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June 5, 2010

Sources: Big 12 gives Nebraska deadline

Chip Brown
Rivals.com College Football
Columnist
Fallout from the Orangebloods.com report that the Pac-10 is planning to extend invitations to Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado has been immediate.

Already, the political forces in Texas are preparing to make demands that if six schools from the Big 12 are going to be invited to the Pac-10, Baylor should replace Colorado on that list, according to two sources close to the situation.

"If you're going to have an exported commodity involved in this, do you think we're going to allow a school from outside the state of Texas to replace one of our schools in the Big 12 South? I don't think so. We're already at work on this," said a high-ranking member of the Texas Legislature who asked not to be identified.

In a huge development, two sources close to the situation said Nebraska has been given a deadline of less than two weeks to decide its course in the Big 12.

The sources said Nebraska is seen as critical to holding the Big 12 together by the schools determined to keep the league alive, including Texas.

Multiple sources close to the situation say Missouri, Colorado and Nebraska are the three schools holding up the Big 12 from moving forward as a conference. The league wrapped up meetings in Kansas City on Friday without a vow of solidarity from all its schools.

Two sources said Missouri is eagerly hoping for an invitation from the Big Ten, while Nebraska appears to be on the fence about whether to hold out for a possible Big Ten invitation or move back to the table with the nine schools who are determined to keep the Big 12 alive.

There is a belief among the majority of schools that the Big 12 could survive if it just lost Missouri, the sources said. But the sense is the Big 12 is dead if it loses both Missouri and Nebraska.

So we could know in a week to 10 days just how viable the Big 12 is.

Colorado appears to be hoping for a Pac-10 invitation, but now the Buffaloes could be left out of that mix thanks to Baylor and Texas politics.

The legislative source said there is a block of 15 legislators who will work to make sure Baylor - not Colorado - is invited to the Pac-10.

"If the Pac-10 wants Texas, and we know they do, they may have to take all of our Texas schools," the source said, adding that Texas Tech has also benefited from political inclusion on the invite list.

That influence may already have been felt during Saturday's Pac-10 meetings in San Francisco (more on that in a minute).

The Texas legislators taking up for Baylor are pointing to the political and economic importance of keeping the Texas members of the Big 12 South together as well as Colorado's recent athletic struggles and lack of sports such as baseball, softball and men's tennis.

(The CU football team is 16-33 the past four years, and the hoops team has made the NCAA Tournament twice in the last 41 years. Baylor's football isn't much better at 15-33, but the Bears' hoops program is on the rise.)

"Denver as a television market doesn't really support Colorado," the source said. "And the weather can also be an adventure."


THE PAC-10 PROPOSALS

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott laid out several possible expansion scenarios to his league's athletic directors during conference meetings in San Francisco on Saturday.

According to a source with knowledge of the Pac-10 meetings, Scott made cases to: stay at its current 10-school membership; merge with the entire Big 12; invite six schools from the Big 12, as long as it includes Texas; or invite Colorado and Utah.

The source said there is not much enthusiasm for a full-blown merger or for the league to go to 12 schools by adding Colorado and Utah.

Multiple sources said the plan Scott favors is adding six teams from the Big 12 (as long as it includes Texas) and creating two, eight-team divisions. The Big 12 schools would compete in a division with Arizona and Arizona State, while the remaining Pac-10 schools - USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State - would compete in the other division.

Scott also apparently laid out two plans that would involve the six-team invitation to schools in the Big 12. One that included Colorado and one that replaced Colorado with Baylor along with the other members of the Big 12 South.

Scott did not immediately return a message left for him by Orangebloods.com.


PAC-10 COMMITTED TO A CONFERENCE NETWORK

Scott, who took over as Pac-10 commissioner in 2009 and earns $1.7 million annually after running the Women's Tennis Association for six years, appears ready to show he's worth every penny by making a splash. He will recommend to the presidents and chancellors on Sunday that they invite six Big 12 teams and move forward with a 16-team conference network that projects to pay out $20 million per school.

The network would most likely be run by Fox Cable Networks (a subsidiary of News Corporation), which serves as the chief operating partner of the Big Ten Network.
The Pac-10 would want an answer from any invited schools by the end of the year because its television package with Fox is up for renewal in 2011.

Former Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg, who took over as the chief operating officer of the Pac-10 in April, has experience in launching a conference network after helping the Big Ten do it.

Weiberg resigned from the Big 12 and went to the Big Ten to work on its network after Big 12 members went against his recommendation to start a conference network in 2007.

The Pac-10's plans to have a conference network are a major stumbling block for Texas.

UT officials have partnered with IMG in exploring their own television network and would have to abandon those plans if it was to move to the Pac-10. Scott told Orangebloods.com in May that a conference network would require "an all rights in" commitment from member schools.

That's one of the biggest reasons Texas is working feverishly to hold the Big 12 together.

Mike Slive, commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, which would love to have Texas, said this week schools can explore their own networks in the SEC. It was almost an open-armed invitation to Texas, which has so far seen the SEC as poor cultural fit.

Despite overtures from the Big Ten, Texas has balked at the logistics of being the southern boundary of that league and doesn't appear interested.

Just another day in the swirl that is possible college realignment.

Chip Brown joined the Rivals.com network in August 2008 after 10 years at The Dallas Morning News, where he covered the University of Texas for eight years and the Dallas Cowboys for two. Brown also covered the Big 12 for the Morning News from 2006-08. Brown worked for The Associated Press for 10 years, covering news and sports before joining the Morning News.
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