Two weeks ago the conference expansion talk settled down a little when the Big 10 announced that they were tabling their conference expansion plans for 12 to 18 months. Until that time many indicators pointed to the Big Ten being on the fast track to expand its conference to as many as 16 teams. The most common candidates to be invited to the party were Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Rutgers. There were reports published and broadcast that this plan was going to happen.
That is when the Big 10 unexpectedly hit the brakes and all seemed quiet on the expansion front. It was mentioned in this space at that time that if expansion in college athletics is indeed a desirable way to go, the Big 10 had left the door open to other conferences to take the lead in adding teams to their respective conferences.
That appears to be happening now. A report surfaced last Thursday stating that the Pac 10 conference was going to invite six Big 12 members to join the Pac 10. The six members to get the invite were initially said to be Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado. This came toward the end of the Big 12 meetings last week.
One of the primary items on last week’s agenda was to get the league members to affirm their commitment to the Big 12. Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado declined to make the promise throwing fuel on the fire that had Missouri and Nebraska contemplating Big 10 membership. It was presumed Colorado balked at making a commitment because they knew the Pac 10 offer could indeed be in the pipeline.
Anyway when the Pac 10 report surfaced there were no denials. It was clear very quickly that this story had teeth. Not that it was going to happen, but could happen and happen fast if certain cards fell.
This is how the thing looked on Monday. Missouri, Nebraska and presumably Colorado have been given a week to inform the Big 12 of their intentions. Texas, the biggest star in this play, has said its first choice is to remain status quo, a part of the Big 12. It also appears that if Nebraska and Missouri leave for the Big 10, Texas is ready to say so long and head west with five other teams.
As mentioned, Colorado was thought to be one of the six expected to get a Pac 10 invite, but as soon as the news leaked, Texas politicians were working hard to get Baylor into the party and Colorado excluded. The other schools left homeless if the Big 12 disappears are Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State.
Reports also indicate the Big 10 has been forced back into the game with a stepped up agenda. Conventional thinking is they need to let Missouri and Nebraska know whether they intend to invite them into their conference or not, so those schools know how to respond to the Big 12 deadline. There is still strong sentiment that if the Big 10 could get Notre Dame to join they might not expand any further. If that did happen the conference shifting free for all that looks imminent could be put on the back shelf for a while longer.
Where West Virginia fits into all of this is impossible to say with any degree of accuracy at this point. One thing does look certain and that is the next week should tell us if this is the first round of shifting of college athletics.