Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dallas Colleges [Print without images]

Thursday, June 17, 2010
Did Beebe leave door open for expansion?

By Jeff Caplan

First came this emphatic statement: "We're not looking to expand at all." Those are the words of Big 12 Conference commissioner Dan Beebe on Tuesday as he explained how the Big 12 avoided collapse, emerged richer as 10 and how it plans to move forward as such.

In the same breath Beebe managed to turn "at all" into: "And certainly we wouldn't look to expand with any institutions that are in our geographic five-state area now."

If the Big 12 as 10 is not looking to expand at all, why the need to add the caveat of well, not in the five states we currently occupy? In college athletics we've learned never say never and no could mean yes and vice-versa. As long as money is green, nothing is certain.

This becomes all the more intriguing with word that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, seeing green fly out the window now that he's suddenly left without the coveted Big 12 football championship game at his palace in Arlington, is eager to bring his alma mater Arkansas into the Big 12 fold -- oh yeah, and maybe even Notre Dame.

I'm no geography major, but I do know that Notre Dame is in the great state of Indiana and that Arkansas, although it sits next to Big 12-occupied Texas (hence, the beautiful border town of Texarkana) the Natural State is actually in Arkansas. The Big 12 currently reaches into Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.

While Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, in office a couple of years since coming from Pittsburgh to replace the legendary Frank Broyles, quickly nixed Arkansas to the Big 12, the move actually makes some sense. Leaving the SEC was always dismissed simply because of the financial muscle of the conference, but clearly we're seeing a Hog pity party that includes unhappiness with a lack of true rivalries, a lack of success in football and diminishing recruiting returns in Texas, once fertile Hog grounds.

The Big 12 has assured itself a highly profitable future after the threat of Texas and others moving to the Pac-16 (and possibly Texas A&M to the SEC). Arkansas could get in on that new revenue, get back to its natural, hated rival in the Longhorns and likely begin competing immediately as a top-four football program in the Big 12.

When Long says no, he might mean yes, in time, just as Beebe said the Big 12 won't expand, er, at least not in the current five-state setup.