Conference Realignment Update: Rapid Changes Halted

June 15, 2010 by Dave Congrove

Wendell Barnhouse at reports that the remaining ten members of the Big 12 conference will not be following Colorado and Nebraska out the door.

The PAC-10 was expected to be on its way to 16 schools with two divisions by siphoning off additional Big 12 heavyweights Texas and Oklahoma, along with Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. Those schools would have joined Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State in a West Division alignment.

But the remaining Big 12 membership reached an agreement on Monday to stick together. Barnhouse reports that commissioner Dan Beebe "worked tirelessly over the weekend to convince the 10 remaining Conference schools to remain together. The commissioner pointed out the advantage of maintaining regional rivalries and not adding lengthy travel burdens for student-athletes."

Barnhouse adds that "the main weapon in Beebe's arsenal was television. A new cable television deal is expected to increase the Big 12's revenue sharing significantly; each of the Conference's 10 schools could increase their per-team revenue to $17 million to $20 million each."

Nebraska and Boise State officially switched conference affiliations last Friday, becoming the second and third schools to do so in a two-day period.

Boise State went first on Friday, announcing its switch from the WAC to the Mountain West in a move that will take effect on July 1, 2011. Later in the day, the Big Ten accepted Nebraska's application and the 'Huskers could be playing football in its new conference by 2011.

Those moves followed Colorado's announcement on Thursday that it is moving to the PAC-10 in an arrangement that was anticipated to begin with the 2012 football season. Nebraska's switch could move that date up a year.

Now, the PAC-10 will likely head back to the drawing board for a "Plan B" approach that could include simply trying to add a 12th team such as Utah.

Whatever happens next, you have to wonder if Boise State isn't having buyers' remorse about committing to the Mountain West when other options - unforeseen last week - may have presented themselves. Surely, Boise State would hate to see the Mountain West lose any of its top football schools such as Utah. After all, the Broncos joined the conference for the simple reason that it offered a stronger roster of football programs than the WAC.

Boise State dominated the WAC while earning two BCS bowl bids and winning both of those games. TCU, whom the Broncos defeated in last year's Fiesta Bowl, is another Mountain West football power. Boise State also defeated Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2006 season.

With this new wave of expansion brought to a screeching halt, conference commissioners, school chancellors and presidents will have to decide where to go from here. The PAC-10 is left at the odd number of 11 teams while the Big 10 has grown to a more comfortable number of 12 and the Big 12 has shrunk to 10. The Mountain West has also reached 10.