NCF Nation: expansion 060910

Expansion stories, especially in the past week, have rolled in by the hour. It can be tough to keep track of. And my mailbag is full of questions like, "What's going to happen to my team!?"

So here's a refresher course on each team's situation moving forward.

Nebraska, Missouri

Could have a decision to make if a Big Ten invitation to apply arrives in Lincoln or Columbia. But an anonymously reported nearing deadline (a deadline both schools have not confirmed exists) may prevent them from making that decision with a sure Big Ten invitation. A nightmare scenario looms if they scoff at the supposed deadline, the Big 12 South makes a move to the Pac-10 and the Big Ten never calls.

Team to watch: Notre Dame

If Notre Dame accepts an invitation to the Big Ten, the chances of the rest of the country standing pat are good. It also means an invitation may never arrive. If the Irish choose to stay independent, both schools should be a top target for the Big Ten, with Nebraska's big-time football program and Missouri's potential for homes to host the Big Ten Network in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Possible landing spots: Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West Conference/Conference USA


Call Texas the kingpin. Everyone wants the Longhorns. Their national following, huge recruiting base and competitive teams in virtually every sport make them the LeBron James-like free agent of this whole situation. Staying in the Big 12 makes the most sense for the Longhorns, and though they'd have to bring along at least a few of their friends, they could play in just about any conference they wanted.

Team to watch: Nebraska

If Nebraska stays, there would be little reason for the Longhorns to leave. If Nebraska leaves, Missouri likely would, too, and Texas would have to either patch together a weakened Big 12 or move to a more attractive situation -- like the Pac-10.

Possible landing spots: Big 12, Pac-10, Big Ten

Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Life could be good as Texas' hangers-on. Any move by the Longhorns will be made simpler if they bring their natural rivals with them, and that means these guys -- plus Oklahoma State.

Team to watch: Texas

Any of these teams leaving for another conference without Texas would be absolutely shocking.

Possible landing spots: Big 12, Pac-10

Baylor, Colorado

Could this be the Big 12's newest rivalry? E-mails between Baylor administrators have surfaced with the Bears making a strong case that their program is superior to the Boulder Buffaloes', but conference realignment could be a high-stakes battle between these two. Winner goes to the Pac-10 if the Big 12 breaks up. Colorado looks like it could have an attractive backup plan of a souped-up Mountain West Conference, but if Baylor gets left behind by the other five South teams in a move to the Pac-10, it could be left scrambling. Other than a blossoming, but historically poor basketball program, Baylor has little to offer.

Team to watch: Texas

Baylor's fate rests more with the Longhorns than Colorado, but don't expect Texas to campaign for Colorado to join the Pac-10. Colorado is the only team in the nation in three of the Pac-10's four expansion scenarios, but nothing's guaranteed. That, by the way, is a theme for this entire post.

Possible landing spots: Big 12, Pac-10, Mountain West Conference

Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State

It's hard not to feel sorry for these three -- especially Kansas, which is learning just how little basketball counts in conference realignment. The Jayhawks won a national title in 2008, possess a national following and are a truly elite program only miles away from Kansas City. And no one seems to want them. The same goes for Kansas State and Iowa State, minus everything Kansas brings to the table. Kansas State's fortunes might be a bit different if this realignment was taking place during the glory years of the Bill Snyder era. Instead, they're rebuilding in a small town with a small fan base.

Team to watch: Nebraska

Kansas administrators know Nebraska holds the key to their future, and have made their wishes known. But outside of saying, "please," there's not a lot these three can do.

Possible landing spots: Big 12, Conference USA, Mountain West Conference
Consider college football a bunch of kids playing in the backyard during a grown-ups party, until things get a little too rowdy and the little kids get hurt. Then the parents come out back and yell, "Hey! Knock that off!"

Playing the role of angry parents claiming to hold a trump card: Congress.

Kansas lawmakers and Nebraska lawmakers are feuding in the Senate over exactly the same issues as the fans, athletic directors and presidents.

From the Omaha World-Herald:
On Tuesday, Sen. Pat Roberts, Wildcat Republican, buttonholed Sen. Ben Nelson, Husker Democrat, addressing him in a hallway just off the Senate floor.

“Don't be the domino that blows college football up into four major conferences and gets rid of the NCAA,” a World-Herald reporter heard the Kansas senator tell Nelson. “It isn't going to do anybody any good when those dominoes start falling.”

Roberts added, in apparent reference to Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne: “He doesn't want on his tombstone ‘He ruined the Big 12.'”

Nelson, for his part, deferred: “I just have a lot of confidence in Coach Osborne to make the right decision, ultimately.

[...] Roberts later told The World-Herald that if the Big 12 falls apart, Congress could act.

“There's going to be a lot of litigation, and then Congress will probably try to stick its nose into it,” Roberts said. “I would prefer that that not be the case, but there have always been antitrust concerns.”

Can I get a minute to compose myself? I've been flatlined by the idea that lawmakers might actually get involved with (gasp!) college football.

Especially if it means their home state will suffer.

Jokes aside, there's plenty of precedent for this, and there's serious financial loss around the corner if teams like Kansas and Kansas State get relegated to a second-rate league, the likeliest scenario if the Big 12 dissolves. Fighting to do what they can to prevent that is the most sensible move and it's also one that may earn politicians like Roberts votes in the future.

Finally, I'm no mortician, but I've seen plenty of "Six Feet Under." And I don't think the family would sign off on "He ruined the Big 12" on Osborne's tombstone. Of course, that's assuming he dies. There's some debate in Nebraska about whether that's possible.