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Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Big 12 should heed expansion threats on both geographic sides

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

If I'm Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, I would have my antennae poised as another interloper appears poised to try to break up my conference.

News that the Pac-10 Conference is considering expansion and hired Beebe's predecessor, former Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg, as his point man should be viewed as a very real threat in the Big 12's Irving, Texas offices.

Early reports have Colorado one of the Pac-10's primary targets. It makes sense because of the fast-growing population in the state, the Denver television market and Colorado's traditional history as a football power before the Buffaloes' recent struggles in the Big 12 in the last several seasons.

In fact, Phil Wallace of the blog L.A. Observed mentions today the Pac-10's expansion plans should begin with Colorado.

It marks the second time in the last three months the Big 12 has been targeted. Late last year, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa State among others were mentioned in plans to add new members that could develop into an expanded Big Ten Conference.

Missouri's interest in moving to the Big Ten seemed the most intense. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told the Associated Press he believed Missouri would be moving up in prestige by joining the conference, disparaging conference brethren Texas Tech and Oklahoma State when he talked about moving.

While both other conferences would offer advantages to the schools moving, Colorado's move doesn't have the economic ramifications a move to the Big Ten would provide. Big Ten schools are already making $10 million-plus more than their Big 12 counterparts because of the fledgling Big Ten Network that Weiberg helped to start.

None of that is in place now for the Pac-10. The addition of Colorado would help expand the conference's geographic footprint, but realistically would provide little else for Colorado's program. There's no guarantee that the Pac-10's plans for a television network will provide more than what the Buffaloes already receive in the Big 12. Would they bet on what's to come rather than keep what they currently have in Colorado's current conference affiliation?

It won't be that easy if Missouri or Nebraska were provided the opportunity to join the Big Ten. Tradition would mean something to both schools, but the larger television revenue for both schools could trump all of that.

If I was Beebe, I wouldn't take it as flattery that two of my conference's immediate geographic neighbors on either side are mentioned as trying to break up my conference.

Because  if the Big 12 loses Missouri or Colorado or Nebraska, or Texas in some bold expansion plans, it would decline in national perception that would hurt badly.

It's something that Beebe can't afford to have happen on his watch.

And it's why he should be poised to react -- quickly -- as others are plotting to rip his conference apart.