We interrupt your final preparations for the opening week of the college football season for a word from our sponsor: Expansion.
Says Expansion, "We're baaaack!"
With Texas A&M officially tap dancing its way toward the SEC, the general feeling is the Big 12 now stands on shaky ground. Really shaky ground.
And there are two new power brokers as we look ahead: the Pac-12 and Oklahoma.
Recall how Texas left Larry Scott and the other Big 12 members of the Pac-16 plan, including Oklahoma, at the altar? Well, Scott is no longer a guy who transforms from blushing bride to despondent daisy.
Recall the scene in "A Few Good Men" when Col. Nathan R. Jessep tells Lt. Daniel Kaffee, "You gotta ask me nicely." That's the new Scott.
Scott has proved he can produce. Texas, the biggest expansion prize, knows now it will be richer as a member of an expanded Pac-12 than as an Independent or as a member of a watered-down Big 12.
But the team that needs to take the lead on the deal is Oklahoma, not Texas, as Jake Trotter writes here: "This time around, Texas does not hold all the cards and the Sooners have fewer obstacles in their path to another conference."
Kirk Bohls of the Austin Statesman believes Texas wants Oklahoma to make the first overtures to the Pac-12:
Should Oklahoma act upon its earnest desires and seek an invitation to join the Pacific-12 Conference — something I'm fully expecting to happen within days, if not hours — that decision could well be the killing blow to the Big 12 while also providing Texas the political cover to follow suit and ask for admission as well.
The Pac-12's not going to ask first. It's been down that road before, led along until the eleventh hour a year ago.
Bohls goes so far as to make a prediction.
Here's what I think will happen, probably before the calendar turns to October:
Your new Pac-16 members: Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
The era of the super conference begins.
What about the Longhorn Network, which has been seen as stumbling block (Scott has said as much in interviews)?
The Longhorn Network gets folded into the Pac-16 as a downsized regional network, joining the six regional networks that already exist within the conference.
Scott has long said he believes college football will continue to consolidate. And he knows he now holds a strong hand.
Are we headed for a Pac-16, with East and West Divisions (Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the East; California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State in the West)?
Let's just say lots of folks think so.
Big winner in this: Utah, which wasn't part of the original Pac-16 plan.
Small loser: Colorado, which would switch out some glamorous Pac-12 road trips for more weekends in Stillwater, Norman and Lubbock.
Ring-ring! "Larry, Oklahoma is on line 16."
Big grin. "Tell them I'll be with them when I finish my danish."
Oh, and what is the "official" position of the Pac-12. Here's a statement from Scott:
"Our sole focus has been on developing the tremendous opportunities we have as a new, 12-team Conference and we have no current plans to expand the Pac-12. However, I have made clear my vision that the health, stability and future of college athletics will likely include further consolidation and re-alignment. While I can not predict if and when this might make sense for us, we will listen to and evaluate any scenario that would benefit our member institutions, our student-athletes and our fans. In the meantime, we are pleased to be in a strong leadership position in academics and college athletics, with both a rich heritage of success and recent moves that have greatly strengthened our conference and positioned us well for the future."