Pac-10 invites mean leverage, not betrayal

A Big 12/Pac-10 pow wow in May in Phoenix led to talks of a joint scheduling agreement or perhaps other collaboration to improve the worth of both conferences.

On Thursday, the Texas affiliate of Rivals.com, Orangebloods.com, reported the Pac-10 was preparing to offer six Big 12 teams membership.

"Will that report affect those previous talks?" a reporter asked Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe during Friday's news conference, implying Beebe had been betrayed and swindled by the Pac-10.

Forget "affect." It wouldn't surprise me if those talks in Phoenix produced the details of Thursday's initial report. Before the Pac-10 came calling, the Big 12 had little leverage in forcing Nebraska and Missouri to pledge commitments to the conference.

That's all changed now.

If the two North schools don't oblige their counterparts, there might not be a Big 12 to come back to if the Big Ten invites don't arrive.

The Big 12 presidents were reportedly the ones issuing the ultimatum, and the athletic directors were the ones who met in Phoenix. But regardless of the origin of the Pac-10's bold strategy, it's given the Big 12 leverage it didn't have a week ago, at least publicly.

Though no formal invitations have been issued, based on Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany's comments, the chances of Nebraska and Missouri receiving invitations to apply to the Big Ten appear significantly lower -- at least at this juncture -- than the Pac-10 offering six schools from the Big 12.

Texas' DeLoss Dodds and Texas A&M's Bill Byrne, both athletic directors, last week repeated their wishes to keep the Big 12 together, and I believe them. With rising revenues and consistent success on the field, the Longhorns don't need to leave. But like Byrne said, he and his colleagues are mercenary, and they're not going to stand by and allow Nebraska and Missouri to leave them scrambling.

The Texas schools' safest scenario is keeping the current Big 12 together, but a joint venture with the Pac-10 would certainly have a much higher probability of success than a patched-together Big 12 without the Huskers and Tigers. If Nebraska and Missouri want to leave, they're going to have to take a leap of faith in the Big Ten to do it. Otherwise, their best backup plan might end up being relegation to Conference USA.

And the Big 12 has the Pac-10 to thank.