Colorado leaves Big 12 for Pac-10

The Pac-10 announced Thursday that the University of Colorado has agreed to leave the Big 12 to join its conference.

"This is the dawning of a new day for the Pac-10," commissioner Larry Scott said shortly after announcing Colorado as
the league's 11th member tentatively beginning in 2012.

"The University of Colorado is a great fit for the conference both academically and athletically and we are incredibly excited to welcome Colorado to the Pac-10."

Colorado president Bruce D. Benson said his school was a "perfect match" for the Pac-10.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said in a statement that he was aware that Colorado had accepted the Pac-10's invitation and is working toward solutions to keep the Big 12 together in some form.

"I continue to work through the process that was agreed upon last week by our Board of Directors to address membership issues, and are working tirelessly towards the long-term viability of the Big 12," Beebe said.

A source with direct knowledge of the Pac-10's discussions about adding more Big 12 teams told ESPN's Joe Schad on Thursday that from the Pac-10's perspective, it's "simply a matter of who signs next."

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, who coached at Colorado earlier in his career, said he was "thrilled" to have the Buffaloes in the Pac-10. Colorado was put on two years' probation in 2002 mostly for recruiting violations that occurred while Neuheisel was the coach there.

Neuheisel said he has a "fond place in my heart for Colorado."

"From a proximity standpoint, we used to say, it's closer to Los Angeles than Seattle is.

"So it's got a lot of natural geographic relationships with the current Pac-10 and I think it's going to be a natural fit," Neuheisel said.

As for whether any other schools might be coming on board, Scott couldn't elaborate.

"No invitations have been issued," he said. "There are still several different scenarios that we may or may not pursue."

Scott had no timetable for when this process of possibly adding more schools may play out or an answer for whether the Pac-10 would stop at just 11 teams.

"I'm authorized to pursue several different scenarios," he said. "What direction it goes in from this point, I can't say
because I don't know."

Colorado's move might spell the end of the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska is also poised to announce its move from the conference to the Big Ten.

Texas president William Powers Jr., athletic director DeLoss Dodds and women's athletic director Chris Plonsky met with Texas A&M president Bowen Loftin, athletic director Bill Byrne and other university system officials Thursday in Austin, Texas, to discuss the future of their athletic programs and the Big 12.

A person briefed about the discussions said the situation was "still fluid" and the Texas schools could stay in the Big 12. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation, said everyone was waiting for Nebraska's expected announcement Friday.

Among topics discussed was how the Big 12 could operate with fewer teams, the person said, and the consequences such as possible litigation should there be a mass exodus that could leave some teams behind.

U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, a Democrat from Waco, the site of Baylor, urged Texas lawmakers to immediately hold public hearings on any potential move by the schools.

"These decisions are too important to be decided solely by a small handful of people behind closed doors without public input," Edwards said.

Dodds has said he wants to keep the Big 12 together, and Texas A&M spokesman Jason Cook said the meeting Thursday included "several topics of mutual interest to both institutions" but that "no decisions were made or agreements reached."

Baylor and Texas Tech officials have said that even if the Big 12 breaks apart, they want to remain with Texas and Texas A&M as members of the same conference. But Baylor, the only private school in the Big 12, could get left behind.

"Baylor is working feverishly to keep the Big 12 together," Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw said Thursday. "It is of special importance to keep the four Big 12 schools from Texas together."

A Big 12 football coach, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach on Wednesday night if Nebraska left the Big 12 the conference would dissolve, according to his athletic director and university president. The coach said Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado would join the Pac-10, leaving Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State behind.

The coach said the Pac-10 favored Colorado over Baylor because of the Buffaloes' presence in the Denver TV market.

"Nebraska is the key," the coach said.

Another possibility has Texas A&M looking at joining the Southeastern Conference, sources told Orangebloods.com. That angle is being pushed by A&M regent Gene Stallings, who coached Alabama to a title in 1992, the sources said.

Oklahoma State said any report about an immediate announcement by the school about leaving the Big 12 was "without merit."

"There are no announcements planned by Oklahoma State University," Gary Shutt, the school's director of communications, said in a statement. "We remain committed to the Big 12 Conference. If there are additional defections, we will have to evaluate our options."

The Pac-10 has given some preliminary thoughts to possibly changing its name after bringing in Colorado.

But that's down the road.

"From my perspective, the name of the conference, the brand -- what it stands for -- ought to reflect the membership," Scott said.

"Until our deliberations are concluded about what is the constitution of our membership, we won't go about the process of thinking about the logo or the name."

One area the league wants to take a long look at is scheduling.

More specifically, ways to reduce travel to minimize missed classes. That could mean two divisions based on geographic

"We are determined in whatever scenario we wind up with, through the use of divisions and creative scheduling, to make sure that any of these expansion scenarios -- including the most extreme that you've heard of -- do not result in significantly greater travel distances nor more missed class time," Scott said. "I'm confident that in any of the scenarios we're contemplating, that will not be the case."

The Pac-10 expanded for the first time since 1978, when the conference brought in Arizona and Arizona State.

A source close to the Nebraska program told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that athletic director Tom Osborne informed some staff members the Cornhuskers were going to make the move to the Big Ten.

A source with knowledge of the Big Ten's plans confirmed to ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg that Nebraska will join the Big Ten by the end of this week or early next week. The source said the formal process of accepting a candidate either has started or would be under way shortly, as Nebraska must formally apply for admission to the Big Ten.

"It's going to happen, unless something crazy happens in the final hours," the source said. "I think by this weekend, it's going to be wrapped up."

Besides Nebraska, no other candidates are imminent for the Big Ten, which could stay put with 12 members, the source said.

Meanwhile, a University of Missouri curator said Thursday that the school has not been invited to join the Big Ten Conference, an acknowledgment made as the school's conference
fights for its survival.

Curator Warren Erdman told The Associated Press that Missouri had not been asked to join the Big Ten. Erdman noted that he had been out of state the past week but wasn't aware of any change in the situation. He said the curators did not discuss conference affiliation during a closed-door morning meeting.

"Anything could happen, but we're working hard to stay together," said Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, who added that he had called Texas president William Powers to discuss the conference's future after learning of Colorado's exodus.

Judy Haggard, chairwoman of the Missouri governing board, suggested that Missouri's fate remains unclear.

"It's too soon to say," she said before the closed meeting. "We're going to be getting a lot of information these next two days."

The Mountain West Conference, which also reportedly was interested in Colorado, said it is monitoring the "developments" in conference expansion. Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference, is also a candidate to join the Mountain West if it expands.

"We remain in communication with key parties and are continuing to implement our internal strategies. These deliberations are ongoing and will be remain confidential until the appropriate time," commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement.

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad and Chris Mortensen, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach, Adam Rittenberg and The Associated Press was used in this report.