I've seen the question bounced around, and answered in a number of ways, but like everything else in realignment, it boils down to money.
"If the Big 12 is so Texas-centric, then why can't the Longhorns just stay, keep their old friends, add a few new ones and keep the Big 12 alive?"
That's an option for Texas. In a few hours, Nebraska's board of regents will meet, discuss realignment, and could vote to formally apply to the Big Ten. That's today's assumed outcome and one that would strip the Big 12 North of its marquee football program.
But don't expect Texas to pledge its allegiance, the Big 12 to plug that hole (and Colorado's) with Utah and/or TCU and go on as a weakened conference. The answer's not complex. There's cash to be had. And the treasure map leads straight to the Pacific.
Ten, that is. (Or 11 now, I suppose)
The last Big 12 conference revenue numbers (2007) saw Texas receive just over $10 million. That number's gone up since, but if the Big 12 is forced to go on just without Nebraska and Colorado, that number is sure to dip when the next round of TV negotiations take place for the conference in April. Which brings me back to an umbrella quote I've used a couple times from Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne.
"Remember what the job of an athletic director is," Byrne said. "We're all very mercenary. We're all out there to protect our own institutions, so everybody has their own interests in mind."
No one's quite sure what kind of TV revenue a Pac-16 might generate, but I've seen projections as high as $20 million. Whatever they end up being, it's hard to argue that the shares for teams in the Pac-16 would be lower than in a weakened Big 12. The conference's only hope would be convincing the Longhorns that isn't the case. My guess: President Bill Powers knows better.
So Texas' options become:
1) Keep the Big 12 together, maintain all rivalries, make less money than they currently collect.
2) Go to the Pac-10, maintain rivalries (except Baylor, barring an Aggie split to the SEC), or potentially double their yearly conference earnings.
Tough call, there, isn't it? But that logo is SO awesome, right? Look at it, all Roman-y and gray and stuff, right?
Any sense of loyalty died in Nebraska -- not that I blame it. I'd do the same thing in its position. And don't forget, Texas has only been associated with this group of universities for less than two decades.
And don't bother with the argument that the Longhorns' road to the national title would be more difficult. The creation of the Pac-16 would almost certainly set off other leagues to form superconferences of their own, and if that happens, you can say goodbye to undefeated seasons -- or even one-loss seasons.
Texas' recent flirtations with the Pac-10 make it obvious that second option is attractive. Staying in the Big 12 for its own gain -- but Texas' loss -- doesn't sound very mercenary, does it?