Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Expansion? Pac-10 taking backseat to Big Ten
By ESPN.com staff
Will be heading south to Phoenix today to cover the start of the BCS meetings, and my chief focus will be ... not the Pac-10.
That's because the star of the show -- villain? -- will be Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
And that's because all of the national expansion talk centers on the Big Ten, which may reveal its expansion intentions this week, setting off a cataclysmic domino effect in college football.
The general feeling is the Big Ten not only will expand but it might add a handful of teams and become a "super conference" with perhaps has many as 16 members.
The Pac-10? There's not much chatter, in large part because the options are not nearly as plentiful and lucrative -- at least the ones that have been thrown about in recent weeks, chiefly Utah and Colorado.
What's on the table?
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was hired a year ago in large part because he seemed like the sort of savvy thinker who could negotiate this sort of terrain. It stands to reason that Scott's aggressive restructuring of the conference at the administrative level points toward a more complicated future.
- Will Notre Dame stay independent? Most indications of late are that it wants to -- but will that be financially wise in a changing marketplace?
- Will the Big East survive? If the Big Ten grabs Rutgers, Connecticut, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, that seems unlikely.
- If the Big Ten makes its move, how long before the SEC makes a play? Florida State? Clemson? Or will it go for Texas and Texas A&M?
- So the ACC and Big 12 also are very interested in what the Big Ten might do. Those conferences likely are formulating a counter-strategy, either to retain membership or seek their own new programs.
Scott faces two basic questions: 1. Can the Pac-10 survive as a 10-team league? 2. If it can't, what are the best -- and available -- options for expansion.
The answer to No. 1 is debatable but likely "probably not" if the Big Ten and SEC expand into super conferences. The obvious answer to No. 2 is to lure the Texas twins. And perhaps then go after Utah and Colorado, if super conferences become the rage.
Of course, making that happen won't be easy by any stretch. Lots of hoops to jump through. Lots of numbers to crunch. And lots of competition.
It seems certain that there are myriad options being discussed, and it's possible the endgame won't look like what anyone anticipated during the speculative phase.
What we can say for sure is that the next few weeks and months figure to be stressful for many programs, not to mention those of us who consider tradition a cornerstone of college football.