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The Big 12 will play football

That’s their plan, anyway.

The start of the Big 12 Conference’s college football season will move forward as scheduled, conference officials said Wednesday, meaning four major Texas football programs are one step closer to playing this fall.

“Ultimately, our student-athletes have indicated their desire to compete in the sports they love this season and it is up to all of us to deliver a safe, medically sound, and structured academic and athletic environment for accomplishing that outcome,” said Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby in a statement. The season will kick off Sept. 26, with the conference championship pegged for Dec. 12.

Baylor University, Texas Christian University, Texas Tech University and the University of Texas at Austin are Big 12 members. The conference presidents’ decision to allow football during the coronavirus pandemic was made official Wednesday morning, a day after the Big Ten and the Pac-12 announced their seasons would be postponed until the spring semester.

Bowlsby said member schools have committed to enhanced COVID-19 testing, with three tests per week in high contact sports. Non-conference football opponents must also adhere to testing protocols that match conference standards.

Texas A&M University is part of the Southeastern Conference, which has also signaled its intent to allow teams to play this fall.

“We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement Tuesday.

So that’s two Power 5 conferences not playing in the fall, two that say they are, and the ACC. Of course, there are a ton of questions that will have to be addressed before this can be taken seriously, such as “how exactly are you going to keep all those people safe”, “what will be the protocol when someone (or several someones) tests positive”, and “do you really think that allowing fans in the stands is a good idea”. You can have all the bravado you want, but you better have some idea of what you’re doing when something inevitably goes wrong. In the meantime, all I can say is that it’s going to be an interesting autumn. Or possibly spring, if things do change. Reform Austin has more.

Big 10 and PAC 12 scrap football for this fall

Boom.

Big Ten Conference presidents and chancellors voted Tuesday to postpone all fall sports seasons, including football, with the hopes of playing in the spring, it announced Tuesday.

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.

“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”

[…]

In making its decision, the Big Ten said it relied on the medical advice and counsel of the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.

“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” Morton Schapiro, the Chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors and Northwestern University president, said in a statement.

The University of Nebraska, after Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost on Monday said his program is prepared “to look at any and all options” in order to play this fall, on Tuesday issued a joint statement saying “we are very disappointed in the decision by the Big Ten.”

“We have been and continue to be ready to play,” the Nebraska joint statement said. “Safety comes first. Based on the conversations with our medical experts, we continue to strongly believe the absolute safest place for our student athletes is within the rigorous safety protocols, testing procedures, and the structure and support provided by Husker Athletics.

“… We hope it may be possible for our student athletes to have the opportunity to compete.”

See here for the background. Here’s the official statement from the Big 10. Something I noticed after rereading my draft was that basketball, which obviously starts in the fall but has a sprint championship, was not mentioned in the news stories. It’s not mentioned in the statement either, so at this point there’s no news. Any postponement of basketball will have further effects, but for now that decision has not been made.

A few hours later, the PAC 12 followed suit.

The Pac-12 CEO group voted unanimously Tuesday to postpone fall sports and will look at options to return to competition next year, the conference announced.

“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott in a statement. “Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is.”

Impacted Pac-12 student athletes will continue to have their scholarships guaranteed. The conference is also encouraging the NCAA to grant students who opt out of playing this academic year an additional year of eligibility.

The league’s medical advisory group had “concerns that many of its current recommendations cannot be achieved consistently across all universities at this point in time. Currently, the availability of frequent, FDA-approved, accurate testing with rapid turn-around time vary at each of the Pac-12 institution locations. In addition, in many locations within the Conference, community test positivity rates and number of cases per 100,000 in the surrounding community exceed levels which infectious disease and public health officials deem safe for group sports.”

The medical advisory group said “it is anticipated that over the next few months, rapid point of care tests will become more available and we will have a greater understanding of potential short- and long-term health effects of COVID-19 to better inform medical decision-making.”

Here’s their statement, which says they will “postpone all sport competitions through the end of the 2020 calendar year”. That also doesn’t mention basketball, but as noted since a bunch of (generally non-conference) games are played in the fall, it would seem to affect that as well. We’ll see what that means.

Looking at the other Power 5 conferences, it seems that the SEC is most likely to try to have a season, while the Big 12 may be the last one to made a decision. Whatever happens from here, this was a first step. There will be tons of fallout and repercussions from this, and we may not see a return to “normal” for some time. And that’s without factoring in the financial consequences. Hold onto your hats. The AP, CBS Sports, Slate, and Daily Kos have more.

UPDATE: An interesting fact from the Chron: “As of Tuesday, 53 of the 130 FBS schools will not play football this fall.” Just a guess here, but that number is going to go up.

So where are we with college football?

Possibly on the brink of postponing the season.

Commissioners of the Power 5 conferences held an emergency meeting on Sunday, as there is growing concern among college athletics officials that the upcoming football season and other fall sports can’t be played because of the coronavirus pandemic, sources told ESPN.

No major decisions were made on Sunday night, but multiple sources in several Power 5 conferences have told ESPN the commissioners talked about trying to collaborate if their respective presidents do decide to cancel or postpone fall sports.

Several sources have indicated to ESPN that Big Ten presidents, following a meeting on Saturday, are ready to pull the plug on its fall sports season, and they wanted to gauge if commissioners and university presidents and chancellors from the other Power 5 conferences — the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — will fall in line with them.

Sources told ESPN that a vast majority of Big Ten presidents have indicated that they would vote to postpone football season, hopefully to the spring. A Big Ten official confirmed to ESPN that no official vote took place during Saturday’s meeting.

“It doesn’t look good,” one Power 5 athletic director said.

[…]

Several sources have told ESPN over the past 48 hours that the postponement or cancellation of the football season seems inevitable. Many of those sources believed it ultimately will take a Power 5 conference to move things in that direction and that either the Big Ten or Pac-12 would probably be the first league to do it.

“Nobody wanted to be the first to do it,” a Power 5 coach told ESPN, “and now nobody will want to be the last.”

A Power 5 administrator added: “It feels like no one wants to, but it’s reaching the point where someone is going to have to.”

As we know, all of the not-FBS conferences, as well as the MAC, have cancelled or postponed their fall sports. On Monday, the Mountain West Conference joined them. Today, the PAC 12 will have a meeting, and we’ll see what they decide. This could be the week when the plug gets pulled, which would mean spring football if everything is finally better by then.

Or maybe not. The University of Nebraska is considering its options in the event the Big 10 postpones its season. (As of last night, there were conflicting reports about the Big 10’s plans.) There is definitely support from some athletes and politicians for having a season, though as that story notes the reasons each group has for advocating its position are different. One possible outcome is some kind of massive realignment, maybe with a smaller number of schools playing, and/or a bunch of athletes moving to other schools to participate. I’m sure we’ll know more soon. But just remember, in a country where we had the political leadership to get COVID-19 under control, we’d be having a very different conversation right now.

UPDATE: Just noticed that Rice is pushing back the start of its season to September 26, with the intent to reschedule games against UH and Army that were originally planned for before that date. I guess that’s a baby step towards postponing till spring, but as of this writing Conference USA and the AAC were still on for the fall.

Optimism abounds in the AAC

Good luck with that.

In the face of a pandemic, the American Athletic Conference will attempt to conduct business as usual this football season.

A plan announced Wednesday will allow AAC schools, including the University of Houston, to play a full 12-game schedule, if they so choose, and begin the season on time, even as COVID-19 continues to grip the U.S.

The AAC will play all eight of its conference games as originally scheduled beginning Sept. 19, and schools can schedule as many as four nonconference opponents, according to the plan unanimously approved by the AAC’s Board of Directors.

“We wanted to keep our eight-game schedule the way it was, not to be too disruptive to the teams,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said during a phone interview Wednesday. Asked about the uncertainty of playing a full 12-game schedule due to COVID-19, Aresco added: “We’re not sure that our teams can get to 12. There’s a lot that could affect that. This is the most unusual year we’ve ever faced.”

UH is expected to play an 11-game schedule, which begins Sept. 3 against Rice at TDECU Stadium. A 12th game — a nonconference trip to Washington State on Sept. 12 — was canceled with the Pac-12’s decision to play a conference-only schedule and is unlikely to be filled, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

I mean, I’m sure they’d like to do that. Many conferences are greatly restricting or eliminating non-conference games – the Big XII will allow for one non-conference game, others like the PAC 12 are doing none – so the extra games for AAC members may prove challenging to set up. Well, extra games with major-conference schools, anyway.

I remain perplexed by the belief that we’re going to have college football as if it were a normal year. The “bubble” concept seems to be working (or has worked) for basketball and soccer, while MLB baseball has had more than its share of problems with its rollout. I don’t see any reason to think that the players will be safe – never mind the coaches and staff and everyone else – and the idea that there could be fans in the stands is even more bizarre. On the other end of that spectrum, former AAC member UConn will not play football at all this fall. Maybe they’re the forward-thinking ones. The Trib has a more comprehensive roundup of what the various conferences are planning, for now. I’d assume all of that is written on the sand, at low tide. All I can say is, there’s not much time for things to get better before the games, such as they may be, begin.

UT will start conference shopping

More dominoes.

University of Texas President William Powers Jr. was given the authority Monday to explore changing conferences, and Texas will seriously consider trying to join the Pacific-12 and the Atlantic Coast conferences if not other possibilities, sources close to the realignment discussions told the American-Statesman and business partner Hookem.com.

Powers was given the charge of leading Texas’ realignment search following an hour-plus long executive session meeting of the UT regents. Powers has the authority to keep Texas in the Big 12, but any recommendations to move to another conference would have to be approved by regents.

That regents authorized Powers was not a surprise in a month that has already been full of them in college athletics. The landscape there appears to be shifting to super conferences, raising the question of whether the already-diminished Big 12 can survive even with the continued support of the Longhorns.

Oklahoma gave its president even more authority to act on realignment during its regents’ meeting Monday, and Oklahoma State regents will meet Wednesday. OU could be the school that petitions the Pac-12 for membership soon and possibly lead Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State on the path to join as well, sources said.

[…]

All sources say the process could still be an extended one and take anywhere from one to three weeks because of the sensitivity of the talks and the complexity of the issues. Texas remains keenly interested in preserving its Longhorn Network , but conference membership elsewhere will make that a thorny problem.

On Monday, Powers called the conference consideration an “ongoing process” and then quickly ducked into an elevator without answering questions from reporters.

OU president David Boren was more talkative. He acknowledged that if OU left the Big 12, it would focus mainly on the Pac-12 and said the school has had “very warm, very receptive,” conversations with that conference.

Boren, however, said, the OU board’s directive “is not a Texas A&M-like situation.” He added, “This is not an announcement that we are leaving for the Pac-12. … No one should read into today that we have made a decision.”

But you’re sure as heck thinking about it. Whatever UT and OU may be thinking about, the PAC 12 is not on the menu at this time.

The Pacific 12 Conference released a statement Tuesday night saying it was not pursuing expansion plans at this time.

“After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference,” Commissioner Larry Scott said in the statement.

The decision came after Scott met with conference presidents.

Of course, as we know with the SEC and Texas A&M, “not at this time” does not mean “forever”. Word was that not all PAC 12 schools were on board with further expansion, which most likely means they didn’t think they were getting enough out of what had been proposed so far. I’m sure not ready to say that the wheels have stopped spinning just yet.

Be that as it may, if the PAC-12 doesn’t work out, another possible landing spot for UT could be the increasingly-misnamed Atlantic Coast Conference, which added Syracuse and Pittsburgh to its roster for the 2014 season. Why the ACC? There would be no obstacle to UT keeping the Longhorn Network under its existing rules. The ACC is now up to 14 members, so one presumes they only have two more slots available, if they are still looking to expand.

The potential shuffling at the top has those not at the top considering their options as well.

The Big East and Big 12 might join together in their fight for survival.

School and conference officials from the two leagues have been discussing ways to merge what’s left of them if Texas and Oklahoma leave the Big 12, a person involved in the discussions told The Associated Press.

[…]

If the Big 12 loses Texas, OU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, it would leave Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State scrambling.

Without Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the Big East still has six football members: Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida, Rutgers, Louisville and West Virginia. Plus, TCU is slated to join in 2012, giving the Big East a presence in Big 12 country.

[…]

Also talking about a merger is the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA. Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson told the Idaho Statesmen that he and CUSA Commissioner Britton Banowsky “resurrected this consolidation concept with Conference USA from a football-only standpoint.”

A union between those schools could create one BCS automatic qualifying league, but there’s no guarantee some of those schools won’t also look elsewhere.

There’s no guarantees of anything except more chaos and the pursuit of the almighty dollar. It’s even possible that the Big XII could remain intact, if the right terms are met.

Texas has never wavered in its hopes to keep the Big 12 afloat, but is equally determined to keep its lucrative Longhorn Network.

But on Tuesday, a high-ranking Oklahoma school administrator said the school would consider staying put in the Big 12 if Texas agrees to a “reformed” version of the conference that includes changes to the Longhorn Network and if Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was removed, The Oklahoman newspaper reported.

“It’s going to take major, major reforms,” the source told The Oklahoman as conditions for staying put. “We’d have to have an interim commissioner.”

Tune in tomorrow when everything you know today may prove to be wrong.

UPDATE: Long live the Big XII! Until something better comes along, anyway.

Utah to join PAC 10

In case anyone still cares. Oh, and the Big 10 is having some scheduling issues now that they have 12 members. Boy, no one could have predicted that.

I think I’ve decided that the now-misnumbered Big 10 and PAC 10 should keep their monikers, but do all of their business in base-12, so that their names become accurate. By the same token, the Bix XII should adopt the octal system. Might make for some confusing game summaries at first (“what do you mean, Smolensky rushed for AB yards?”), but we’ll get used to it in time.

Finally, 26 members of the legislative delegation from the Houston area sent a letter to Big XII Commissioner Dan Beebe and the presidents of the Texas Big XII schools advocating for UH’s inclusion. The letter, for which you can see the Beebe example here, was signed by all Harris County State Reps except for Patricia Harless, Joe Crabb, John Davis, Scott Hochberg, and Dwayne Bohac; non-Harris members Larry Taylor, Charlie Howard, Randy Weber, and John Zerwas; and Senators Rodney Ellis and Mario Gallegos.

Is the Big XII in UH’s future?

Now that we know the Big XII will survive, one question that now arises is whether it will try to replace defectors Nebraska and Colorado, and if so with which teams. Already, there’s a drumbeat for UH being included. Richard Justice runs out to the front of the parade.

The Big 12 almost certainly will add two teams at some point. It may be two years from now, maybe longer. TCU would seem to be a slam dunk for one of the invitations, and UH needs to position itself for the other.

To do so will require work on multiple fronts, to do things UH has been unable to do in the past. But this is a new era at UH.

I’ve kind of lost count of the number of New Eras there have been at UH since I came to town in 1988. I can’t help but feel like I’ve heard this all before – IF they can maintain recent success, and IF they can upgrade their facilities, and IF they can draw bigger crowds, then it will all come together. If they can in fact do these things, then UH makes some sense; there’s enough UT and A&M alums here to make Houston a part of the Big XII TV market already, so that’s not much of a factor. Let’s just say I’m not going to hold my breath on this.

UH President Dr. Renu Khator gets some space on the op-ed pages to chime in as well with a rah-rah piece for her school. I noticed that the one thing neither she nor Justice mentioned was the concept of rivalries – UH rivalries, I mean. As that was a large subject of discussion when everyone thought the Big XII was headed for the junk pile, and especially when it looked like A&M might part ways with UT, that seems a curious oversight. Not to put too fine a point on it, but UH’s biggest rival these days is Rice, whom UH would be leaving behind in this scenario. Yes, I know, UH sees UT as a rival. I have news for you: UH and UT are rivals in the same way that Rice and UT are rivals. The rivalry means a lot more to one school than it does to the other. If all that lip service to rivalries meant anything, then the UH-to-the-Big XII advocates should be calling for Rice to come along as well. As TCU is also being mentioned, bringing Rice along would give the conference 13 members, so we may as well go whole hog and grab SMU, too, to balance out TCU and get things back to an even number. And since that would make the Big XII moniker as accurate as “Big 10” and “PAC 10” are right now, a new name for it would be in order. I have a suggestion for that, too.

Anyway. If you want to see the UH thing happen, there’s a University of Houston Should Join The Big 12 Facebook group for you. There’s a similar group for TCU, too, if your tastes go that way. If you want to read more about how Dan Beebe pulled this off, read Kevin Sherrington and especially Dan Wetzel, who reminds us that this is a temporary peace. Sooner or later, something like what the PAC 10 was trying to do will come up again. Burka, the Trib, and Sean Pendergast have more.

Big XII lives

Wow.

“The University of Texas’ athletics programs will continue competing in the Big 12 Conference,” the school announced Monday in a statement.

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin released the following statement:

“Texas A&M is a proud member of the Big 12 Conference and will continue to be affiliated with the conference in the future. As Athletics Director Bill Byrne and I have stated on numerous occasions, our hope and desire was for the Big 12 to continue. We are committed to the Big 12 and its success today and into the future.”

Oklahoma also announced its intention to stay in the Big 12.

Less than five hours ago, the departure of UT, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the PAC 10 was described as “imminent”, though there were other reports at the same time that the situation was more fluid. Guess we know which it is. I’m a little surprised by this, on the grounds that UT’s regents were to meet tomorrow, and A&M’s regents had not yet even scheduled a meeting. Apparently, that pitch from Big XII Commish Dan Beebe was more compelling than I expected it to be.

Beebe’s pitch involves projections of a significant increase in the Big 12’s cable rights beginning in 2012. The numbers suggest an average payout per team at about $17 million, just under the $17.4 million per school the deep-pocketed SEC distributed.

“We have as much value as 10 here than just about any other conference out there,” Beebe said Friday. “If it’s about that value and that money, then that shouldn’t be part of the equation.

“If it’s about other factors that are outside of our control, then there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Big 12 schools heard an optimistic presentation in Kansas City during the spring meetings by Fox Sports Net suggesting a significant increase.

There is a catch: the Fox offer to the Big 12 would be long term, upward of 18 years, according to multiple sources. A great deal now might not be as lucrative in 2025.

The Big 12 could get even more cash in 2016, when the league’s broadcast TV rights package with ABC/ESPN expires. The departure of Colorado and Nebraska will add about $32 million to the conference in penalties over the next two years.

According to ESPN, UT will still be allowed to pursue its own TV network. Earlier reports had suggested that this would be a deal-killer for Texas A&M. Just goes to show you never really knew what was going on all this time. The questions I have now are one, will the PAC 10+1 add a 12th team so they can at least get a conference championship game, and two, will the Big 10 and its 12 members swap names with the Big XII and its 10 members? I suppose it’s possible the Big XII could hunt for a couple of new members to make its name accurate again – I have a statement from State Rep. Garnet Coleman advocating for the inclusion of UH and TCU – but that still doesn’t settle the Big 10 mess. All in due time, I suppose. Credit to the DMN for being first out with the story.

What about A&M?

On the one hand, there’s evidence to suggest that the Aggie faithful want to sever ties with UT and go East.

SEC commissioner Mike Slive visited College Station on Saturday, according to Billy Liucci’s Maroon & White Report, and A&M potentially could call a regents meeting for later in the week, a school official said Saturday.

The bottom line is it appears many Aggies, including some near or right at the top of the A&M food chain, are willing to risk their team getting battered for a time while the program adjusts to the brutally tough SEC.

“We’ve just gotten a sense that A&M feels it’s a better match for the SEC,” said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, of politicians trying to take A&M’s temperature.

[…]

A&M hasn’t finished in the Associated Press Top 25 this century and has had trouble enough competing in the Big 12. The Aggies also have had their hands full with their most recent encounters with the SEC. Tennessee whipped A&M 38-7 in the Cotton Bowl five years ago, and last season, Arkansas (47-19) and Georgia (44-20) both beat up on 6-7 A&M.

Neither the Razorbacks nor Bulldogs competed for a title in their respective SEC divisions. Still, the pro-SEC faction at A&M figures the Aggies’ recruiting classes will improve greatly, with the promise to youngsters in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio that they’ll be playing in the nation’s premier league — while staying in their home state.

On top of that, state Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, said that if the Big 12 had to break up, the SEC makes more sense than the Pac-10 for fans in this part of the country.

“You can road trip to Mississippi,” he said. “You can’t really do that to California.”

Congressman Joe Barton, an A&M alum, thinks the SEC is the best fit for the Aggies, too. On the other hand, there’s one prominent Aggie who has not yet spoken up, and politics may make him push the school West.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry will have a decisive say in which conference his alma mater, Texas A&M, joins and he probably prefers the Aggies link with Texas and other Big 12 schools and accept invitations to the Pac-10 Conference, two long-time political figures told the Statesman.

“Anybody who thinks Rick Perry is not going to sign off on the final decision is fooling himself,” one of the sources said. “A&M will go where the governor wants them to go.”

The second source said Perry, a former Texas A&M yell leader, does not want to do anything to disrupt his re-election plans and consequently might try to push the Aggies toward the Pac-10 to calm the political waters. Perry has said he’d prefer to keep all the Texas schools together.

“Perry’s political team has told him that the one thing that could beat him (in the November election) is to get involved in a football fight,” the long-time political observer in Austin said Saturday. “He doesn’t want to tick off Texas Tech and the Longhorns. The least amount of political downside is for A&M to join the Pac-10.”

Interestingly, at least some Baylor fans are already upset with the Governor for not fighting to keep the Big XII, or at least the Big XII Texas schools, together. I don’t think that will amount to much, but I could see a UT/A&M divorce (and a Tech/A&M divorce) having some blowback. This is all assuming that the Aggies were to get an invitation to join the SEC, something they don’t have yet.

One thing everyone agrees on is that the Aggies only have so much time to make a decision before the PAC 10 makes it for them by inviting someone else. That Chron link mentions Utah as a possible alternate choice for the PAC 10, while that last link suggests Kansas. There are other possibilities for Kansas as well.

Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri could be playing in the Mountain West, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Interestingly, Baylor is not part of the equation amid strong opposition from MWC member TCU.

[…]

What seemed interesting Saturday was word that the schools that will be left behind once the Big 12 dissolves finally began to draw some serious interest. The five left-behind schools are believed to be exploring every possibility from sticking together in what will be a diluted Big 12 to banding together to become influential members in a non-BCS conference.

Kansas, however, could be out of the equation which would all but leave the four scrambling. There has been a great deal of speculation that if Texas A&M does not join the Pac-10 then Scott will extend an invitation to the Jayhawks. Initially it was thought that Kansas could not separate from Kansas State but that has changed with everyone in panic mode.

“Look at it this way,” KU coach Bill Self said to The Kansas City Star on Friday. “No matter what, I’m 100 percent confident we’re going to land. And we may land in a group that gives us more exposure than we ever could have had before. We may land with somebody that opens up recruiting doors in areas that we never really tested before. We’re not gonna lose what we already have. This may open up new avenues for us.”

I don’t know what TCU’s animus towards Baylor is all about – resentment that Baylor was in the Big XII to begin with while TCU got stuck with the WAC before moving to C-USA and then finally the MWC, I suppose – but if you can get past the idea of Kansas being a “mountain” state – which, let’s face it, is no more ludicrous than Oklahoma being a “Pacific” state – the MWC makes some sense. It’s the closest fit geographically, and who knows, the MWC may wind up as a BCS conference out of this now that there will be one fewer in existence. Justin has been banging the drum for the Big East to grab Kansas, and that certainly makes sense from a basketball perspective. But if one thing is clear in all this, it’s that basketball considerations have not been part of the equation in all of the conference shuffling of late.

I don’t see how college sports are better when Nebraska has to start new rivalries so it can get a bigger chunk of TV money. I don’t see how putting Texas and Washington State in the same league makes this enterprise more compelling for anybody.

And since this is all being done for TV money, it is all about football. It is telling that in the last two decades, no league went after Kansas, Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina. College basketball, a national obsession every March, is not even part of this discussion. And if the school presidents aren’t giving a thought to basketball, you can be sure they don’t care a bit about the various soccer players, lacrosse players, sprinters and swimmers who will be going pro in something other than sports.

It’s interesting to me to see 16-team conferences becoming the new hotness. As a Rice fan, I have some experience with such things, as Rice wound up in what was then a 16-team WAC back in 1996. The original conference added six teams – SWC leftovers Rice, SMU, and TCU, plus UNLV, San Jose State, and Tulsa – and went to two divisions with a championship game. That lasted three years, before a group of original WAC members decided it was too much and split off to form the MWC. (Certain current PAC 10 members might want to note that when they did this, they took new school UNLV with them while leaving longtime members UTEP and Hawaii behind.) There were complaints about diluted rivalries, too much travel, mismatched academic standards. If any of this sounds familiar, just file it away for future consideration. Maybe the future PAC 16 will be the only conference to go that big, but whatever the case, the point I’m making is that it’s been done before, and that experience should give anyone pause. I for one am planning to laugh my rear end off if that history winds up repeating itself.

UT headed to PAC 10

So says the Statesman.

The University of Texas is virtually certain to abandon the Big 12 Conference for the Pacific-10 Conference when its governing board meets Tuesday. Texas Tech University is expected to follow along.

Texas A&M University officials apparently are undecided on joining the Pac-10 or the Southeastern Conference. Baylor University’s prospects for joining the Pac-10 remain bleak. And the Big 12 is history.

That, in a nutshell, is how the high-stakes, high-dollar game of college athletics conference realignment — Texas edition — is shaping up this weekend after Friday’s announcement that the University of Nebraska will leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten. A day earlier, the University of Colorado said it will quit the Big 12 for the Pac-10.

One highly placed Big 12 school official said there was no doubt that league members UT, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would join the Pac-10.

“The decision has been made,” he told the American-Statesman. “We’re bringing everybody to the Pac-10 but A&M.”

Texas A&M is apparently considering a move to the Southeastern Conference.

Athletic director DeLoss Dodds has been on record as saying he believes both schools should remain in the same conference. Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, however, indicated during last week’s Big 12 spring meetings that Texas and Texas A&M need to play each other regularly in all sports but hinted that did not necessarily mean they had to be members of the same conference.

“We really like the relationship with Texas,” Byrne said at the time. “We have a long relationship with them. We have the Lone Star Showdown in every sport.

“I can’t imagine us ever not competing against the University of Texas.”

The major concern Texas A&M seems to have with a move to the expanded Pac-10 is the increased travel and likely increased missed class time for all sports except football. A move to the SEC seems more logical to A&M, if a move is necessary.

“There is a two-hour time difference,” said Byrne, who was once the athletic director at Oregon. “The travel between Eugene, Oregon and College Station is 2,200 miles. That’s a long way, sports fans.”

More on that is here. I don’t know how seriously to take that. On the one hand, I think the geographical concerns make a lot of sense. On the other hand, I think the Bleacher Report raises a good point:

If A&M were to part with Texas and head to the SEC, they would almost certainly have to maintain the annual Thanksgiving game with the Longhorns, forcing them to not only play an SEC conference schedule that is at this point way out of their league, but to also play a non-conference game against a perennial top-five team.

If A&M were a strong enough program to handle this type of schedule, it would be a great scenario as their strength of schedule would undoubtedly put them in a position to play for the BCS title every season.

However, they are not.

A&M, at this point, will be lucky to finish .500 in SEC play.

Playing Texas each year would almost guarantee another loss, giving them a best case scenario of going 6-6.

This won’t work for long.

That’s a bit of an overstatement, and I’ve no doubt that the Aggie faithful would believe that moving to a “better” conference would make it easier to bring better recruits to A&M, thus raising their game. I’d just ask how well that worked for them in the move to the Big XII.

Honestly, I have a hard time seeing the two schools part ways. If you thought the Lege might get involved on Baylor’s behalf, you can be certain they will take notice of a UT/A&M divorce. In the meantime, thinking about it does allow for some entertaining scenarios, as Sean Pendergrast demonstrates.

On a related note, the Mountain West Conference has gotten in on the expansion game by adding Boise State. I wouldn’t count them out as a final destination for some of the currently left behind Big XII schools, no matter how mountain-free they are. You almost have to feel sorry for Missouri, as it was their initial flirtation with the Big 10 that was the catalyst for all this, and now here they are with no place to go. Hey, maybe Conference USA will take them. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? C-USA would be a pretty good fit for Baylor, in any event. It’s all written on water till the big boys finish up with their business. Stay tuned.

Bye-bye, Big XII

Good-bye, Colorado.

The Pac-10 announced Thursday that the University of Colorado has agreed to leave the Big 12 to join its conference.

“This is an historic moment for the conference, as the Pac-10 is poised for tremendous growth,” commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.

“The University of Colorado is a great fit for the conference both academically and athletically and we are incredibly excited to welcome Colorado to the Pac-10.”

[…]

A source with direct knowledge of the Pac-10’s discussions about adding more Big 12 teams told ESPN’s Joe Schad on Thursday that from the Pac-10’s perspective, it’s “simply a matter of who signs next.”

Colorado’s move might spell the end of the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska is also poised to announce its move from the conference to the Big Ten.

Texas and Texas A&M officials are scheduled to meet Thursday at an undisclosed location to discuss the future of their athletic programs and the Big 12 amid speculation the league could be raided by rival conferences and broken apart.

Did someone say Nebraska?

All signs are pointing to a Nebraska move to the Big Ten.

A source close to the Nebraska program told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that athletic director Tom Osborne informed some staff members within the past 24 hours the Cornhuskers were going to make the move to the Big Ten conference.

A source with knowledge of the Big Ten’s plans confirmed to ESPN.com that Nebraska will join the Big Ten by the end of the week or early next week. The source said the formal process of accepting a candidate either has started or would be under way shortly, as Nebraska must formally apply for admission to the Big Ten.

“It’s going to happen, unless something crazy happens in the final hours,” the source said. “I think by this weekend, it’s going to be wrapped up.”

Sean Pendergrast has more. For those of you keeping score at home, that would give the Big 10 twelve members, the PAC 10 eleven members, and the Big XII ten members. For now. Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows.

Actually, that’s a point that shouldn’t be a joke. Nobody knows what will happen; in particular, nobody knows exactly what the Texas public universities that are affected by this will do. State Rep. Jim Dunnam thinks they ought to be more transparent about it:

The current Big-12 debate should not be what’s best for just Baylor, or just UT. The center of discussion should be what’s best for Texas as a whole, and the debate should be conducted in public, not back rooms.

We have public institutions to improve all our lives: public parks, libraries, swimming pools, museums. Public universities and their sports programs are the same thing.

The UT, A&M and Tech charters speak of enhancing the lives of every Texan, not one football program. The “Core Purpose” stated in the UT “Compact with Texans” says, “To transform lives for the benefit of society.”

For Notre Dame, maybe it’s different. But UT, A&M and Tech are public. Their football teams are not owned by one Athletic Director or a Board of Regents. They were founded and are owned by the people of Texas. They are valuable assets of our state. Mack Brown has done a great job as coach, but it took the support of generations of Texans to get him and his team on the field. University board members serve to protect the public trust of the citizens of Texas. Not just wealthy alums. Not TV networks.

[…]

Backroom deals with TV executives trading our state pastime for rating points is wrong. When I vote on changing Texas by law and statute, I do it after public hearings, after public debate and with a public vote. Every Regent was appointed by Governor Perry and confirmed by the Texas Senate, and they owe Texans the same openness and transparency in this decision.

That’s from an op-ed he sent out, which may wind up in a newspaper near you, or you can just read it here. I think he’s right, and I think it’s time for there to be some discussion of what this means and how these schools should conduct this business. It shouldn’t just be the regents’ decision.

The Baylor-PAC 10 emails

It’s impossible to keep up with all of the Big 12/PAC 10/Big 10 stuff, and the many possible permutations of what could happen, but I was amused by the emails from a Baylor regent trying to whip up support for their inclusion in any mass migration to the PAC 16 over Colorado.

Wrote [Baylor regent and prominent lobbyist Buddy] Jones: “We cannot let the other schools in Texas (A&M, U.T., Tech) leave the Big XII WITHOUT BAYLOR BEING INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE. Long and short – if U.T., A&M and Tech demand that any move to any other conference include ALL TEXAS BASED TEAMS from the Big XII, we are golden. We need to be in a PACKAGE DEAL!”

[…]

Jones argues that Baylor is better than Colorado as a potential Pac-10 team because, “Baylor is superior to Colorado academically. Baylor has athletic facilities superior to Colorado. Colorado doesn’t participate in the number of sports that Baylor does. Baylor’s overall record in all collegiate sports dwarfs that of Colorado.”

Jones also points to Nebraska as being a key to the conference realignment. He opines that: “It’s hard enough get the home teams to stick tight. But harder still to influence a bunch of corn shuckers.”

I’m sure he meant that in the nicest possible way. The Denver Post managed to get a couple of people on the record about the Baylor-versus-Colorado thing.

Powerful Baylor alumni said today that the Texas State Legislature is looking into ways to help their alma mater.

As Kip Averitt, who retired in March after 17 years as a state senator and is a 1977 Baylor grad, told The Denver Post: “If it’s one or the other, I’d rather it be us than you.”

[…]

“I think there’s a desire to have regional participation in all of the athletics,” said State Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco), Baylor class of ’86. “If you don’t have Texas and Texas A&M and Tech and Baylor playing one another, you lose the regional nature of your conference.

“It’s fun to play Ohio State every now and then but people come in day in, day out for that regional competition.”

[…]

“We’re on the same academic tier as Colorado,” Averitt said. “Both of our schools are at the top of the spectrum. That can’t be an issue. But for us down here, we’re kind of a family. We like to compete against our family.

“It’s nothing against Colorado at all. We like to travel up to Colorado from time to time. It’s a beautiful state. But when it comes to conference realignment, it’s a huge deal to Baylor University and central Texas economics.”

Colorado’s appeal to the Pac-10, besides a closer proximity, is it’s a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities. While Baylor is not, it’s considered one of the best academic institutions in Texas.

Athletically, Baylor boasts the most Big 12 championships outside of Texas and Nebraska. Baylor officials quickly point out that Colorado does not carry non-revenue sports that are popular in the Pac-10 such as softball, baseball and men’s tennis.
“We think that also should be a consideration,” Averitt said. “We’re across the board.”

Is it just me, or does anyone else hear Frank Sinatra crooning in the background?

I dunno. I guess it could happen. Baylor’s arguments are quite logical. But I think Buck Harvey is correct in that logic will be trumped by numbers.

Colorado doesn’t dominate its region the way Nebraska does. But it is still the state’s largest school with the potential to be more. Baylor, bordered by UT on one edge and A&M on another, isn’t a growth business.

Then there are the numbers. Boulder, Colo., is 25 miles from Denver and is included in that city’s television market. It’s the 16th largest in the nation, the reason four major pro sports are there.

Waco is combined with Bryan and Temple on the same list, yet is 89th overall — just above Jackson, Miss.

This sure is fun to watch, isn’t it? In closing, I leave you with Dan Wetzel, who makes a strong case for how supporting a football playoff would have saved the Big 12 from the current attempts to pick its carcass, and Sean Pendergast, who compares the spot the Big 12 is in to that of the Big East of 2003. Check ’em out.

Baylor versus Colorado

Like Justin, I find this a little hard to believe.

Political forces in the state of Texas are preparing to demand that Baylor — not Colorado — should be one of the schools in the mix should the Pac-10 extend an invitation to six Big 12 schools to join its ranks, according to Orangebloods.com.

[…]

“If you’re going to have an exported commodity involved in this, do you think we’re going to allow a school from outside the state of Texas to replace one of our schools in the Big 12 South? I don’t think so. We’re already at work on this,” the site quoted a a high-ranking member of the Texas Legislature as saying.

The source said that there is a block of 15 legislators working to make sure that Baylor, not Colorado, is invited to join the Pac-10. The source pointed to the political and economic importance of keeping the Big 12’s Texas schools together as well as Colorado’s recent athletic struggles and lack of sports such as baseball, softball and men’s tennis.

Hard to imagine there are 15 legislators who care that much about what happens to Baylor, but I suppose anything is possible. Let’s just say I will remain skeptical about this until such time as I see some names attached to these reports. More on that from a PAC 10 perspective is here.

Meanwhile, what the PAC 10 decides to do is dependent in part on what the Big 10 decides to do.

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who chairs the men’s basketball committee, compared the conference’s discussions here to his committee’s shortly before it expanded March Madness to 68 teams. At one point, the idea of a 96-team field was floated before the more modest change was adopted. That could be what happens in the Pac-10 — with the latest whopper just a bombshell that spurs talks.

“We went through an exercise of due diligence and really decided to look at all the possible scenarios and all the options to see what might be in the best interest of the association long term,” Guerrero said. “We’re doing the exact same thing here. We’re in a due-diligence process.”

USC athletic director Mike Garrett, whose football and basketball programs are under investigation for NCAA rules violations, declined comment.

The future look of the Pac-10 could depend on what happens with the Big Ten. If Notre Dame elects to join that conference, the likelihood is that any Pac-10 expansion would be modest. But if the Big Ten pulls in Nebraska and Missouri instead, the Big 12 could be in danger of crumbling. The Pac-10 wants to be position to scoop up some of those schools, particularly Texas, which brings with it a large, lucrative TV audience.

The NCAA Tournament analogy is instructive. In the end, we could get Notre Dame to the Big 10 (which, as it currently has 11 members, would make it another Big 12, albeit not in name) and little else. Until Nebraska and Missouri make up their minds, for which they reportedly has two weeks to do, we’ll see a lot of speculation. And a multidimensional Prisoner’s Dilemma:

In the middle, the Big 12 presses against these encroaching walls with increasing uncertainty, much of it rooted in distrust across the North and South divisions. A unified membership committed to the future of the conference would likely be safe from the poachers, and on some level, it’s possible no individual member is actually anxious to leave the conference as it’s existed since 1995; as Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said last week, he prefers remaining in the Big 12 if “the conference stays intact, completely intact, with all 12 members.” That depends on the conference’s anchors, Nebraska and Texas, neither of which is interested in remaining without the other, but neither of which can guarantee it isn’t ready to ship out for (literally) greener pastures.

The PAC 10 Commissioner has been given the authority to pursue expansion, so the dominoes are lined up and awaiting a catalyst. And once again, let me just say as a Rice fan, my heart breaks for these guys. May they all get indigestion while they make up their minds just how obscenely rich they want to be.

The PAC-16?

You know, nothing quite says “Pacific Coast” to me like Lubbock, Texas, and Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Two reports surfaced Thursday, in the midst of the annual Big 12 meetings, that indicated the Pacific 10 is mulling offering six Big 12 schools entrance into its league as part of a southern division.

The Big 12 schools are Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado. Baylor would be left out of the Pac-10 mix, Orangebloods.com first reported Thursday. Later in the day, the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera reported that Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn has “been led to believe” the Pac-10 would invite the six schools, perhaps putting them with current Pac-10 members Arizona and Arizona State to form the division.

“The longer that we (athletic directors) were together in Kansas City, it appeared that the rumor or speculation did have some validity to it,” Bohn told the Camera.

There’s more here and here, with ESPN reporting the possibility of a full-blown merger between the two conferences, whatever that might mean. I must confess, I had been under the impression that the Big XII was a powerhouse, so I find it more than a little odd to see its members being (potentially) poached by the PAC 10 and the Big 10 and whoever else. Burka suggests that Missouri being wooed by the Big 10 was the catalyst for all this, while a leaked email from Ohio State’s president (via Justin) suggests that the Big 10 is gunning for UT. All I know is if the Big XII can just up and disappear in a cloud of TV money, can anything be considered safe? Having said that, as a Rice fan let me just say to all of you Big XII devotees, “Welcome to our world”. We’ll see how many conferences are left, and who’s left out in the cold, when the music stops playing.