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Friday, June 4, 2010
The great expansion hullabaloo

By Ted Miller

Here's the headline from last year's Pac-10 meetings: "Cost Containment Proposals Highlight Pac-10 Meetings."

Things are a bit more interesting this year.

A report that the Pac-10 is now looking to expand to 16 teams, with the new six all coming from the Big 12 -- Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado -- sent shockwaves through college football on Thursday.

The Pac-10, according to the reports, would then split into two divisions, with Arizona and Arizona State joining the Big 12 six and the old Pac-8 forming the other division.

(One of my first thoughts was I know two guys who hate the idea: The Stoops brothers, Oklahoma's Bob and Arizona's Mike, who would suddenly be playing not only in the same conference but also in the same division, which means playing every year. Mike Stoops has repeatedly told me he has no interest in playing a game against brother Bob.)

Two immediate questions arise: 1. Is this about to happen? 2. And if it is not imminent, is this still the most likely endgame?

I do not know the answer to either, but my feeling is: 1. No; 2. I'm not sold. Yet.

Before all of this hullabaloo started, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott told me that nothing of significant news value would happen this weekend. Yes, he said, expansion was on the agenda and a variety of scenarios would be discussed. Yes, he said, the conference is looking into creating its own network but that can't come into fruition until it first negotiates with its present contracted broadcast partners.

In a lighter moment, he told me he didn't want me to end up like other reporters who wrote about imminent blockbuster expansion scenarios that turned out to not be that imminent after all.

After all of this hullabaloo started, Scott still told other reporters the exact same thing: No invitations have been extended. Nothing has been decided.

Is the "Pac-16" a possibility? Absolutely. Will that scenario be discussed this weekend during the Pac-10 meetings in San Francisco? Without a doubt. And it already has been discussed, according to a source. But so have other scenarios.

Expect expansion to play out over the next few months like a coaching search. Conference presidents and commissioners are working behind the scenes, looking for tango partners. They also are aware of how the media works, so there will be a considerable effort to create plausible deniability. Such as:

Reporter: Has Conference X contacted University of Z?

Commissioner: No.

But, of course, there has been some contact through some sort of back channels using representatives with some sort of authority to represent their organization.

Consider this interesting story on the Big Ten side of things from the Columbus Dispatch. If the Pac-10 has "contacted" Texas -- despite denials -- well, it's not alone. From the Dispatch: "Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee sent an e-mail to Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany on April 20 saying that he had spoken with Texas President William Powers."

You can read Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg's amusing explication of the story and the e-mails here, but know that the Big Ten's Jim Delany has maintained -- much like Scott -- that the conference hasn't made official contact with any other university.

What should you take away from all this as of Friday, June 4?

Know how Scott has repeatedly said -- to me at least 20 times -- that everything is on the table.

It is. And the endgame options range from no change (still not completely unrealistic) to huge change (more realistic now than it was 24 hours ago).

And now, our expansion links!