Legitimate sources are now reporting the Big Ten's expansionist wheels are starting to roll, with the conference actively trying to build itself into a 14- to 16-team "superconference."
Official channels are in full denial mode, of course. And more than a few folks in the know believe the media feeding frenzy is premature.
But let's quickly review the options for the Pac-10 if the dominoes start to fall back east.
The Pac-10 does nothing and signs a new TV contract that keeps it (relatively) competitive. That likely would include some partnership with the Big 12 (whatever that conference looks like going forward).
The conference doesn't expand but adds a championship game, with the No. 1 seed playing host.
The conference adds Utah and Colorado and breaks into six-team divisions and adds a championship game.
The conference adds Texas and Texas A&M, breaks into six-team divisions and starts dancing in the streets.
The conference adds Texas, Texas A&M, Utah and Colorado. Carnival in Rio is relocated to the Pac-10 offices after the new Pac-14 Network estimates a $25 million per team distribution.
The conference adds Texas, Texas A&M, Utah, Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska. Commissioner Larry Scott wins Nobel Prize for Kicking Butt at the Negotiating Table, despite Big Ten and SEC opposition.
Yes, some of these options range from absurd to loopy in terms of likelihood. We added the final one just so we could have a 16-team version (at which point the Pac-10 blog imagined its annual spring wrapups and fall previews will take a bit more time). The Texas options, particularly, are laden with complicated political interests.
And some of these options might have you traditional sorts wanting to walk the plank into shark-infested waters, though, of course, only after a really good eating and drinking experience.
Moreover, there almost certainly are other scenarios not entertained here. Scott has repeatedly said everything is on the table. And I believe him.
I also believed Scott when he told me last week there was nothing substantial as of yet to report. Recent stories about the conference's hiring of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) seem to indicate that final reports with penciled out financial details of various options haven't been completed.
Has the Pac-10 -- or a party representing its interests -- "unofficially" reached out to, say, Colorado or even Texas to measure a possible partnership? I find it hard to believe that hasn't happened in some form -- though I have no specific information -- just like it's hard to believe the Big Ten and Notre Dame haven't touched base in some way that allows all parties to retain plausible deniability.
While the Big Ten repeatedly has insisted that it will stick to the original 12- to 18-month timetable it laid out in December, the general feeling is that the expansionist wheels are grinding forward and news will break this summer, perhaps as early as June.
Projecting how the dominoes ultimately fall on the West Coast, however, continues to be pure speculation at this point.