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June 7, 2010

Pac-10 ready to move forward; Baylor hustling

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is not wasting any time.

According to multiple sources, Scott will start extending formal invitations to six Big 12 schools as early as this week, although the sixth invitation still appears to be up in the air.

Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are getting invitations. But sources say Scott is still gauging the seriousness of a push in the Texas Legislature to keep Baylor with its Big 12 South brothers.

Initially, the Pac-10's list of invitations included Colorado. And the Pac-10 may still invite Colorado, the sources said. But Scott will have discussions to gauge the situation himself before making a final decision with the blessing of the league's presidents and chancellors, the sources said.

Scott announced Sunday he has been given the authority from the league's leaders to "advance" any expansion process. Scott's plan is to invite six Big 12 schools and have them play in a division with Arizona and Arizona State, as Orangebloods.com was first to report on Thursday.

The other division of the country's first super conference would be USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.

Meanwhile, an athletic director with knowledge of the Big Ten said "Notre Dame may now be on the clock" in its discussions with the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is apparently telling Notre Dame if the Irish turn down the invitation, the Big Ten could expand by five schools to go to 16. The fear on Notre Dame's part, and the reason officials are considering the bid carefully, is because officials fear four, 16-team conferences could emerge, and Notre Dame could be left out, sources said.

The Big Ten is apparently ready to grant Notre Dame's request that if the Irish decide to join the Big Ten that it be the only school added to the league.

That deadline for Notre Dame is believed to be synonymous with the deadline given to Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado of June 15 to declare future intentions. Those three schools - NU, MU and CU - are the only three who did not pledge solidarity to the league at the Big 12 meetings in Kansas City last week, sources said.

Missouri has rankled members of the Big 12 with its outward affection for the Big Ten. One member of the Big 12 said, "It's as if they'd crawl on broken glass to get there." Colorado would like to go to the Pac-10 but won't get an invitation unless it's with Texas.

Nebraska is the school that holds the key to the next step in the Big 12's survival. And Nebraska's decision will be impacted directly by Notre Dame.

As Orangebloods.com reported Sunday, an athletic director with knowledge of the situation said the Big Ten is focused solely on Notre Dame right now and will not address Nebraska or Missouri until it gets an answer from the Irish.

That same athletic director said if Notre Dame agreed to join the league, the Big Ten's expansion would stop at one school - Notre Dame - and be a 12-school league.

Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne has suggested the Big 12 caters to Texas, possibly implying bad blood between the Cornhuskers and the Longhorns. But sources from each school said Sunday night the relationship at the president and chancellor level of both schools has never been better.

In fact, if Nebraska stays in the Big 12, one of the biggest reasons will be its relationship with Texas. And if Nebraska leaves for another conference, the lack of that critical relationship would be one of the reasons Texas would be willing to consider its invitation to the Pac-10. To put it another way, Texas feels like it can probably trust Nebraska more than any other school in the Big 12 North and feels like Nebraska is a key voice in the league that is needed.

Baylor president Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater prosecutor who unearthed the Monica Lewinsky scandal, wrote a guest column in the Waco Tribune-Herald about why Baylor should be included on any invite list to the Pac-10.

Starr has been on the job less than a week, and he's now in the middle of one of the most important moments in the school's history.

Starr told Orangebloods.com Monday, "It's premature to speculate on what may happen in terms of that (an invitation from the Pac-10).

"We are doing everything we can to keep the entire Big 12 together. We are very grateful to the University of Texas, to Bill Powers. They have been very strong and supportive to a unified and stable Big 12."

A Big 12 source said Baylor has not yet secured an invitation to the Pac-10 but is working feverishly in the Texas Legislature to lean on lawmakers with Texas, Texas Tech and A&M ties to help move them ahead of Colorado in the Pac-10's eyes.

Also, a Texas source suggested too much is being made about the revenue that UT could command from launching its own network. UT is still putting together financial models but doesn't expect to make any "notable" revenue from such a network for "a period of time" after it would be launched.

Texas is not the only school looking into its own network. Oklahoma and Nebraska are also doing the same.

Longhorns officials also made it clear Sunday night that their intention is to stay in the Big 12. One source basically laid out all of the things Texas has accomplished in the Big 12 (top revenue-producing athletic department at $125 million; a national title in football and another appearance in the BCS national title game; a Final Four in basketball; top licensing and marketing rankings) and said, "Why would we trade certainty for uncertainty?"

Two sources inside the league said the Big 12 is looking at a couple scenarios as it pertains to its television situation when its cable package with Fox Sports Net comes up in 2011.

The sources said the Big 12 could try to land a long-term deal that could command between $1 billion and $2 billion. Or possibly only ink a four-year deal, so that its cable package would finally be on the same time line as its contract with ABC/ESPN for football and basketball, which runs through 2015.

The potential bidders on the Big 12's TV contract beginning in 2011 figure to be Fox, Comcast (which is buying NBC for $30 billion) and ABC/ESPN.

Stay tuned.


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