The Big 12 has drawn a line in the sand for at least two member schools.
The conference, amid a chorus of story lines involving Pac-10 and Big Ten expansion, has imposed a deadline of Friday for Nebraska and Missouri to state their intentions on whether they intend to bolt for the Big Ten, with the possibility of an extension for a decision by next Tuesday, The Austin American-Statesman has reported, citing two sources.
The Big 12's university presidents decided on imposing the ultimatum, two highly placed officials within two of the conference schools said, according to the newspaper.
"Nebraska has until 5 p.m. on Friday to tell us what they're going to do," one school official said, according to the The American-Statesman. "The same deal for Missouri. They have to tell us they're not going to the Big Ten."
A Dallas Morning News report also cited a deadline for the Cornhuskers but said it was within two weeks.
A political figure connected to Texas told The American-Statesman: "I know the war drums are beating. This is way beyond gossip."
Missouri declined comment to the Columbia Daily Tribune.
"There's nothing we have that's different than anything we've said previously," athletic department spokesman Chad Moller said, according to the newspaper.
Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, speaking to the Lincoln Journal Star, said he had no knowledge of any Big 12 deadlines.
"I really don't know what the final parameters are," Osborne told the newspaper. "I really can't comment."
Osborne told the Journal Star there was an agreement put in place at the Big 12 meetings in Kansas City, Mo., last week that "[conference commissioner] Dan Beebe and [Texas president] William Powers would do the speaking."
Big Ten presidents and chancellors took no formal action on expansion Sunday at their annual spring meeting. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said he didn't have any knowledge of Big 12 ultimatums to any schools and wouldn't comment on specific institutions.
"There has been a lot of activity in the last two weeks, as reported in a lot of media outlets," Delany said. "We don't know exactly how that will all play out, but it could affect how we do things."
Beebe said Friday he is "comfortable" the league will remain intact.
Beebe said a "process" had been put in place by Big 12 presidents to ensure the long-term viability of a conference that has greatly increased revenue for its members, but still not kept pace in television dollars with the other big leagues.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, speaking at meetings in San Francisco, laid out several scenarios Friday to its schools' athletic directors, one of which would include adding six Big 12 schools, with Texas among them.
"I've talked to the Pac-10," said the Big 12 school administrator who spoke to the Austin newspaper. "There is an invitation. When it comes, it'll come fast."
On Sunday, talking after the close of the meetings, Scott said no final decision had been made whether to expand. Earlier in the day, he addressed the chancellors and presidents about possible expansion and was given authority to move ahead without having to go back to the board for approval.
The Big 12 presidents are scheduled to meet again in October. It could hardly be longer away than February, when they meet just before Beebe begins negotiations on a new cable deal with Fox.
"I am comfortable," Beebe said as the Big 12 meetings wrapped up Friday. "There's still a process we're going through but based on the conversations we had I think we're in a very good position."
He would not discuss how the process will keep the Big 12 intact.
"The process that has been set is firm. But I'm not going to engage in what that is," he said.
As a sales pitch to keep the league together, Beebe spent the week explaining that he expected huge increases in rights fees from both Fox and ESPN. Unfortunately for those wanting to keep the Big 12 intact, its more lucrative contract with ESPN runs through the 2015-16 academic year.
The greatly staggered contract dates are not working in the Big 12's favor as it seeks to keep up with other leagues.
"We have had analysis and projections that look like we're going to be every bit as well compensated in the future," Beebe said.
Under their present television deals, Big 12 members received between $7 million and $10 million each last year, depending on how many appearances each school made. The Big Ten, enriched by its Big Ten cable network, distributed some $22 million to each member last season.
Information from ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg and The Associated Press and ESPNDallas.com was included in this report.