Sunday, September 18, 2011
Plot thickens in expansion thriller
By Ted Miller
To remind us that the expansion game -- it is such a fun game, isn't it -- is all about surprises, the ACC decided to be the conference that crossed the Rubicon as we head toward a superconference future.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh are bolting the Big East for the ACC. It's a done deal, unlike the just-about-done deal for Texas A&M to the SEC, which is only being held up by Texas folks who hate free markets and love frivolous lawsuits when their self-interests are involved.
So, at this moment, the ACC is at 14 and the SEC is just about 13. That means the days of 12 are numbered, not unlike the precarious existence of the Big 12 and Big East.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has repeated the same series of phrases -- politely and with an admirable energy that almost makes his message seem fresh -- over and over. He likes the Pac-12. He's perfectly happy staying at 12. Heck, the Pac-12 is the world's richest college sports conference! But the conference won't be left behind. If others start the superconference trend, the Pac-12 will then play its strong hand and add teams.
And so we have Texas' and Oklahoma's boards of regents meeting Monday. Here's a guess that the subject of expansion is going to come up, though the regents won't specifically vote to jump conferences or not, but only to tell their president to do what he thinks is best for the institution.
First, no one knows the endgame. Did you read anything about imminent moves to the ACC from Syracuse and Pittsburgh before this weekend?
But the general feeling is Oklahoma is tired of Big 12 instability and wants to join the Pac-12 and that Oklahoma State would follow. So that's 14, which for a variety of reasons isn't a good number for a conference (which is why we should assume the ACC and SEC aren't done).
What about Texas? The smart move for Texas, as it was when it was first approached by Scott during the previous round of expansion madness, is to join the Pac-Whatever.
I do not know how the parties compromise on the Longhorn Network. I only know smart people know how to reach compromises in business deals that enrich themselves.
And if Texas wants to go its own way, then Scott will look elsewhere, perhaps Kansas and Kansas State.
Or is the ACC about to pull the big whammy and get Texas and Kansas, too (and allow Texas to keep the LHN)?
Or does the Big 12 stage a miraculous 11th-hour rally and save itself?
As Scott told me at the USC-Utah game, no one knows the endgame, even him. There's too much "need-to-know-basis" information out there, with insiders owning disparate bits and pieces they can't put together any better than reporters, as well as plenty of misinformation and gamesmanship.
But it feels like each week the plot thickens. Which typically means in a thriller that we're getting closer to a dramatic climax.
Or an unsatisfying one.