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June 8, 2010

Speculation growing Colorado preparing to bolt

There is growing speculation from other Big 12 members that Tuesday night's meeting among Colorado University leaders is to discuss the legality of bolting the Big 12 right now to accept an invitation from another conference, two sources told Orangebloods.com.

One source inside the Big 12 said Colorado was expected to have a major announcement as early as Wednesday.

But that announcement may be with regard to scholarship reductions for the Colorado football and basketball programs because of substandard NCAA APR (Academic Progress Rates).

According to information obtained by OB, Colorado will have four scholarships reduced for football and one for basketball.

CU is the only BCS football program to be sanctioned with scholarship reductions and is one of only two BCS basketball programs to get sanctioned, OB has learned.

That's some tough timing while trying to impress the high-minded academics in the Pac-10.

The Boulder Daily Camera reported Tuesday's regents meeting at CU produced nothing more than legal advice about different scenarios.
CU officials said they have not received an invitation from the Pac-10.

Despite that claim, speculation continues to swirl that Colorado could be preparing to accept a bid from the Pac-10 Conference, which has targeted the Buffaloes for expansion.

The move would undercut an attempt by Baylor to sway the Texas Legislature into helping the Bears get an invite ahead of Colorado.

It would also guarantee that the Pac-10 probably pulls off at least one of its plans presented to league presidents and chancellors at meetings over the weekend in San Francisco.

One of the proposals made by Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott to league heads was to expand the league by two schools - Colorado and Utah.

As Orangebloods.com first reported last Thursday, Scott's preference is to expand the Pac-10 by six schools. That original list included Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado.

But Colorado, which has the same June 15 deadline to declare its intensions in the Big 12, could be looking to bolt now - whether the Big 12 holds together or not.

The question is could Colorado afford it?

The price to get out of the Big 12 is a $10 million buyout, and it would take a vote of nine members of the Big 12 to dissolve the league and eliminate any buyout penalties, according to one league source.

Sources say Colorado's athletic department is not in strong financial condition, and the school doesn't have the kind of money right now to buy its freedom.

What affect a decision by Colorado to leave the Big 12 would have on the other fragile fabric of college athletics right now would remain to be seen.

Scott didn't immediately return attempts to reach him by Orangebloods.com.

If Scott has extended an invitation to Colorado it could signal one of two things: that the tea leaves appear to be pointing toward Nebraska and Missouri leaving for the Big Ten already and that the Big 12 will come apart.

Or it could signal that the Pac-10 is unsure about the future of the Big 12 and wants to end up with some kind of expansion heading into its expected conference network negotiations in 2011.

The biggest lynchpin in potential college realignment appears to be in South Bend, Ind., right now.

And we could know that future in the next seven days.

In the next week, we could know if all the brilliant hustling by Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was for naught.

If all the posturing toward the Big Ten by Nebraska and Missouri was for naught.

And if all the other preliminary conversations likely being had by the SEC as well as the ACC/Big East about how they might respond were for naught.

If Notre Dame moves into the Big Ten, and that conference closes ranks at 12 schools, college athletics would take a deep breath, take some Maalox and try to repair whatever damage has been done to the relationships with its co-workers.

If Notre Dame remains independent, it could be the first step towards complete upheaval.

And you thought Boise State's upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl was big.

An athletic director with knowledge of the Big Ten's plans told Orangebloods.com on Monday that Notre Dame is seriously considering the Big Ten, despite its cherished independence and lucrative contract with NBC/Comcast, because it fears four super conferences being formed without them.

"Notre Dame may be on the clock as well," the athletic director said, referring to the Irish's invitation from the Big Ten.

Orangebloods.com reported on Sunday that Notre Dame was seriously considering the Big Ten and that if the Irish agreed to join the league, the Big Ten would stop its expansion at one school.

OB reported that if Notre Dame and the Big Ten could get on the same page, Nebraska and Missouri would be left out of the Big Ten's plans, and the Big 12 would survive.

There would likely be three disgruntled members - Nebraska, Missouri and Colorado - and a disappointed visionary commissioner in the Pac-10. But the Big 12 would survive to see its cable TV package renegotiation in 2011.

But the longer we have to wait for white smoke to come out of the chimneys in South Bend, the more you start to wonder if Notre Dame will remain its own brand. Joe Schad of ESPN reported Monday that Notre Dame didn't appear budging.

If Notre Dame didn't budge, we'd learn if the Big Ten was ready to follow through on the move that could change college athletics forever - expanding by three or five (most likely including Nebraska, Missouri and some raiding of the Big East).

So we wait.

Each day gives Baylor another opportunity to marshal its political forces and gives Colorado another day to float silly scenarios like eyeing a jump to the Mountain West.

Each day gives Missouri and Nebraska fans more time to hope Notre Dame decides by June 15 to stand alone so they can say they finally stuck it to Texas.

The worst-case scenario for Nebraska would be to say no thanks to the Big 12, allow the Big 12 South schools to start negotiating with the Pac-10, only to see Notre Dame ultimately change its mind, land in the Big Ten, and leave Nebraska with the not-so-unthinkable scenario of joining Missouri, Colorado, Kansas and Kansas State in the Mountain West.

The Mountain West's decision to stand pat Monday was telling. Why make a commitment to Boise State right now, when that league, which is desperately trying to become a BCS conference, can wait a week and see if there are bigger trophies to be had.



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