Expansion talk starts to heat up

Published 2:37 am Monday, June 7, 2010

Let the power moves begin. A report over the weekend said the Pac-10 Conference has made an offer to add six teams out of the Big 12: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Colorado and Baylor.

The Pac-10 plan is to expand to 16 teams and break into a pair of 8-team divisions. The six new schools would be paired with Arizona and Arizona State. The two division winners would face each other in a conference championship game just like the SEC and Big 12.

If the Big Ten acts quickly, it might be able to grab Nebraska and Missouri. That would dismantle the Big 12 and leave Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma State scrambling for a home.

Can you say Conference USA?

Another rumor has the SEC mulling over the idea of expansion. The SEC has its eyes on Florida State, Miami and Georgia Tech out of the ACC.

Of course, the raid on the ACC would then have the ACC going after some of the Big East teams such as Rutgers, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Connecticut. The Big Ten — who is more likely to become a 14-team league instead of 16 — has also shown interest in Pitt and Rutgers.

West Virginia could get an invite to the ACC, but early reports don’t have the Mountaineers on anyone’s wish list.

The big name on the Big Ten’s wish list is Notre Dame. If all the rumors come to fruition, Notre Dame may end up in the Big Ten out of necessity.

If all these moves actually happen — the Big 12 is trying to hold together — there basically would be four super conferences. That would set up a two-plus-one playoff at the end of the bowl season. The four conference winners would play a small playoff to determine the national champion.

That’s one reason for the realignment since the NCAA wants to keep the lucrative bowl system instead of the playoff system.

The other reason is the main one: money.

Texas has the biggest money to offer and the Pac-10 and Big Ten both covet their membership. The Big Ten would like to improve on its cable package that has brought teams an additional $18 million in revenue.

Of course, the Big Ten would love to have both Texas and Notre Dame because of the money they would help generate.

The problem for the Big Ten with Texas is the Pac-10’s offer. By getting Tech and A&M, that would allow Texas to keep playing their traditional in-state rivals. The Big 12 didn’t really care about the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry and that has caused some hard feelings.

If there is conference expansion, it will probably happen sooner than later. The Big Ten drug its feet and now may miss out on Texas. If conferences don’t act quickly, they could be grabbing leftovers.

Like I said, let the power moves begin.

—— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.