According to "multiple sources close to the situation," the Pac-10 plans to offer conference membership to six Big 12 teams at its conference meeting in San Francisco, forming a 16-team behemoth that spans the entire Western half of the country and encompasses seven of the nation's top-20 television markets.
Those six teams: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado. Let the denials begin.
The vastly restructured league will reportedly feature two eight-team divisions with an East-West divide: The new newcomers will join Arizona and Arizona State in the "Inland" division, with the original "Pac-8" schools – California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Washington and Washington State – holding in the "Pacific" division.
That's the entire Big 12 South, switching Baylor with Colorado. Colorado's AD confirmed it last night.
It's funny, I was just thinking about this possibility over the weekend, considering the likelihood that, now that the Big 10 has put massive expansion on the table, one of the other big time conferences (i.e., the SEC or Pac 10) would attempt a pre-emptive strike to keep from being left out in the cold.
So the big question: will they jump? I think they might. Missouri has all but admitted that they would accept an invitation from the Big 10 if offered, and Nebraska has made some noises that they would consider such an offer as well. In the increasingly likely event that the Big 10 plunders the Big 12 North, the southern teams only have two options: the Pac 10 and the SEC. The Big 12 South has cultivated strong rivalries and academic relationships between its schools that now gain national attention, and this deal is probably the only one they'll get that preserves them (the SEC has supposedly expressed interest in Texas and Texas A&M, but not in Tech, Oklahoma, or OK St.).
Plus, conferences are also very much about academic relationships, and the SEC is laughably deficient in that respect. There are really only two high caliber public universities in the Old South, North Carolina and Virginia, and they're both in the ACC! Add Clemson and Duke to the ACC milieu, and you're left with an SEC that counts Vanderbilt as pretty much its only school with serious academic credentials. Meanwhile, the Pac 10 includes Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, and Southern Cal.
And finally, there's the money question. The Big 10 Network has been a financial success beyond the most optimistic expectations, bringing millions to every school in the conference. In an expanded Pac 10, a network along the lines of the Big 10 Network would lock up the media markets in the two most populous states in the Union (California and Texas), plus Seattle, Phoenix, and Denver. The SEC just can't compete with that. The Big 12, by the way, has the fewest quality TV markets of all, claiming only the Texas markets plus Denver and St. Louis.
If it's a decent deal, I think they should accept the invitations. It's the smart play given the circumstances, especially for Red Raider fans who have a serious concern that Tech be in a conference that is:
- viable and profitable
- includes Texas and A&M
- will further Tech's goal of becoming a Tier 1 research university
Long live the Pac 16!
Incidentally, this may constitute one of Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick's "seismic" changes that "forces our hand."