The Big Ten has been viewed as the catalyst for expansion in college sports since Dec. 15, when the league issued a statement that put expansion on the front burner.
For the past five months and change, everyone has reacted to Jim Delany and his league.
But Thursday, the spotlight shifted to two other conferences, the Big 12 and the Pac-10. A Rivals.com report that stated the Pac-10 would extend invitations to six Big 12 teams, including Texas and Oklahoma, turned the college sports world on its head.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and Texas president Bill Powers canceled a news conference Thursday at the league's spring meetings, and Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione indicated that the unity Beebe wanted to achieve among the institutions this week has not yet been reached. It's really hard to believe the Big 12 is one big happy family right now.
Colleague David Ubben writes:
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.
Needless to say, today could be critical for the Big 12, which wraps up its meetings in Kansas City.
What does this all mean for the Big Ten? Is Delany going to get upstaged by a rookie commissioner in Larry Scott?
I'd reiterate that nothing is definite, and the six-team expansion sounds a lot like a best-case situation for the Pac-10. Not saying it can't happen, but much like the Big Ten's expansion study, this will take more time.
Still, Delany and the Big Ten brass can't turn a blind eye to what's happening in Kansas City or what will happen at the Pac-10 meetings, beginning this weekend in San Francisco. The Big Ten presidents and chancellors meet Sunday at league headquarters -- I'll be there -- and you can bet they'll be talking about what has taken place.
Losing Texas to another league would disappoint Big Ten fans, but for Texas, it might make sense. The Big Ten already has its own TV network. It already has established powerhouse programs. The Pac-10's pitch to Texas could be, "Let's build something new together," and Texas could get some of the special concessions from the Pac-10 that I'm told it won't get from the Big Ten.
Aside from Texas, the other schools mentioned in the report aren't Big Ten targets. I'm told the league is more interested in Big 12 North members, specifically Nebraska and Missouri.
The expansion process is nowhere near an end, and things are heating up.