I've often thought of the western United States as the hub of capitalism with trade and market expansion increasing at an incredible pace (see: the California Gold Rush, the annexation of Texas, and modern day laws in the state of Nevada). Libertarianism and the freedom to expand, while presently on the decline, remain an integral part of the culture out on the left coast. So in a sense, it's more than fitting to see the Pac-10 being incredibly pro-active in regards to conference expansion.
In case you haven't been paying attention, the latest rumor regarding Pac-10 expansion, as reported last week by Orangebloods.com, is that the conference is looking to add Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, to the league, bringing the total number of teams to 16, and thus creating some sort of super-conference which would potentially change the landscape of college athletics. A proponent for expansions or not, this is no small matter. While this wouldn't be the first time, the topic of expansion has come up, this go around represents a far more serious predicament for the rest of the nation.
With the Pac-10 concluding its annual meetings on Sunday, commissioner Larry Scott was given the authority to pursue any possible expansion and hand out invitations to other universities, a step toward the possible annexation of the Big XII South.
As expected the story has been all over sports talk radio, ESPN, twitter, the blogosphere, and any other form of media where sports fan congregate. There have been a lot of wild ideas and scenarios discussed so before anything gets too crazy, let me share some of my thoughts on the matter after the jump.
A.) The Big Ten started all of this
Despite Washington athletic director Scott Woodward boldly declaring, "We're not the bug on the windshield. We're kind of driving the bus" over the weekend, the idea that the Pac-10 is dictating terms is a little misleading. For one, it is the Big Ten who started all of this mess earlier in 2010. No, they didn't make any offers to schools or come up with a plan to expand to 12 or 16 teams, but their actions did place Nebraska on the bubble, which is the real event driving this movement toward a college football world of super-conferences. Forcing the Huskers to consider jumping ship to the Big Ten has made Texas a tentative member of the Big XII, which is where things start to get real interesting.
B.) Because Texas never wanted to leave
Contrary to some reports, Texas is in absolutely no rush to abandon the Big XII for the Big Ten or the Pac-10. In fact, sources all indicate that their preference is to actually keep the league in tact moving forward.The Longhorns already receive a significant portion of the conference's T.V. revenue, in which half is based on national television appearances, and they have been in talks for years about creating their own network as well. As a result, they haven't exactly been clamoring to leave the conference as soon as possible. So why does it seem as if they're listening to what Larry Scott has to offer?
C.) Because Texas does not want to be in a Nebraska-less Big XII
Despite its initial preference to say, the Longhorns will not remain members of Big XII if Nebraska is not included. Historically, the league has featured three super powers in Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. Each haul in a majority of the revenue for the rest of the league and remain permanent fixtures on the national stage. Losing any one of the three would be a huge loss, and might be enough to force the conference to fold altogether. Therefore, if the Huskers do decide to take off for the greener pastures of the Big Ten, you can say goodbye to Texas and adieu to the Big XII as a organization.
D.) Texas, as a free-agent, is a lock for the Pac-10
If Texas is put in a position, where its best option for the foreseeable future would be to leave the Big XII then you can expect the Longhorns to join the Pac-10 along with the rest of the Big XII south. The SEC doesn't appear to be a logical fit for the academics, no matter how you spin it, are not on par with the Pac-10 or the Big Ten. Open a U.S. News & World Reports. They just aren't. Yes, the ranking system is a bit flawed, but seriously. Are you going to tell me Texas, a school ranked 47th academically, would join a bunch of mid-level state institutions down in the South over Stanford, Berkley, UCLA, and USC? Come on now.
E.) Baylor vs. Colorado
The original report discussing this whole subject of expansion made it clear that Colorado would be the 6th team to be included in the Pac-10's raid of the Big XII, as the Buffaloes would help to bring in the Denver market. But as the days progressed, it has become clear that Texas politics could block CU from joining the conference by forcing Baylor to take their place instead. I don't live in the Lone Star State, and have absolutely zero ties down there so I'm not sure how much wait Baylor grads have. But even still, if Baylor were swapped for Colorado, I don't believe the Pac-10 would hesitate to reel in the Big XII south. Acquiring Texas and Oklahoma would still outweigh the benefits of losing Colorado.
F.) A Pac-12 isn't going to happen
There's been some scuttlebutt for a while that the Pac-10 would add Colorado and Utah, forming a Pac-12 with a conference championship game ala the ACC, Big XII, and SEC. But the writing has been on the wall for some time now that no such plan would ever occur. For one, the Denver and Salt Lake City markets are not big enough to justify expansion, and if the conference were to decide to break tradition and bring in more members, why not go for the jugular? That's what we're seeing now. Scott isn't messing around. He isn't looking to add non-BCS schools just to create a conference title game. He's thinking big and wants to create a conference that can stand toe-to-toe with the Big Ten in terms of revenue (the on the field thing is the easy part). That's why we're not seeing the addition of two teams. It would be meaningless. The reason Scott's looking to expand is because Texas is up for grabs. But, as the Big Ten has learned, the Longhorns won't fly solo. If you want UT, which is the whole point behind Pac-10 expansion to begin with, then you're going to have to bring in A&M, Tech, and the rest of its historic rivals. If you want Mack Brown and company, 12 teams isn't going to cut it.
G.) There is nothing you can do about this
A lot of people, including my own mother, aren't too thrilled about the whole concept of expansion. College football is home to many traditionalists, who simply want to see things continue at their normal pace. A seismic shif t in conference alignment would change that. But this is an inevitable process. With the economy still dragging its feet, athletic departments nowadays are looking for any possible way to maximize profits in an effort to save sports and keep staffs employed. In turn, if they can make more money by expanding to 16, they'll do it. If they can't, however, you can say goodbye to the expansion process. Unfortunately for the traditionalists out there, it's beginning to look like the Pac-10, by expanding to 16, could increase its revenue significantly by reeling in six more high-powered schools, as it begins negotiating a new T.V. deal. If money can be made through expansion, it's going to happen even if a significant group of fans aren't in favor of it. In the meanwhile, just buckle your seatbelts, because it's going to be one crazy ride.