Saturday, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott reportedly presented a handful of options to conference presidents, chancellors and athletic directors for pursuing expansion. Today, Scott said he'd been granted authority by the membership to pursue any and all of them...
To recap, according to both ESPN Los Angeles and Orangebloods.com, the four options Scott laid on the table on Saturday ran as follows, from least to most dramatic:
• Retaining the current 10-team structure, unchanged since Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-8 in 1978;
• Adding Colorado and Utah to form a 12-team conference with two six-team divisions and a championship game, a la the SEC, Big 12 and ACC;
• Brokering a merger with six Big 12 schools, as reported by Orangebloods on Thursday, as long as one of those schools is Texas; or
• Brokering a full merger with the entire Big 12, creating an unwieldy, 22-team behemoth that would completely redefine the concept of a "conference" in college sports.
While "by the end of the year" is certainly technically correct, and in keeping with the conference's initial 6-to-12-month timeline for considering expansion options, every indication over the last 72 hours suggests the strike is bound to come by the end of the month, if not by the end of the week.
Reacting to this news (and to contact from the Pac 10 assuring them that there will be an invitation incoming), the Big 12 has presented an ultimatum to Nebraska and Missouri to declare their intentions to stay in the Big 12 or listen to the Big 10's siren song by the end of the week.
For the Big 10, who had been planning on settling on a plan in November or so, "the timeline could be affected," as Big 10 commish Jim Delany put it.
If you remember, the Big 10 is not only courting the Tigers and Huskers, but also still has its designs on Texas, though the Texas legislature's insistence that any conference who wants the 'Horns also take A&M and Tech is a problem for the Big 10. Thus, if Delany wants Mizzou and Big Red, he's got to give them assurance of invites this week, and if he wants even a shot at Texas, he needs to send them an invite this week as well, which means clearing the way for Texas Tech through Big 10 presidents that don't think the Red Raiders meet the Big 10's academic standards.
So my thought: where is Notre Dame in all this? Do we have a plan of action in case the Big 12 falls apart this week? If the Pac 10 becomes the Pac 16, the Big 10 will become the Big 16. You can take that to the bank. I'm guessing we don't want to be left out of that?
Doug Gillett had a great post on why ND is independent several months ago, and it's worth looking at again. Of course, alumni cares aside, it's a money thing, specifically our sweetheart BCS deal and our even sweeter NBC deal. Gillett shows, however, that conference schools in the SEC and Big 10 have done comparably well with conference TV contracts, and actually gotten a much better payout from the BCS than ND overall (like 10 to 20 times as much).
Plus, of course, that sweetheart deal with NBC is increasingly unlikely to be renewed in 2015 as ND continues to stagnate in football and NBC struggles with, well, everything. Sure, Brian Kelly may pull off the great Return to Glory, but when your master plan for maintaining current revenue includes "winning a national championship" as a prerequisite, you don't have a good plan.
If Delany gets the Texas schools, ND is screwed. The Big 10 is actually 11 schools, plus the Texas 3 plus Mizzou and Nebraska = Big 16, with no room for the Irish. I don't think this is going to happen, though, because there are too many hurdles for Delany to clear with too many people to get those invites out this week. He's been outmaneuvered by the Pac 10.
There's a pretty good chance, I think, that the Pac 10 will raid the Big 12 South and the Big 10 will make off with Mizzou and Nebraska, leaving 3 schools left for the Big 10 to grow into the Big 16. Supposedly Syracuse, Rutgers, and UConn are being courted to become the last 3.
Again I ask: do we have a plan?