It's not perfect. Teams like Nebraska and Missouri aren't in handcuffs chained to Big 12 headquarters in Irving, Texas. The league still lacks leverage and needs help from sources outside its control.
But Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe still might get exactly what he said he wanted last week: For expansion -- at least as it relates to the Big 12 -- to unfold on his schedule.
The Big Ten is still the catalyst for expansion, and commissioner Jim Delany says the research stage of his 12- to 18-month timetable for expansion is scheduled to be completed in November.
On Tuesday, Beebe expressed a desire for teams to commit to the conference by April 2011, when the conference begins its negotiations with Fox Sports Net for a new television contract. Though the league's marquee contract with ABC/ESPN runs through the 2015-16 season, the renegotiation with Fox Sports Net could be a useful tool in giving the conference some control.
April, for those of you who aren't calendar enthusiasts, is five months after November. That's a big window, and one that could give Delany and the Big Ten time to make a formal move toward bringing Nebraska, Missouri and anyone else it chooses, into the league.
That's not a guarantee. But April would be month 16 of the Big Ten's 12- to 18-month timetable. And Beebe's intentions could possibly serve as a prod for the Big Ten to operate on the short end of that scale. Based on Delany's comments at last month's Big Ten meetings, he sounds like a patient man, but far from a dawdler.
"[The timeline] continues to be roughly 12-18 months," said Delany, who added that the league might choose not to expand. "Could it be 19 [months]? I hope not. Could it be 11? It may. But 12-18 months makes sense."
What doesn't make sense is forcing Nebraska or Missouri to definitively commit to the Big 12 without fully knowing the Big Ten's intentions. Beebe's deadline gives the Big Ten plenty of time to make up its mind, even if it's two months short of the tail end of the Big Ten's timetable. To get his wish, Beebe still needs Delany to cooperate, and it's possible Beebe's April aim won't make more than a blip on the Big Ten's radar. The Pac-10 would have to follow suit with its courtship of Colorado, but all 12 schools having an opportunity to make an educated decision in regard to their future within the conference isn't unreasonable.
Will they be invited to apply? What percent of the Big Ten's television revenue will they receive immediately? How long until it's a full share? If Nebraska or Missouri can't answer those questions -- and the countless others -- the Big Ten would be doing a disservice to two possible future members.
Helping them do it by April would be the best option for all concerned parties, both conferences and both schools. Beebe also expressed his belief that the chances of the Big 12 being unaffected by expansion are "very high." Given that his statement was made after the first day of conversations with the conference's athletic directors, that fallout could shrink to nothing.