- Graham Watson, College Football
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Teams are going. Teams are coming. Teams are staying.
The wheels of expansion have been turning furiously for the past week and they're not done yet. With news that the Big 12 will remain intact with 10 members, the Pac-10 will be looking for a 12th member to round out its conference. That member will likely come from the Mountain West.
This shouldn't come as a surprise.
This is what we all talked about when conference expansion first became a trending topic. Colorado and Utah were the logical choices for the Pac-10, and with Colorado already committing and the members of the Big 12 off the table, it’s just a matter of time until Larry Scott and Co. come knocking if they haven’t already.
And adding Utah makes sense. It’s strong both athletically and academically. The Pac-10 has a strong commitment to academics and Utah is a Research I university, which places it among the top universities in the nation.
Losing Utah would be a blow to the Mountain West because the Utes hold one of the conference's BCS bowls and its highest ranking. If it is no longer a member of the conference by the time the evaluation comes around, those attributes won’t count toward the Mountain West’s quest for automatic qualifying status.
Currently, the Mountain West meets two of the three criteria to earn an automatic qualifying bid. With Boise State in the mix, it still meets just two of the three, though it has a stronger case. Without Utah, you guessed it; the Mountain West meets two of the three criteria. Obviously, there are still two more years of evaluation and things could change, but losing Utah takes one of the more attractive pieces out of the puzzle. Still, a good season by Boise State and/or a Mountain West team could lessen the blow.
But for now, the prospect of losing Utah is nothing more than a rumor and the Mountain West, Utah fans and the rest of the country must wait for something to happen. No formal announcement regarding Utah and the Pac-10 has been made and Utah athletic director Chris Hill told the Salt Lake Tribune, "we will not respond to the rumors circulating."
But those who followed Colorado’s journey to the Pac-10 know that that deal had been in the works since October, which makes this quote from Utah spokesperson Liz Abel regarding Pac-10 expansion interesting:
"Right now for us, it's the same as it was eight months ago," she said.
3dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
4dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney