouri, Baylor, and Iowa State (what else are they going to do?), which seemingly puts the ball in the Court of Texas A&M. If the Aggies opt for the SEC, then the move of Texas Tech, Texas, and the Oklahoma schools, would seemingly be a foregone conclusion (along with Utah? perhaps Kansas?). After meeting with Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott (see below), Texas A&M was non-committal about joining the Pac-10. “Texas A&M continues to evaluate its options,” said A&M spokesman. “At this point, all options continue to be on the table.”

Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin  issued a statement Sunday night. “We are aggressively pursuing our options, one of which is to if for the Big 12 to continue in some form,” said Loftin. “We continue to evaluate our options in a deliberate manner as we work toward a decision that is in the best long-term interests of Texas A&M.”

Beebe’s plan to save the Big 12 …

… Increase television revenues in a new contract, from the present $7-$10 million, to $17 millon in 2012, when the new television contracts would begin;

… Divide up the approximately $20 million in revenue which would otherwise have gone to the defecting schools of Colorado and Nebraska; and

… allow schools (Texas) to pursue their own distribution networks, which would potentially be a huge windfall for the Longhorns.

Larry Scott on the move

The private jet that the Pac-10 commissioner rode to Boulder last Friday has been getting a workout. Over the weekend, Larry Scott started at Oklahoma City, where he presumably hand-delivered invitations to join the Pac-10 to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. On Sunday, Scott arrived early in College Station, meeting with Texas A&M officials, before taking off for Lubbock and Texas Tech. Scott ended his day in Austin, at the hub of all that is being debated amongst the remaining members of what was the Big 12 South (except for, of course, Baylor).

Was it all for naught? Or will, as previously expected, Texas announce after its Tuesday Board of Regents’ meeting that the Longhorns are going to throw in with the Pac-10.

More later today.

—–

 

June 15th

It’s Utah!

The Utah Utes Rivals site is reporting that Utah has been invited to become the 12th member of the reconfigured Pac-12. While this has not been confirmed on any national site, I can tell you that the same story is being reported by the local Fox Sports News station, which covers the San Francisco area (I knew there was a good reason for us to be at Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open!).

This on a day when the nationally reported story is that Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson is being quoted as saying that he has not been contacted by Pac-10 commissioner about approaching Utah as a new Pac-10 team.

Buffs gone by 2011?

Rivals.com is reporting that Nebraska and Colorado may be out of the Big 12 as early as 2011. Last week, upon leaving the conference, Nebraska expressed its preference to leave for the Big Ten in 2011 instead of 2012, as Colorado had planned. In an interview with ESPN Austin, Big 12 commissioner stated that the Cornhuskers’ wish might come true. “The honest feeling that I have is it is difficult to have two years of competition with an institution that is going to be leaving,” said Beebe. “We’ll see about accommodating their interest.”

Last week, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott indicated that the Pac-10 was looking at 2012, but “if there are some things within the Big 12 that necessitated us starting things earlier”, the Pac-10 would be prepared to take advantage of that opportunity.

—–

 

June 16th

Utah to officially join Pac-12 Thursday

Utah associate athletic director Liz Abel indicated today (Wednesday) that Utah would not comment on the Utes being invited to become the 12th member of the Pac-10, but all signs point toward that coming on Thursday. The school’s board of Trustees will meet on Thursday to discuss the “school’s conference affiliation”. A news conference is scheduled for 1:00 p.m., following the board’s meeting. As the move would mean a step up into a BCS conference, and with no penalties for leaving the Mountain West Conference early, the result from the board of Trustees’ meeting appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Any regrets from Pac-10 country about landing “only” Colorado and Utah, and not Texas?

“We realized that there could be all kinds of complications in terms of pulling off such a bold move,” said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott. “That’s why we moved first on Colorado as a beachhead, to put a stake in the ground to keep available other options that we’re very interested in in terms of expansion that might be more modest in nature.”

Should the Pac-10 have given Texas the megadeal the Big 12 gave the Longhorns? “My marching orders were clear,” said Scott. “There are essential principles and values the Pac-10 holds true to that we were not going to compromise as part of getting a deal done”. Translation: the Pac-10 members were not willing to sell their souls – as the Little Seven apparently have done – in order to have Texas as a league participant.

And Scott’s not done.

“If you want to say we’ve swung for the fences, we’re thrilled,” said Scott. “This is the second inning at best. You’ll start seeing this summer some of our other plans and innovations.”

One of these will be to get to work on the new Pac-12 television contract, including the real possibility of a Pac-10 network akin to the Big Ten Network. At the very least, the Pac-12 will be looking to meet or beat the $1.86 billion, 12-year deal the ACC recently signed with ESPN.

So, Buff fans. Would you rather have Larry Scott or Dan Beebe as your team’s commissioner?

Yeah, me too.

—–

 

June 17th

Utah ends Pac-10 expansion … for now

“Today is an absolute great day to be a Ute”, said Utah athletic director Chris Hill in opening his press conference announcing the Utes’ acceptance to the invitation to joining the Pac-12.

“First and foremost, the reason this has happened is because the athletes that we’ve had at the University of Utah have worked so hard and done so much to put this program on the map,” said Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham. “That is really where the lion’s share of the credit go to.”

With the addition of Colorado and Utah, the Pac-12 has added the No. 16 (Denver) and No. 31 (Salt Lake City) television markets. While Colorado has been down in football of late, there are few who doubt the Buffs’ potential to rebound. Utah faces no such problem in terms of present credentials. The Utes are 69-13 in the past seven seasons, better than any Pac-10 team not named USC, and have posted two undefeated seasons. Utah fans can also point out that the Utes have gone 7-3 in their last ten games against Pac-10 foes.

All that is left for the Pac-10 to decide is:

1) what to call itself – with the Pac-12 all but a given;

2) decide how to divide up its conference into two divisions acceptable to all parties. Reports have the Utah/Colorado pair going with USC/UCLA and the Arizona schools, (but I’m still not convinced it will happen);

3) decide on what to do with a championship game – where to have it, for one –  assuming that there will be one.  After all, part of the lure of expansion was to obtain the extra revenue a conference championship would bring. But the Big 12, left with only ten teams, is seemingly content going without a championship game, and the new Big Ten/12 is said to be thinking about going without a title game; and

4) how to generate all that extra television revenue expansion promised.

At least Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott can now stop with the frequent flyer mile accumulation, and get down to the business of taking care of the above issues …

—–

 

August 18th … A lengthy recap of events … where we are … where we are going

 

BYU to join the ranks of the independents

Nevada and Fresno State join the Mountain West Conference

The Salt Lake City Tribune is reporting that it is a “Done deal” – BYU will go independent in football and rejoin the Western Athletic Conference in all non-football sports beginning in the fall of 2011. BYU is looking to make its own deals with the television networks, believing it can fare far better than the $1.3 million in television revenue the Cougars received last year as a member of the Mountain West Conference. The Tribune is reporting that BYU is waiting for final approval from the LDS Church, and could hold a press conference making the formal announcement by the end of this week.

The issue of BYU leaving the Mountain West Conference has been on simmer for years, but reached the boiling point this summer when rival Utah was invited to join the Pac-10. Rather than be left behind in the race for a BCS berth, BYU is striking out on its own. The matter was so well hidden from the media that BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall expressed surprise when confronted by reporters after Wednesday’s practice. “I am not in the loop regarding anything,” said Mendenhall. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”  Former head coach LaVell Edwards was also in the dark, though Edwards did express his feeling that BYU would be better served staying in a conference  than going independent.

Meanwhile the Fresno Bee is reporting that Fresno State has accepted an invitation to join the Mountain West Conference. The $5 million buyout clause, imposed by the conference after Boise State bolted for the Mountain West Conference earlier this summer, remains an issue.  “We’re going to have to work out the specifics and the amounts, and that’s one of the things that has yet to be resolved,” said Fresno State president John Welty. “We are going to realize additional revenue. Over a period of time, we will finance the buyout. At the same time, we will save some costs.”

At the same time SilverandBlueSports.com is reporting that the University of Nevada is departing the Western Athletic Conference and accepting an invitation to join the Mountain West Conference. As to the $5 million fee, there is a report that Nevada did not sign on to the new buyout clause.

The impact on Colorado …?

The move by BYU to the ranks of the independents, and the jump to the Mountain West Conference by Nevada and Fresno State (along with Boise State) will impact the University of Colorado. How much is a matter of speculation, but there are some apparent ramifications:

1) BYU v. Utah for recruits. It’s no secret that the Cougars and the Utes compete for many of the same players. Yes, both schools recruit nationally (including Hawaii and the Pacific islands), but both compete along the recruiting trails for Utah born talent, as well as for players of the LDS faith. A Utah Utes team in the BCS Pac-12 would have an advantage over the Mountain West based BYU Cougars in terms of recruiting, so, in that sense, the move to independent status is a necessary move by BYU.

The Colorado Buffaloes, in every scenario for division play mentioned for the new Pac-12, will play Utah every year. A strong, independent BYU would help keep the Buffs’ new rival from claiming all of the best in-state and LDS talent. As many long-time CU at the Gamers know, I subscribe to the axiom, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Go Cougs!

2) Colorado State. The Rams were in position to become a member of a BCS “automatic qualifier” conference in the next two years. With the success of TCU and Utah in recent years, along with the addition of Boise State, the Mountain West seemed assured of receiving an automatic bid to the BCS bowls (and all the $$ which comes with the automatic bid) in two years, at the conclusion of the four year review cycle.

Now, with BYU and Utah gone from the Mountain West Conference, replaced by Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada, the direct line to an automatic BCS bid does not seem as certain (though the shuffling might not end with these three schools). Colorado plays Colorado State every year for at least the next ten seasons, so the $$ the Rams receive from their conference – funds which lead to better facilities and better recruits – has a direct impact on the Buffs’ chief rival.

The independent state of BYU?

Shunned by the Pac-10, BYU is now reportedly very serious about going independent, at least for football. Assured that the school’s other teams could compete in the Western Athletic Conference, the Cougars have until September 1st to decide to leave the Mountain West Conference.

If BYU leaves the MWC, it would become just the fourth independent school for football, joining Notre Dame, Army, and Navy.

As an independent, BYU would have the opportunity to make its own national schedule and compete for its own berth in a BCS bowl. While there would be no guaranteed bowls for BYU as an independent, BCS spokesman Bill Hancock was quoted as saying that “Every school is eligible to be considered by a bowl for at-large selection if it is ranked in the top 14.” The problem for BYU in scheduling, though, would be finding enough games to fill a full schedule. The Cougars could likely find ready partners from schools in the Mountain West and WAC, but that would not get BYU much further ahead in terms of national ranking or recognition.

In order to try and keep BYU as a member of the Mountain West, the conference is reportedly negotiating with BYU to allow the Cougars to put together their own television rights and network, much like what was promised Texas as enticement to stay in the Big 12.

What would become of the Mountain West if BYU left the conference?

With the success of Utah, TCU, and BYU on the football field in recent years, the chance of the Mountain West being afforded an automatic berth in the BCS pool was looking more and more like a reality. The BCS is in year two of a four-year evaluation period, so losing BYU would likely mean the MWC, even with the addition of Boise State, would be that much less likely to earn an automatic BCS bid.

The Mountain West would have another problem with the loss of BYU – the league would be down to eight teams. One option would be to invade the WAC once again, and offer membership to Fresno State, Nevada, or both. The issue here is that the WAC, smarting from the loss of Boise State, mandated that the remaining schools in that conference sign an agreement requiring a $5 million buyout for defecting programs.

BYU only has until September 1st to let the Mountain West know if it intends to go it alone, so this issue will be resolved, one way or the other, in the very near future.

Stay tuned …

TexasTech Freedom of Information Act request results in interesting memos

Texas lawmarker opposed to state schools leaving for “Gulf of Mexico division of the Pacific Conference”

A Freedom of Information Act request through Texas Tech has revealed some interesting documentation as to the last frantic days of conference expansion in June. Here is the link to the 60 pages of documents – http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B7FYBEkmWghRYjNlMThmYTQtMTNjZC00ZjdlLWJhYmYtZTU2N2ZjODRmZWNk&hl=en&authkey=CI2EjO0K

On June 10th, the Democratic leader of the Texas State House of Representatives, Jim Dunnam, sent out a memo to Texas schools, and also issued a press release, opening, “Texas’ three largest public universities may now play a third of all future sporting events two time zones away, in every sport from wrestling to cross country. Texans whose tax dollars support these institutions will no longer be able to attend those events unless they own a Learjet. If you currently make road trips to see the Red Raiders play Colorado (and I know people who do), you’ve got 20 more hours from Boulder to see them play the Ducks.”

You get the gist. Dunnam went on. “If it’s about the money, then put it into perspective – UT-Austin has (sic) operational budget is $2.1 billion for 2010; Texas A&M’s is $1.2 billion – largely public funds,” wrote Dunnam. “Yet they are considering fundamentally changing a Texas way of life for $20 million?”.

“If Nebraska and Colorado want to leave, fine. But since when do outsiders dictate Texas’ destiny? … Our Governor should demand that the Regents conduct all deliberations in public about this important issue,” Dunnam wrote. “UT won the Women’s Rowing Championship last year. Personally, I don’t follow that sport, but someone does. And they shouldn’t have to go to Pullman, Washington every other year to see it.”

If you are interested in what was being discussed in the backrooms of the Texas state legislature, you need look no further than Dunnam’s memo. It was all about Texas, Texas, Texas, and how great it was to have local schools stick together (forgetting, conveniently, that the Southwest Conference folded because it was so Texas-centric).

We’ll see how it works out for Representative Dunnam …

$20 million guarantee? What $20 million guarantee?

It was widely reported, after Big 12 commissioner preserved the conference, that Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma were promised extra funds if they would stay with the Big 12. Texas Tech President Guy Bailey, during the week that Texas agreed to stay with the Big 12, publicly questioned why the Red Raiders were not included in the discussion. On Tuesday, June 15th, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe sent Bailey a memo, explaining the $20 million “guarantees”.

“I indicated that the total future revenue distributions by the conferences pursuing those schools would likely exceed $20 million, and that it may be what it would take in our future media deals to keep them”, wrote Beebe. “The five (Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, and Baylor) agreed that they wanted to ensure that those schools remain and try and induce them to do so by guaranteeing OU, Texas, and Texas A&M at least $20 million of total revenue in 2012-13 – the first year of a new media contract. Estimates of the value of a possible new media contract appeared as if the guarantee may not be needed.”

“Based on that,” Beebe concluded, “the five agreed to use revenue from THEIR distributions ONLY to make the guarantee, IF needed.” (emphasis in original).

So, Beebe is saying that the new Big 12, with ten schools and no conference championship game, will generate significantly MORE revenue, enough to generate at least $20 million for Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M, schools receiving about half that now – in a conference with Nebraska and Colorado, and a conference title game.

Good luck with that, Mr. Beebe.

Big Ten championship game to be in Indianapolis

The Big Ten, home to Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Joe Paterno, and “three yards and a cloud of dust” offenses, will conduct its first-ever championship game …

… in a dome.

The Big Ten announced that Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis has been selected to host the 2011 Big Ten championship game. Lucas Oil Stadium, home to the Indianapolis Colts, has hosted NCAA tournament games, and will host the 2012 Super Bowl, just two months after the inaugural Big Ten title game.

The contract is only for one year, leaving the possibility that future Big Ten title games could be conducted outdoors (host venue; Soldier Field; Lambeau Field?), but the decision has been made for 2011. “We felt at this time it was important to identify a site for the first championship game,” said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, “and then spend more time with other cities and venues with respect to both our basketball tournaments and the football championship games in the future”.

Nebraska, at 640 miles, is furthest away from Indianapolis, while Purdue, in West Lafayette, Indiana, is 65 miles away.

Here’s casting a vote for Soldier Field or Lambeau Field for the future site of the Big Ten championship game. It just won’t be the same watching Big Ten football, especially a title game, in a dome …

Larry Scott: “Texas politics” killed plans for Pac-16

If the Pac-10 had wanted, or was willing to accept, Baylor instead of Colorado, there would be a Pac-16 in 2012.

And Colorado would be with Utah … in the Mountain West Conference.

Let that thought simmer for a few minutes.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, speaking at the Pac-10 media days, revealed that it wasn’t the demand by Texas to have its own network which killed the six team expansion plans. Rather, it was “Texas politics” and leaks from within Texas which scuttled the deal.

Once it became known that the Pac-10 wanted Colorado in its league, and not Baylor, “It got way too hot for the politicians,” said Scott. “Texas and Texas A&M separating from Baylor created a tsunami effect.” Still, a deal might have been reached had Scott been able to do what he had been able to do all spring – fly under the radar. “We weren’t trying to publicize what we were doing,” Scott said. “We were going about it for four months quietly behind the scenes. It’s really Texas (which) leaked the plan as we they were going into those Big 12 meetings in Kansas City, I think, hoping to keep Nebraska, hoping to keep the Big 12 together.”

Asked if he knew who was leaking information, Scott told cbssports.com, “I don’t know … It could only be a small (number of people) who knew what was going on.”

Everyone who was following the story in June looked to Orangebloods.com writer Chip Brown. A veteran writer for Dallas and Austin newspapers before joining the website, it was Brown who broke the story about the Pac-10 expanding by six teams. It was Brown at Orangebloods.com which always seemed a step ahead of everyone else covering the story. For his part, Chip Brown responded to the Scott quote by saying, “Larry Scott is living in a fantasy world if he thinks that DeLoss Dodds (the Texas athletic director) or Mack Brown leaked information to me.”

(Even for the casual observer, it is easy to note that Chip Brown’s statement did not deny that he was leaked information. The statement only refutes the notion that the information didn’t come directly from the head coach or athletic director).

Originally, “we were working on 12-team models,” said Scott. “It wasn’t until the Big Ten and Jim (Delany) started talking about maybe more, 16, that all this chatter over the airwaves started ‘what-if’ scenarios. Frankly, I think that created a lot more openness and interest among the Big 12 South.”

So, in early June, Scott was flying east, extending invitations to six Big 12 schools, trying to keep out of the headlines. “I know what it’s like to be a fugitive,” said Scott. “It was very uncomfortable.”

Here is the best part for Colorado fans …

“We wanted to get Colorado first,” said Scott.

After half a decade in which the football team, the men’s basketball team, and the women’s basketball team have accomplished very little, them’s nice words to hear.

So, let’s read that quote again:

“We wanted to get Colorado first”.

When Scott left California in mid-June for his tour of the remaining five schools the Pac-10 wished to secure after signing on Colorado, Scott said he felt that the remaining schools were “absolutely committed” to the Pac-10. “We knew that there were some political efforts in the state of Texas that might derail it,” said Scott. “In 24 hours it went from happening to not happening.  In hindsight, with a few months to reflect, it was Texas political issues that derailed it.”

Could the Pac-16 still happen?

“We’re certainly not waiting around for that,” said Scott. “I’m not expecting it to happen in any kind of foreseeable future. I don’t know when it might be discussed again.”

Probably not until the next round of television contracts come due.

Unless, of course, the Big 12 implodes in the meantime … (hint: keep reading!) …

Trouble in paradise?

This week at the Big 12 media days, the remaining ten members of the Big 12 reported that they were one big, happy family.

There do appear to be some storm clouds brewing on the horizon, however.

It was widely reported during the expansion frenzy of late June that Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, in exchange for remaining in the Big 12, would receive additional compensation. The “Big three” were guaranteed funding above and beyond what the other remaining seven teams would receive (if you want to review the lengthy history of how the “Saving of the Big 12” unfolded, start scrolling. It’s all laid out, below). The figure everyone heard was “$20 million” – as in Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M would be guaranteed $20 million per season once the new television contracts were negotiated. Texas, the biggest fish in the now smaller pond, was guaranteed even more dollars, being allowed to explore its own television network.

Beebe says “no change in revenue distribution formula”

At the Big 12 media days, however, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, the “Savior of the Big 12”, indicated that no such deals were made. “We have not changed our revenue distribution formula whatsoever,” said Beebe. “Whatever institutions at any level in our conference were able to achieve before, they still have the same ability. There’s no different – nobody got more money.”

Try that one on again for size – “Nobody got more money” …

There’s more.

Beebe stated that the “Forgotten Five” – Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State – teams not offered by the Pac-10 or the SEC, did offer their portion of the Nebraska/Colorado buyout fees, but that the offer was rejected, at least by Texas and Oklahoma. “They all said, ‘Look, we think you’re going to achieve $20 million a year in total revenue distribution,’ “, said Beebe. ” ‘So we’re going to make a calculated judgment that we’re not going to have to worry about it, but we will guarantee you that you won’t be lower than in ’12-’13’ “.

Texas A&M – Not so fast, Mr. Commissioner …

No change in revenue distribution? “Nobody got more money”?

Texas A&M remembers the conversations in June a bit differently.

“A key part of Texas A&M’s decision to remain in the Big 12 earlier this summer was the commissioner’s commitment that Texas A&M would receive a minimum of $20 million annually in future conference distributions,” said Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin in a statement. “We remain committed to the conference, and fully anticipate that the Big 12 will honor its commitment to Texas A&M”.

Part of the problem for the Aggies is that some of the extra money was supposed to come from the Nebraska/Colorado exit fees (the amount yet to be determined), which Texas and Oklahoma are willing to do without, the remainder from increased revenues from ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports (which has only been promised verbally so far).

Texas and Oklahoma can do without written guarantees of additional revenue – they’re bank accounts are in the black. Texas A&M, however, has an athletic department which needs to pay back a $16 million loan from the University – and the Aggies do not want to give up the promised extra revenue.

If the Big 12 doesn’t give Texas A&M its $20 million? A “high-ranking A&M official” said that every avenue would be explored, including legal challenges, and even the possibility of re-visiting the Aggies flirtation with the SEC. The same official said it wasn’t A&M’s “concern” how the Big 12 came up with the money, just that A&M received its check.

The problem for A&M which is hard to overlook: None of the promises made – either by the networks or the conference – are in writing.

Oops.

Update – In a statement, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said, “The commitment to Texas A&M was made and it still stands. We did not have the luxury of time during the crisis to sort out the details, but that will be addressed in the future.”

Here’s guessing Texas A&M will make sure of that …

Big 12 commissioner softening tone

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe could be beatign the war drums about making an exit for Nebraska and Colorado from the conference difficult. Instead, he has been conciliatory, and, at least in public, amenable to a quick and amicable solution.

Translation: No one wants Colorado to be a part of the “Big 11” in 2011.

At the Big 12 media days, Beebe indicated that Colorado and the Big 12 remain in “private discussions” about “tranistion issues”. Will Colorado have to pay as much as Nebraska to leave the conference? “We have by-laws that address (exit cost issues), that all the members when the conference was formed agreed to, in the form of liquidated damages or withdrawal fees for those institutions that may depart.”

So what’s the problem? Well, Colorado gave two year’s notice, which, according to the by-laws Beebe cites, provides for a lesser penalty than if one year’ s notice is given. Why should Colorado have to pay the steeper penalty when the two year’s notice was given?

“We’ll have full discussion about the meaning of those by-laws and whether there’s any type of consideration for different application that what is written specifically in our constitution and handbook,” said Beebe. That “different application” can be translated into Colorado paying something more than a two year notice would require, but less than what a one year notice would require.

Anyone good at buying used cars? It’s that type of negotiation were dealing with here …

Look for an announcement of a settlement when no one is looking. The issue will be addressed, said Beebe, ‘in very short fashion, and probably in the early fall (we’ll) be able to conclude what we’re going to do.” Translation: mid-week in September, when everyone is focused on the upcoming games that weekend, a press release will come out, announcing that the University of Colorado will be playing in the Pac-12 in 2011. Terms will be nebulous; everyone will congratulatee one another for working together towards an amicable resolution. Little attention will be paid as to how much will be withheld, and what deals Colorado made with the Pac-12 to get it paid …

And then everyone will go back to worrying about their injured running back …

Buffs focused on “both scenarios”

“We’ll be prepared with a significant change in our schedule for 2011 in the event we’re in the Pac-10, and we’ll be prepared for a schedule in the event we’re still in the Big 12”, said Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn.

With fellow movers Nebraska, Utah, and Boise State already making plans to play in their new conferences in 2011, it has been considered all but a given that Colorado will be out of the Big 12 after this season.

Problem is … Colorado is still a member of the Big 12, and will be in 2011 unless an agreement to the contrary is reached.

“It’s a challenge, but that’s why we’ve been very, very busy this summer,” said Bohn. “We’ve been focused on trying to be prepared for both scenarios.”

It all comes down to the “penalty” Colorado will pay for leaving the Big 12. “We have an idea of a range (of dollars it will take to get Colorado out of the Big 12), but it’s inappropriate to comment and have the wrong number out there, and have that viewed by either league representatives as some type of posturing as we’re working through that process,” said Bohn. “It’s complex. Extremely complex.”

With Colorado in the black – barely – on its budget, but with one of the lowest budgets overall amongst BCS schools (about $47 million), Colorado may need a financial assist from the Pac-10. A “financing model” may be “part of the solution”, said Bohn, “but again, that is unresolved as well … it’s going to take some time to get that right.”

Considering how well CU administrators handled the move to the Pac-10 – behind closed doors – Buff fans should be confident that, even though there is a dearth of information out there on a 2011 solution right now, an announcement that Colorado will play in the Pac-10 in 2011 will be forthcoming by the end of the summer.

“The Case for the Big 12 Conference”

The Dallas Morning News has obtained a “confidential white paper” sent out by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to conference members last month in his attempt to keep the conference together. “The Case for the Big 12 Conference” is a five page treatise outlining Beebe’s rationale as to why members would want to stay – and pulls no punches in going after the Big Ten and the Pac-10.

The white paper accompanies an article http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/colleges/topstories/stories/070210dnspotechbig12lede.1c4c06b.html, and is an interesting read. (It is worthy of note, however, that this paper went out before Colorado and Nebraska left the conference, and before Beebe convinced the remaining ten schools to stay in the Big 12 with a revenue distribution plan weighted heavily in favor of Texas).

A few highlights:

As to the membership complaining about the unequal distribution of revenue (remember it was Missouri which was using this argument as a justification for bolting to the Big Ten), Beebe wrote: “It is interesting that the two conferences that pose the most threat to poaching our members, the Big Ten and Pac-10, have opposite approaches to division of television revenue. The Big Ten shares equally, while the Pac-10 does not, resulting in a more disparate situation in the Pac-10 than in the Big 12 (e.g., in most years, USC receives twice that of Washington State) … The fact is that no conference shares equally all of the revenue produced as a result of conference competition. If any did so, all revenue from gate receipts, local sponsorships,  concession sales, donations for athletics, etc., would be pooled.”

Making the pitch that more television money is coming the Big 12’s way: “The recent Atlantic Coast Conference deal with ESPN for a reported average of $155m per year is a positive development and indicator that we will be in line for great increases,” Beebe wrote. “Conversations with FOX indicate their bullishness about competing for our future rights, and they have already made overtures about their willingness to pay exponentially higher rights fees than those in our current agreement.”

Taking aim at the Big Ten “For any institutions evaluating membership in the Big Ten, I hope full consideration is given to linking the future with a part of the country that is losing population and tax base relative to the Sun Belt,” wrote Beebe. “In addition, disconnecting with the Sun Belt region may result in removing significant contact with a region where many alums and fans reside, not to mention a fertile recruiting ground for students and student-athletes.”

While also taking shots at the Pac-10 “I grew up in Pac-10 territory, and although there are outstanding institutions in the conference, the facilities and fair weather fans are a disappointment,” according to Beebe. “I suggest that the fan support for their regular season games and championships, and the accompanying image that projects, should be carefully examined.” Beebe went on to echo what became the main publicly expressed concern by the leadership Texas A&M about joining the Pac-10, namely the travel time and expense. “There also is the issue of having student-athletes return to campus from competitions that are two time zones away, and losing those two hours while trying to go on and keep up with class.”

Playing the geography card “I believe geography is a major factor in the support of intercollegiate athletics, and those who disregard that do so at their peril,” wrote Beebe. “This region is filled with supporters and alumni from Big 12 schools, not so much with those from Big Ten and Pac-10 schools. Fans like their teams playing against teams of their friends and families.” (This argument was carried to the extreme by Texas head coach Mack Brown, who, in the June 28th edition of Sports Illustrated, was quoted as saying: “Our players’ parents were pretty adamant that they (be able to) drive to the games to see their kids play” – as if Texas, with the largest athletic department budget in the nation (by a wide margin) is primarily interested in playing to the wishes of players’ parents). For Colorado fans, meanwhile, the arguments made by Beebe concerning geography run in reverse – there are many more Colorado alumni in California – and Arizona, and the Pacific northwest – than anywhere in Big 12 country.

“This conference,” Beebe concluded his confidential memo, “has a terrific future, and will continue to provide a source of pride and connection for the citizens of this region of the country. I beseech its leaders to have faith in this future, and to commit to it.”

Of course, Beebe did not receive the commitments he asked for at the June Big 12 meetings, and Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado were shortly thereafter put on the clock for expressing loyalty to the Big 12. On June 9th, Colorado, followed two days later by Nebraska, left the conference. In order to maintain a viable league, Beebe had to offer to Texas – and, to a lesser extent, Texas A&M and Oklahoma – a sweetened deal. Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, and Baylor had no option but to go along.

Texas Tech, though, along with Oklahoma State, were not given extra dollars despite being amongst the five schools from the Big 12 South invited to join the Pac-10. Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M were guaranteed at least $20 million in revenue for 2012-13, the first year of a new media agreement.  On June 15th, the day after the remaining ten members of the Big 12 pledged their loyalty to the league, Beebe wrote to Texas Tech president Guy Bailey, trying to soothe the ruffled feathers in Lubbock by trying to convince the Red Raiders that they would not be losing money compared to other schools, most notably Texas A&M. “These were difficult times with desperation being felt by many – perfect decisions and perfect consideration may not have been possible,” Beebe wrote, “but the result, in my opinion, is the best for all in keeping the Big 12 as a viable conference. I know I represent the nine committed institutions in hoping that Texas Tech provides the unequivocal, unconditional commitment that that Board of Directors requested at their recent meeting.”

Of course, Texas Tech has not been in lock-step with the conference since the announcement was made that the Big 12 would go on with ten teams.

“I don’t think this conference will last long because there is too much disparity between all the teams,” said new Red Raider head coach Tommy Tuberville. “In the SEC (where Tuberville coached at both Ole Miss and Auburn), for instance, Vanderbilt makes as much money in the television contract as Florida. Everybody is good with it. Everybody is on the same page. Everybody gets the same votes.”

The new deal struck by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe in order to save his league, one which is heavily weighted towards Texas, does not provide for such equality. “We have some teams that get a bit more money and have more stroking than some of the other teams,” said Tuberville. “And when that happens, you’re gonna have teams looking for better avenues to leave and reasons to leave. We have a ten-team league right now, but I just don’t know how long that’s gonna last, to be honest with you.” {Tuberville was quickly reprimanded by the Big 12. Tuberville’s comments “were unfortunate,” said Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, “and contrary to the very strong feelings of unity expressed publicly and privately by the Big 12 Board of Directors and athletic directors.”}

So, commissioner Dan Beebe has managed to save the Big 12 … for now.

Glad the Buffs are not part of that mix anymore?

Yeah. Me, too.

Conference Realignment: How we got here / Where we are now / What will happen in the future

Wednesday, June 30, 2010. A date which led to all of the stories, rumors, press conferences and denials over the past few months.

Teams which planned on moving on from their present conferences needed to do so by June 30th, the end of the fiscal year for most schools, in order to avoid even harsher “penalties” for giving notice after June 30th.

In the end, only Colorado, Nebraska, Utah, and Boise State left their old conferences for new. The Buffs, Cornhuskers, Utes, and Broncos, however, have set in motion a tectonic shift in conference realignment which will not end with just these moves.

How we got to where we are now …

This all started last December, when the Big Ten announced that it was looking into expansion. The announcement came with a 12-to-18 month timetable, but those words were drowned out by the nationwide speculation and debate over which teams were moving where. At the top of the Big Ten’s wishlist, as it had been the case for years, was Notre Dame. Adding the Irish to the 11-team league was an all too logicial fit, but Notre Dame officials, alumni, and fans all spoke out against losing their independence.

While Notre Dame played coy, the Big Ten looked elsewhere. Missouri seemed like a good possibility, and, unlike the Irish, a willing participant. The Tigers were ready, willing, and able to leave the Big 12, and Missouri administrators and elected officials were not bashful in making their feelings known. The Big Ten, though, looked to cast an even wider net, looking to add as many as five teams to form the nation’s first super conference. In addition to Notre Dame and Missouri, teams like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Nebraska were mentioned (other stories indicated that the Big Ten was looking as far afield as Maryland, Connecticut, and Colorado to fill out its new roster of team).

While attention was focused on the Big Ten this spring, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott made headlines of his own, indicating that the Pac-10 was also interested in expansion. Denied the lucrative television dollars which came with a 12-team league, the Pac-10 turned its eyes east in terms of suitable partners. Wanting a pair of natural rivals, the options of Colorado/Utah and BYU/Utah were often mentioned. Other schools, including Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State, and UNLV, were mentioned, but were not seen as good fits academically.

Not happy that two or more of his schools were being mentioned as possible defectors, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe went on the offensive, trying to rally/bully/intimidate members into staying with the Big 12. With Nebraska now on the Big Ten’s radar, Beebe demanded, in effect, a loyalty oath from members schools at the league meetings in early June. It was reported that Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado were given June 15th deadlines to choose their future.  Meanwhile, rumors became rampant that if Nebraska left for the Big Ten, Texas would leave the Big 12 as well. It became known that the Pac-10 was poised to invite as many as six teams from the Big 12 to join the Pac-10 – Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Colorado, and Texas A&M. Baylor, the only Big 12 South school left out of the discussion, began a very public campaign to be included in the new Pac-16, to the exclusion of Colorado.

In a surprise to many, it was not the Big Ten and Missouri, or even the Big Ten and Nebraska, which pulled the trigger first. Instead, it was the Pac-10 and the University of Colorado. On Wednesday, June 10th, Colorado accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10. Two days later, Nebraska announced it had reached an agreement to join the Big Ten.

With two charter members of the Big 12 gone, the demise of the conference seemed imminent. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott made the rounds, visiting – and inviting – Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M to join the Pac-10. The leftovers of the Big 12 – Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Baylor, and Iowa State – were seen as being left to fend for themselves as new members of the Moutain West Conference or Conference USA. The “Pac-16” appeared to be a done deal.

Over that weekend, though, much finagling went on behind the scenes. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe worked with the “Forgotten Five” to try and work out a plan to keep the conference together. Texas A&M and Oklahoma, not appreciating been seen as the weak sisters to all-powerful Texas, made it known that they were in discussions with the SEC.

In the end, Texas made itself a sweetheart deal, being permitted by the other remaining schools in the Big 12 to make more money than any other member. Throwing the Sooners and the Aggies a bone, the new deal allowed Oklahoma and Texas A&M to make more money than the other seven schools, but still not as much as Texas.

With a 16-team super-conference no longer in the offing, the Pac-10 went back to one of its original models, choosing Utah to complete the new Pac-12. Replacing Utah in the Mountain West Conference, starting in 2011, will be Boise State, moving over from the Western Athletic Conference.

Where we are now … An Uneasy Peace

So, as the dust settles on the great realignment moves of 2010, we are left with the following: The Big Ten now has 12 members, while the Big 12 has ten. The Pac-10 is now a Pac-12, while the Mountain West has swapped Utah for Boise State, opting, for now, to remain a nine team conference.

Still, there is trouble in paradise.

The Big 12

Missouri, more than willing to throw its Big 12 brethren under the bus in order to join the Big Ten, is now left in a diluted Big 12, trying to express its joy in being part of the “Texas and the other Nine” conference. It’s unlikely that other schools will soon forget the disparaging remarks Missouri officials made about its fellow members.

Texas A&M and Oklahoma, meanwhile, are faced with the bitter reality that their futures are tied to the whims and discretions of hated Texas. Officials have tried to put a positive spin on the debacle – Oklahoma has made it known that the Sooners were being courted by the SEC; Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman has been quoted as being excited about how, with a ten-team league, a “true champion” can be crowned, as each of the ten teams will play one another (Sherman conveniently forgot to mention that it was it was the lack of 12 teams, and the lack of a championship game, which was the impetus for all of this expansion discussion).

Then there are Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas – unwanted and uninvited. It must have been a real shock for Jayhawk fans to be faced with the reality that having one of the top five basketball programs in the history of the sport meant nothing when conference realignment discussions were taking place. Being looked upon as the ugly step-children of the diluted Big 12 must be leaving a bad tast in the mouths of many fans in Ames, Manhattan, Waco, and Lawrence.

The Big Ten and Pac-10

The two conferences without a conference championship game got what they set out for – 12 teams. Still, fans of the teams from those conferences have been left with thoughts about what might have been. For the Big Ten, the concept of a 16-team league – especially if Notre Dame were included – was tantalizing. Nebraska brings more to the table than Missouri, but its still not all that Big Ten fans may have hoped for.

The same goes for the fans of the Pac-10. The opportunity to have the nation’s first 16-team conference – especially if Texas were included – was also tantalizing. “Settling” for Colorado and Utah, even though that scenario was part of the initial discussion for expansion, could be considered a letdown.

As for other conferences …

The SEC remains at the top, intact and dominant. The SEC can jump to 16 teams anytime it sees the need, and will not be lacking for applicants … The Big East, on the verge of collapse if there were mass defections to the Big Ten and SEC, can rest easy – for the moment … To a lesser extent, the fears held by Big East members also applies to the ACC. A basketball league, the ACC isn’t going anywhere, but it could face dilution in the expansion wars … The Moutain West Conference lost Utah, but gained Boise State, seen by many as a wash. Still, the MWC had its sights set on the Kansas schools and perhaps Missouri, so keeping the number at nine, for now at least, remains a setback.

As for the Future of Expansion

June, 2010, witnessed the first round of massive conference realignment; not the last.

The Big Ten

… has a comfortable number for the first time in almost 20 years – 12. The conference can split into two divisions (although how those division lines will fall has yet to be determined), and the Big Ten can have a conference championship game to go with its Big Ten television network. The revenue may not equal that of the SEC, but it will be close, which will be good enough for Big Ten members.

Unless …

Notre Dame decides enough is enough.

The Irish believe themselves to be insulated from monetary issues. Notre Dame has its own network contract, its own seat at the BCS table, and gets to keep all of its own revenue.

But Notre Dame has not been relevant on the national stage in some time. The Irish have played in only three BCS bowl games in the past 15 years (and were thumped all three times). When television contracts are renegotiated, NBC might not be willing to spend as much on a team which is not consistently ranked. Notre Dame might begin to look longingly at the massive television contracts made by the Big Ten, and maybe – just maybe – take an interest in joining the Big Ten.

If Notre Dame moves, the landscape of college football changes forever. The Big Ten will expand to at least 14 teams, perhaps 16, with the Big East and Big 12 the most likely to be affected.

The Big 12 …

Will not stay together as a ten team league. It’s great for Texas, but that’s it. Texas A&M and Oklahoma saved some face by getting more revenue than the other seven schools, but still are second fiddle to the Longhorns. If the SEC comes calling again for the Sooners and the Aggies, they might well take them up on the offer.

Will the Big 12 expand back to 12 teams? Not likely. There are few options out there which would enhance the league. Adding Texas schools, such as TCU, Houston, or SMU, would only serve to further drive home the fact that the Big 12 is now a Texas league (how long before SWC references are made?). Schools from outside the borders of Texas, schools like BYU or New Mexico, would not bring much in the way of television sets nor national followings. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, an Arkansas alumnus, is said to be interested in getting the Razorbacks into the Big 12, but that move makes no sense for Arkansas. It was being part of a Texas-centric league that prompted Arkansas to leave the old SWC for the SEC. Leaving the money and security of the SEC to bow down to Texas? Ain’t gonna happen.

The Pac-10

Call it bias, but it appears to me that Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has done a wonderful job of positioning his new league to be a strong league, with enhanced revenues. The Pac-10 set out to add enough teams to have a conference championship … mission accomplished.

True, the Pac-10 did offer five other Big 12 schools, and were rejected, but that doesn’t mean the game is lost.

If Notre Dame joins the Big Ten, or

If the Big Ten offers Missouri, or

If the SEC decides to expand to include Oklahoma and Texas A&M …

The Big 12 may still cease to exist.

Texas, if there are any other defections from its own made-for-Longhorns league, may be a team without a conference. Texas could ultimately go independent, or could be forced to join a 16-team league …

The Pac-16.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has saved the conference – for now. By the time the next round of television contracts are being negotiated – or even sooner – there may be no league left to save.

Colorado fans, at least, can rest easy. There were some anxious moments in early June, 2010, when Baylor was banging the “Big 12 South Unity” drum loudly. It appeared that the Big 12 was dead, and that the Buffs, along with other castoffs from the Big 12 North, would have to settle for joining an expanded Moutain West Conference.

Now, however, there are no such fears. Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State fans remain uncertain as to what their futures hold. Future rumors, internet stories, and press conferences will be reviewed, analyzed, and dissected.

Buff fans, though, can watch the future negotiations and realignment politics with quiet satisfaction.

Colorado has found a permanent home.

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