As dead as the Big 12 appears, Baylor, Kansas and the three other schools that would be left behind by an exodus to the Pac-10 are hanging on to the slim hope that Texas can be convinced to stay and lead a 10-team Big 12. If not, those five schools are considering an option to reconstitute the Big 12 by plucking schools from other conferences, namely the Mountain West, according to a source close to the Big 12.
The source said that even though it appears 95 percent certain that an exodus to the Pac-10 is just days away, an internal debate at Texas continues regarding the merits of sticking with a 10-team Big 12.
The Big 12 has been told that a new TV deal, while it wouldn't be as lucrative as if Nebraska remained, would still be considerable, enough to pay out substantially more than the current deal in part because there would be 10 teams instead of 12 to divide revenue. Also, by staying in the Big 12, Texas would remain as the ultimate power broker and could continue with a plan to create its own TV network, something it won't pursue as a member of the Pac-10, which figures to establish a conference network like the Big Ten.
This outcome is obviously favored by the Big 12 North schools and Baylor.
But, if Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State break away, the source said the remaining five schools -- Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State and Baylor -- could attempt to reconstitute the Big 12 by adding the top teams from the Mountain West -- TCU, BYU, Utah, Air Force and perhaps newly acquired Boise State --plus schools from Conference-USA and even a school such as Louisville out of the Big East, a conference that could soon be facing an uncertain future of its own.
The source said "several teams" have already initiated contact with the Big 12 about such a scenario if the league splits as expected.
The idea behind a rebuilt Big 12 assumes that the league would retain its status as a BCS conference, which grants an automatic bid to lucrative BCS bowl games. That would be an enticing scenario for the Mountain West teams. The MWC is in position to become a BCS conference, but not for another two years once a four-year evaluation period expires.
In the ever-changing college landscape and with the potential for four super-conferences on the horizon, schools are looking out for their best interests. For those four MWC schools, aligning with Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor presents a stronger long-term viability than the current MWC makeup with Wyoming, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State. It could also be possible that the Big 12 simply absorbs the entire MWC.
The Kansas City Star reported Saturday night that the five remaining Big 12 schools communicated via teleconference earlier in the day to discuss their situation, and Big 12 expansion was among the topics.
Of course, as fluid as the situation is, things can change quickly. If the Pac-10 does expand to 16, the Big Ten and SEC could respond by also growing to 16. In that case, Missouri could land in the Big Ten.
The Big East and the ACC could be in store for major changes as both conferences would figure to be raided in the expansion process.
One potential road block for a Big 12/MWC merger is a perceived dislike and distrust between TCU and Baylor dating back to the breakup of the SWC and the creation of the Big 12. Of course, Baylor was granted membership while TCU was left to fend for itself. However, TCU athletic Chris Del Conte Saturday night said TCU and Baylor "absolutely" could co-exist as conference members. The two schools continue a series in football this season at TCU.
Del Conte contradicted a report on Saturday that TCU would seek to block Baylor's inclusion into the MWC, if the MWC sought to expand by adding the remaining Big 12 teams. Del Conte said he spoke to Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw on Saturday.
"That did not come from myself or the chancellor or anyone associated with TCU," Del Conte said of the report.
As realignment continues to swirl, it might not be Baylor looking to join TCU, but rather TCU -- and friends --moving into the Big 12.
However, there are certainly no guarantees.