Whether the Pac-10 wanted it or not, it just stole a whole lot of headlines, no? I warned you that my post from last week could be debunked immediately. Chip Brown from orangebloods.com is reporting that the West Coast-based conference is looking to swallow half of the Big XII by inviting Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado. Please note that Mr. Brown is not a hack (unlike me) and was the former Texas beat writer for the Dallas Morning News, so don’t let the fact that this is originating from the Texas Rivals site fool you into thinking that this is standard message board fodder. Colorado’s AD has now stated that he believes that his school is getting a Pac-10 invite, which may or may not be an indication of more things to come (as CU has long been rumored to be the most likely Big XII school to end up in the Pac-10). For what it’s worth, Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott has issued a standard denial which no one on the interweb will believe unless/until nothing happens over the next few days.
Here’s what I’ve heard:
A source from a Big XII school other than Texas has stated to me that the main basis of this story is legit and it has known for several days that this proposal was on the table for the schools in question. A Texas A&M insider that runs the premium content on TexAgs.com also has stated that these invitations are forthcoming, with the Aggies (at least publicly) being wary of making the move. What’s extremely unclear is whether the Pac-10 is making these invites before it knows whether it’s receiving a “yes” answer from everyone. One would think that the Pac-10 isn’t going to be inviting Texas Tech unless it has been assured that Texas is coming along. This seems to be a contingent offer where everyone would need to sign on for it to happen and then official invites would be sent out.
The Big Ten not being interested in Nebraska, though, is the one piece of the article that doesn’t correlate with any of the information that I’ve received. My understanding is that Nebraska is a lock to be invited to the Big Ten. I have had multiple independent corroborations that the main substance of the infamous Northwestern message board rumor (which has disappeared from the Rivals site in the same manner as the missing minutes from the Watergate tapes) is correct, where the Big Ten’s intended invitees are Nebraska, Texas and Notre Dame. Now, things may have changed in the last couple of weeks, but if the Big Ten were to have to choose between Nebraska and Missouri, there is little doubt that it would take Nebraska. In fact, if a school needs to “break the seal” of causing an avalanche of schools to leave the Big XII, do not be surprised at all if Nebraska ends up being the first mover in all of this. I’ve received indications that Nebraska could be invited to the Big Ten quickly (possibly in the next week), where the conference would grant the school a fully vested revenue share (including a full stake in the Big Ten Network) in order to cover the higher Big XII exit fees for a 1-year notice period for leaving. This would allow the Huskers to begin Big Ten play for the 2011 football season. It could also set into motion something similar to what I had theoretically posed in the “Multi-Phase Big Ten Expansion: How to Build a Super Death Star Conference” post, where the Big Ten inviting Nebraska puts pressure on Texas to join. Now, that could ultimately just give Texas and other Big XII schools the political cover necessary to bolt to the Pac-10 en masse as rumored, but let me be clear on this one: THERE IS NO SCHOOL MORE LIKELY TO END UP IN THE BIG TEN THAN NEBRASKA.
There continues to be mixed messages about where Missouri stands in this process. Chip Brown stated in his article today (along with his previous articles) that the Big Ten has sincere interest in Missouri. However, I’ve received separate indications from people in positions in the know from Big Ten and Big XII schools that Missouri would be very unlikely to receive an invite. My understanding is that Missouri would probably need to have a 16-school Big Ten that has either Texas or Notre Dame in order to get invited. Otherwise, in a 14-school Big Ten scenario, Nebraska and Rutgers would be likely choices, with Syracuse getting the nod over Missouri. If neither Texas nor Notre Dame are in the fold for the Big Ten, then securing the New York City market specifically and an East Coast presence generally is going to be the only way that a multi-school expansion can work out financially for the conference. Please note that the Big Ten’s argument to move into the New York area is NOT about believing that Rutgers and Syracuse alone can deliver that market. Instead, it’s about the “penumbra effect” of combining those schools with the existing large Big Ten alumni bases in that market (particularly Penn State and Michigan) that could theoretically grab the area. Whether the Big Ten would pull the trigger on that move and if that would work remains to be seen.
That’s what I know. Now, here’s my general interpretation of everything:
I previously noted that one of the underrated players in this conference realignment process would be Texas Tech because, in reality, there are plenty of conferences that would gladly take A&M either alone or in order to get Texas but having to add Tech on top of that was an entirely different matter. Texas Tech got into the Big XII because of political willpower and it’s exactly the type of school that would need to lean on political protection again. Oklahoma State has a similar political relationship with Oklahoma with T. Boone Pickens as a benefactor, to boot. Well, I don’t believe that it’s an accident that this Pac-10 rumor includes both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State as opposed to, say, Kansas and Utah (who would be more desirable from an additional market perspective). On the one hand, the inclusion of those schools lends support to the validity of this story because it takes into account what might be politically necessary moves. On the other hand, with the unanimous vote requirement of the Pac-10 for expansion, is Stanford seriously voting in favor of inviting Texas Tech and Oklahoma State?! Seriously?!
The other thing that I don’t understand whatsoever, though, is if Texas has been pushing so hard for the Longhorn Sports Network and maximizing TV revenue, why it would choose joining an expanded Pac-10, which Brown’s article itself stated would only project to make a little less on a per school basis than each Big Ten and SEC school makes today guaranteed. Indeed, a couple of people connected to the Texas program have told me flat-out that the Big Ten and SEC (in that order) have been the primary choices for the school in this process because it knew that the Pac-10 could never match either financially in any scenario. Now, it’s fully possible (if not likely) that political factors became intertwined here and Texas simply couldn’t go to its prospective highest revenue home. This TV revenue issue along with how Standford could have been convinced to vote for Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are the two items that are holding me back from jumping on board with this rumor completely.
Regardless, while the situation for Missouri is somewhat worrisome, it’s completely rosy compared to Kansas. I don’t believe that a Big Ten invite is forthcoming for the Jayhawks, the school might be shackled to Kansas State for political purposes if it tries to move by itself and it doesn’t help that the school is in the middle of an embarrassing ticket scalping scandal. It’s hard for me to believe that Kansas could end up with the leftovers of the Big XII in a Frankenstein league with some current MWC and WAC members, but it’s a very real possibility if this rumor is true.
Finally, the seismic shift that Jack Swarbrick had stated that would force Notre Dame to join a conference might be coming. I have long been a skeptic that we would see 4 16-team superconferences so quickly, but this type of move by the Pac-10 would start an immediate shift of massive proportions. So, if the Big Ten doesn’t end up with Texas but Notre Dame finally ends up joining, then maybe it really is mission accomplished for Jim Delany. We might be going back to the traditional “Big Ten adds Notre Dame/Nebraska/Missouri/Rutgers/Syracuse” rumors as opposed to a Southern demographic shift, yet at least we might be finally getting some closure on this issue sooner rather than later. UT President Bill Powers is supposed to have a press conference with Big XII Commissioner Dan Beebe tomorrow, which should be extremely entertaining for all of us expansion junkies.
(Follow Frank the Tank’s Slant on Twitter @frankthetank111)
(Image from Be a Longhorn)