UT, A&M could split in football realignment
Thu June 3, 2010 11:52 pm

The hot topic on sports talk shows today was that the PAC-10 was set to issue invitations to six Big 12 schools: UT, A&M, OU, Okie State, Texas Tech, and Colorado. The PAC 10 commissioner issued an explicit denial late this afternoon.

An A&M source told me after I posted an earlier article on this subject that A&M and UT might not be joined at the hip after all. Some published comments by A&M athletic director Bill Byrne appeared to indicate that A&M might look favorably on joining the Southeast Conference. Byrne indicated concern about long road trips earlier this year after the A&M men’s and women’s basketball teams traveled to Washington and returned shortly before Monday morning classes began.

The catalyst for the breakup of the Big Twelve was the rumor earlier this year that Missouri might leave the Big Twelve for the Big Ten, which has publicly indicated its interest in expanding. (Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Rutgers are said to be the Big Ten’s other targets.) Missouri’s academic leadership indicated earlier that Big Ten institutions were a better fit for their university than the Big Twelve, which lacks high-powered academic universities other than UT and A&M. The loss of the St. Louis and Kansas City TV markets would be a major blow to the revenue potential of the Big Twelve. The loss of any large market would destroy the conference.

I’m somewhat surprised that Texas Tech was included in the reputed “invitation” to join the PAC Ten. Maybe Kent Hance had the clout to force Tech’s inclusion after all. It doesn’t matter: Tech will be a doormat in the PAC Ten. It had some cachet as long as Mike Leach was there, but that’s over. It couldn’t fill its stadium for a game against Oklahoma this year when Tech was still playing well. I don’t think Okie State is a big catch for the Pac Ten either. It’s just another Oregon State. Kansas would be a more logical choice than Texas Tech. It brings the Kansas City TV market, and the basketball program has national stature.

What happened today was just a lot of rumors, but there are some things that can be said with a fair degree of confidence. (1) Missouri is not going to stay in the Big Twelve. That alone is a death knell for the conference as it exists today. (2) Nebraska is not going to stay either. It is a target for the Big Ten, and it is a good fit. (3) The PAC 10 covets Colorado, and that puts the Denver market at risk for the Big Twelve. The Big Twelve does not have a secure future. UT is driving the train, and it wants to be in a conference with great national universities (Cal Berkeley, Stanford, Southern Cal, UCLA). Sooner or later–probably sooner–realignment is going to happen.
The Big Ten has said that its window for expansion was 12 to 18 months. The fact that the Big Twelve had meetings this week indicates that things are going to move a lot quicker than that. Texas, A&M, the two Oklahoma schools, Colorado, and Texas Tech would join Arizona and Arizona State in the eastern division of the PAC Ten and USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State would form the western division.

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