Pac-10 could force Big Ten to act fast on expansion

Luke Feuerherm

A busy few days, complete with private meetings, ultimatums and pleading, has assured one thing âÄî the slow-moving, speculative threat of a minor athletic conference re-shuffling is over. Replacing it is the imminent prospect that the Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences will emerge from repositioning as college superpowers as they maneuver to add new members, which may result in the Big 12 being poached to extinction. Prior to the weekend, the Big Ten was slowly weighing universities from around the country as prospects for potential conference expansion. The Big Ten lost exclusive control of their timeline this weekend after major announcements from the Pac-10 and Big 12. The shift came Sunday when the Pac-10 met and handed over all decisions regarding expansion to conference commissioner Larry Scott. âÄúWhat direction that process takes still could go in different directions,âÄù Scott said at a press conference after meeting with Pac-10 administrators. âÄúEverything from remaining as we are as a Pac-10 that has some very bright days ahead of it, to a bigger conference footprint. I have the authority to take it different directions depending on various scenarios and discussions we will have.âÄù The announcement was accompanied by a report that the Pac-10 could target as many as six teams from the Big 12 including Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and either Baylor or Colorado. That scenario would leave the Big 12 with Baylor or Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Nebraska. The last two, Missouri and Nebraska, have been near the top of the list of targets for the possible expansion of the Big Ten. The Big 12 has now seemingly pinned its fate on these two schools, in hopes that retaining them will encourage the other six schools to resist Pac-10 offers by offering Missouri and Nebraska an ultimatum. âÄúNebraska has until 5 p.m. on Friday to tell us what theyâÄôre going to do,âÄù one Nebraska official told the Austin American Statesman. âÄúThe same deal for Missouri.âÄù The Nebraska official also mentioned the possibility of extending the deadline to June 15. This ultimatum would force the schools to predict whether a formal invitation will be granted by the Big Ten, who may wait until 2011 to make a final decision. Conversely, the Big Ten may now be forced to act before Friday on acquiring the two schools or cross them of their list. In addition to the ultimatum, Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little lobbied Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman to stay. Kansas is currently at risk of being left out of the discussion completely, along with Iowa State and Kansas State, which could devastate their programs. âÄúThere are some universities that survive and thrive without a large athletic program,âÄù Gray-Little told The Associated Press. âÄúI hope we donâÄôt have to test that out.âÄù Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was not available for comment, and a spokesperson for the conference said the Big Ten was in a âÄúsilent phase.âÄù The Big Ten, whose 11th member, Penn State, was added in 1990, has been rumored to be targeting numerous schools in addition to Nebraska and Missouri. Schools from the Big East as well as Notre Dame are said to be possible additions. Notre Dame, the last school not affiliated with the military to maintain its conference independence, has been approached by the Big Ten in the past. However, Notre DameâÄôs athletic director Jack Swarbrick told the New York Times that they have not had talks with the Big Ten. Prior to this week, the Big Ten had the luxury of setting its own timetable. âÄúOur announcement in December has caused institutions and conferences to consider their futures, and that has had an impact on our deliberations,âÄù Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon said at a press conference following a meeting between Big Ten administrators. This weekendâÄôs announcements could result in a decision in the coming weeks.