NCF Nation: William Powers

Oh, it's back. America's most polarizing holiday (sorry, Thanksgiving!) is here, and it's time to pass out a few Valentines to various things across the league that did things deserving of love in the past year.

1. The Big 12. Congratulations, you exist! Sure, it sounds simple, but if I were a betting man in June, I would have bet against it, at least in terms of being one of college football's elite leagues. Commissioner Dan Beebe convinced the Longhorns and their West Coast-eyeing tagalongs to keep playing their games exclusively in flyover country. Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri love you lots for it. Sources indicate that edible bouquets have been sent by all five schools to the Big 12 offices in Irving and UT president William Powers' offices. Athletic director DeLoss Dodds, too.

2. Taylor Potts. Potts wins easily for gesture of the year. After coming off the bench (following a week of being passed over for Steven Sheffield for the first time all season and taking it like an adult in practice) and leading Texas Tech to its biggest win of the year, a 24-17 win over then-No. 12 Missouri, Potts had plenty to beat his chest about. That's when a rare thing happens: answering reporters' questions is fun. Potts didn't take any after the game, instead electing to read a statement to the media paying homage to those in the armed forces. Texas Tech wore camouflage jerseys during the game as part of the Wounded Warrior project. Potts said speaking with soldiers during the week made enough of an impact on him that he chose to use his platform to honor them. You've got to love everything about that.

3. Fans' patience. Entering the 2011 season, there's nary a Big 12 coach on a realistic hot seat. Colorado's Dan Hawkins got the ax in midseason, but all 10 Big 12 coaches return with rather comfortable seats heading into the season. Mike Sherman at Texas A&M looked headed for a rough offseason at 3-3 early in the year, but a late push and a share of the Big 12 South title means he's sitting pretty entering 2011. Turner Gill hauled in a great recruiting class at Kansas to take some heat off a disappointing debut season. Minor doubts, annoyances and worries aside, every other school in the Big 12 is much closer to a dizzying love affair with their head coach.

4. Oklahoma. Thank them, the rest of the Big 12. A "laughingstock" is certainly too strong, but there would have been noticeable snickers from around the country if Nebraska had won the Big 12 and skated off to the Big Ten with the trophy in hand. But the Sooners climbed out of a 17-0 hole and knocked off the Huskers in Cowboys Stadium in the Big 12 title game. The loss sent the Huskers to the Holiday Bowl, where they self-destructed and faced a coaching overhaul in the offseason, rather than a coronation. If you're a fan of a Big 12 team, you ought to shake the hand of Sooners fans the next time you see them. They saved the league a lot of grief.

5. A fresh start in 2011. I'm extremely sad to see the Big 12 Championship go. I loved the game, it was almost always interesting, and a great event in a great venue. That said, 2011 should be pretty interesting with 10 teams all gunning for the same title and no more divisions. What will that ultimately do, and what will it change in the league? Who knows? We'll find out in 2011, and I'm loving the anticipation of finding out.

6. Returning stars. You've got to love Oklahoma State stars Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma stars Ryan Broyles and Travis Lewis and Texas A&M star Jeff Fuller. Thanks to them, the Big 12 should be a whole lot more fun to watch in 2011. And really, that's what it's all about. All five could have entered the draft early, but elected to stay, preserving some big-time star power in the league in 2011, something that seemed to be missing a bit early on in 2010. Because of Lewis and Broyles, Oklahoma should enter the season as one of, if not the favorite for the national title. Oklahoma State and Texas A&M should be top 20 teams at worst, and the two co-Big 12 South champs in 2010 look ready to give the Sooners a run for their money in 2011. Who doesn't love that?

The great expansion hullabaloo

June, 4, 2010
6/04/10
1:43
PM ET
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!

KANSAS CITY -- Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe took one route, outrunning the gaggle of cameras and microphones into a hotel elevator. Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn went another without answering a question. But reached on his cell phone by the Boulder Daily Camera's Kyle Ringo, it was Bohn's brief words that made the biggest splash at the close of the Big 12 spring meetings' third day.

"The longer that we were together in Kansas City it appeared that that rumor or speculation did have some validity to it," Bohn said, lending credence to an earlier report from Texas' Rivals.com website Orangebloods.com that said five South schools -- minus Baylor -- and Colorado were being targeted by the Pac-10 for a group invitation.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott swiftly issued a statement shooting down the report.

"We have not developed any definitive plans. We have not extended any invitations for expansion and we do not anticipate any such decisions in the near term," Scott said in the release.

But truth or fiction, one thing is clear: Thursday did not go as planned for the first day of meetings with university heads. Beebe emerged after 10 hours of meetings with plans to deviate from the day's schedule, canceling a post-meeting Q&A with reporters alongside University of Texas president William Powers, who is also the chairman of the conference's board of directors.

But other than the general, vague conflicts foreshadowed in earlier comments by Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, the why is unknown.

The only thing that's clear is that nothing is clear. A unified front and clear consensus would have made answering questions a reasonably simple exercise for two men with backgrounds in law. But that front never materialized on Thursday, leading to the postponement of Powers' and Beebe's comments until late Friday morning.

And the reports about the Pac-10's shockingly proactive move -- which sounds far closer to a possibility than a probability -- obviously contributed to that delay.

The only people sleeping in Kansas City tonight with an idea of how close -- or how far -- that consensus is from forming spent the day inside the meeting room. And even they might not know.

But no one outside the room knows, and there's no promise that will change after Friday.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Imagine a doomsday scenario when there isn't a football team at Texas.

I know, it's hard to believe -- what with the program virtually printing money and the school approving expansion of Royal Memorial Stadium seemingly every other year or so.

But Texas president William Powers warned members of the Texas State Senate Higher Education Committee earlier this week that there could be a day when the school would stop accepting students from outside the state and country and maybe even do away with athletics as a result.

The problem that Powers sees is the state's automatic-admission law. The rule guarantees a student graduating in the top 10 percent of a Texas high school admission in any public university in the state.

With Texas becoming the college of choice for most Texas students, the school is straining to make room for all of the students. State statistics indicated that 81 percent of the incoming freshmen enrolled under that provision last year and studies indicate that 86 percent will enroll next year.

School officials fear they will have to reject all Texas high school students not in the top 10 percent by 2013. And by 2015, there likely will be no room in the freshmen class for students from other states or countries.

"It has become a crisis for us," Powers told the Austin American-Statesman. "We're simply out of space."

And that's where he fears that college football will be squeezed. The Statesman reported that most of Texas' prospective football players don't rank among the top 10 percent of their graduating classes.

So such a rule, he claims, would have a drastic effect on the Texas program.

Playing devil's advocate, maybe requiring the 10 percent admission rule for admission would be a good thing for college athletics everywhere. Rules that would result in smarter students attending college. What a concept.

But I'm enough of a realist to realize that most fans wouldn't necessarily pay to see that. And probably wouldn't care enough to read a blog about those smarter kids, either.

Because of that, athletics likely will be the last area that will ever be affected. Powers didn't need to mention football. Because I'm thinking the bats that swarm the Austin campus would be eradicated long before fall Saturday afternoons ever will be affected.  

Texas is one of the few athletic departments nationally that is operating in the black. And the drastic effect of doing away with the athletic program would have more grievous effects for the school than any change in its admission policy.

"We're trying not to let that happen," Powers said.

Just a guess here, but I bet it won't ever reach that point. And even insinuating it could is a joke.

Because something tells me that Texas taxpayers would angrily tell their lawmakers they didn't want that to happen.

Even those who support Aggies, Red Raiders and Bears.

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