Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott emerged from the final day of conference meetings Sunday and announced that university presidents and chancellors have given him all the authority he needs to expand the Pac-10.
"What direction that process takes still could go in different directions, everything from remaining as we are as a Pac-10 that's got some very bright days ahead of it to a bigger conference footprint," Scott said. "I have the authority to take it in different directions, depending on various scenarios and discussions we're going to have."
These are the options that Scott and the Pac-10 are exploring:
• 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.
The second option doesn't appear to make sense from a financial standpoint, and the last option, in addition to being batshit insane, is a logistical nightmare. That leaves option three, which, according to the good Doc, is Scott's preference. Under that scenario, invites would be extended to Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado. There are lawmakers fighting for Baylor's inclusion at the expense of Colorado, but a report suggests that change wouldn't hold up the proceedings.
As it stands now, Nebraska could be all that stands between a tenuous status quo and and expansion craziness:
As Orangebloods.com reported Saturday, nine schools were willing to commit to the Big 12's future last week in Kansas City, and three weren't - Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado.
Those three schools have been given a deadline of roughly June 15 to decide if they are staying in the Big 12 or willing to hold out for a possible berth to another league.
Missouri has rubbed some of its Big 12 colleagues the wrong way by appearing willing to crawl on broken glass to get to the Big Ten. The Tigers won't promise the Big 12 anything.
Colorado appears enamored with a Pac-10 invite. But CU won't get one unless Texas is with the Buffaloes.
And then there's Nebraska.
This deadline imposed by the Big 12 presidents and chancellors really pertains to Nebraska. According to sources, Nebraska has shown some willingness to reconsider what once appeared to be a pair of no-looking-back blinders toward the Big Ten.
The sense among the nine Big 12 presidents who are fighting to hold the league together is the conference could survive if Missouri left. But it couldn't survive if Mizzou and Nebraska both bolted.
That's why those schools have been put on a deadline of roughly June 15 to commit to the Big 12.
And as for the Big Ten...
An athletic director with knowledge of the Big Ten's plans said he's been told the Big Ten would shut down its expansion at one school if that one school was Notre Dame.
And contrary to reports, Notre Dame is still listening to the Big Ten about possibly joining that league, the athletic director said. Notre Dame's governing board is apparently split down the middle on the decision.
The AD said the Big Ten is focusing solely on Notre Dame right now before addressing Nebraska or Missouri.
The inference was clear, however: Nebraska had better be sure it has an invitation to the Big Ten by June 15 or it could risk being left out of the Big 12 and Big Ten with no power conference to land in.
Will the Big Ten be able to get a concrete answer from Notre Dame by the 15th, and if not, will they feel compelled to offer membership to Nebraska and Missouri for fear of that window closing?
If this all goes down--the Pac-10 and Big Ten expand, the Big XII dissolves--what's that going to mean for the SEC, ACC and Big East? That's the worrisome part. Judging by the various exchanges I've seen on Twitter, there doesn't seem to be a consensus as to whether it makes sense for the SEC to raid the ACC. Some say the value-add just isn't there even though the SEC's television contract includes a clause that allows for renegotiation in the event of expansion. I really have no idea.
I'm hoping that post-Pac-10 expansion repercussions won't extend this far east, but that's probably foolish. If the SEC decides to expand in response, it will turn to the ACC--no doubts there. The ACC's recently-inked TV deal has the conference on much better financial footing; not comparable to the SEC or Big Ten, but close enough to perhaps hold the ship together under pressure. Although I'm not optimistic about that.