When any discussion of conference expansion comes up the true prize that is sitting out there is the University of Texas which has everything going for it academically, athletically, geographically, and most importantly the TV sets required to make a major impact financially for any conference they join.
The problem with Texas is you are inviting the 1000 lb Gorilla to the party. Just ask the Northern members of the Big 12 how they feel about Texas and the influence it has on the overall conference. They all like the money they are bringing in but the big kid on the block tends to make all the rules at the expense of others.
Another problem is that you just can't have Texas...you have to take Texas A&M too in a package deal. The Texas legislature won't allow it to be done in any other fashion even though Texas and not Texas A&M is currently in discussions with the Big Ten. That being said both are highly rated academic institutions that would fit in well with either the culture of the Big Ten or equally snobby Pac 10.
The Pac 10 first courted Texas back in the 1990's. Texas was drawn to the academic excellence of the conference and research ties that went way beyond athletics. UT would love to join a conference like the Big Ten or Pac Ten because of the doors it would open and expand in the fields of research.
Things didn't work out in the 1990's because there was no way the Texas State Legislature was going to let Texas abandon Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor. That could still be another roadblock in this next round of expansion talks. The thinking though is if they can take A&M with them they could leave Bayor and Texas Tech behind because the Big Ten isn't going to want them. That could once again cause problems in the Texas Legislature. Who can forget then Governor Ann Richards statement "Not without my Baylor!"
The Big 12 is a sports conference that was born out of a marriage of convenience. The academic ties that bind the Pac 10 and Big 10 don't exist in the Big 12. That is why stronger academic schools such as Missouri, Kansas, Iowa State, Nebraska, Colorado, and Texas are keeping their eyes open for a better eventual fit.
The point to be made in all of this is if Texas moves it will be accompanied by Texas A&M and that means if the Big Ten takes them in they will grow into at least a 14 team conference which means that Missouri would probably join them. If the Big Ten grows to 14 it would probably make sense for them to head East and pick up Pitt and most importantly Rutgers which would give them the NY TV Market. Like I said earlier there isn't room in the Big Ten for a Baylor or a Texas Tech....However their could be room in an expanded Pac 10.
I don't think Rutgers will ever be an important player in the New York sports scene. That isn't why it is important to add them either. What it does is add the Big Ten Network to all those TV sets in the tri state area. That is where the money is in that move. If the Big Ten adds all those TV sets in Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York we are talking about a market share that will eclipse what the SEC has already built in the Southeast.
So what exactly does the Pac 10 do if that happens?
First of all the Pac 10 is being proactive in their examination of Colorado and Utah as future members. Both are the best and only fits West of the Rocky Mountains for conference expansion. While the Pac 10 is sure to put out feelers to Texas the Longhorns are most likely better off in a conference that is in the Central Time Zone unless the Pac 10 expands to 16 teams.
Nick Daschel of Buster Sports wrote yesterday about a 16 team conference scenario that would add Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, Colorado, and Utah. Like I said in a column earlier this week 16 teams makes more sense for the Pac 10 than twelve especially when the Big Ten is leaning that way. Why not be proactive and completely tie up all the proximate markets?
(For the record I think Nick's idea makes a little more sense than mine. Being able to bring in all four Texas schools which the Big Ten likely won't do may be the trump card that puts it all together as far as bringing in Texas is concerned.)
Nick's version of Pac 10 Expansion
Washington, Washington St, Oregon, Oregon St, California, Stanford, UCLA, USC
Arizona, Arizona St, Colorado, Utah, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech
The Texas market is attractive but the Pac 10 could also cast an eye toward the less attractive Plains States if the Big Ten beats to them to the punch with the Longhorns. That will be the topic of the next article on the coming changes for college athletics driven by expansion and consolidation.