Okay, I tried to stay away. I tried to be a good boy and take time off and ignore the computer. But the expansion story is just too good. Some quick observations today. You already know most this stuff but I just want a chance to weigh in and get your thoughts.
1. The SEC is being awfully quiet in all this. Various media reports say Nebraska to the Big Ten is done and will be announced on Friday. There are also reports out there that very quietly, Mike Slive and his folks at the SEC could still invite Texas and Texas A&M if the Big 12 breaks up. Would Oklahoma and Oklahoma State come along? Yes, I know about the Pac-10 offer to the six Big 12 teams (Texas, A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado). But as one official put it to me yesterday: Do you think DeLoss Dodds (the Texas athletics director) would rather send his women’s softball team to Pullman, Washington (home of Pac-10 member Washington State) or Tuscaloosa, Ala? I know all about the academic arguments in favor of the Pac-10. I’ll believe it when I see it.
People keep telling me that the SEC should do nothing. But if the Pac-10 and the Big Ten both go to 16 teams, can the SEC stay with a pat hand?
There is absolutely nothing coming out of the SEC on this. This is as locked down as I’ve ever seen them. That should make some people nervous because Slive is one of those “speak softly and carry a big stick” kind of guys.
2. Can Texas, Texas A&M save the Big 12? Various media reports have officials from the two schools meeting today. Understand that Dodds and A&M athletics director Bill Byrne have the juice to hold the league together even if Nebraska and Colorado (to the Pac-10) both leave. The Big 12 can pick up TCU, which further strengthens the Dallas market. I would also pick up SMU. Great academics and a football program on the rise with June Jones as coach. If the Big 12 doesn’t fall apart, then this process could be relatively calm. But Texas could decide that staying in the Big 12 is simply delaying the inevitable breakup.
3. But does the Big Ten stop at 12 teams? In the short term it could happen. Commissioner Jim Delany recently put it out there that expansion for his league could come in stages. Because Delany’s grand plan could put two conferences (Big East, Big 12) out of business, perhaps he decides to go on the installment plan.
4. Forget Notre Dame. With Nebraska set to accept the Big Ten’s offer on Friday, I think it closes the door on Notre Dame becoming a member of that conference. I could see Notre Dame becoming the 12th member of the Big Ten. I can’t see the Irish being the 13th or 14th or 16th member. Now all of that could change if the Big East falls apart. The Notre Dame would have to find another home for men’s basketball and its non-revenue sports.
5. The Pac-10 will expand. Even if the grand plan (inviting six teams from the Big 12) does not come to pass, that conference will still add at least two teams (Colorado and perhaps Utah). The league is getting ready to negotiate its next TV contract in football and it has to bring someting new to the market place. Here is another factor: The Pac-10’s marquee program, The University of Southern California, is about to get hammered by the NCAA. The Pac-10 has gotta do something.
Stayed tuned. The next 24 hours could be really interesting.