The University of Texas just missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Texas was in position to become the most influential team in the most influential conference in the nation, but at the last second abandoned the plan because it was convinced a depleted Big XII conference will be able to generate as much revenue as a super Pac-10.
That may be true…for now.
So where does this leave the rest of the college sports world? The ACC, SEC and Big East will continue to go about their business like nothing really happened.
The Mountain West will most likely receive an automatic bid either next year or the following year for a BCS bowl game, where the big money is. The Big Ten and the Pac-10 will most likely start playing a conference championship game, which will be a major financial windfall for both conferences. The Big Ten Network will continue to grow and produce more money than most people ever thought possible just two years ago.
Texas basically just handed the largest paycheck ever imagined to the Big Ten, and time will show that the Longhorns decision to not move and claim its own stake was wrong. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany will not sit tight just because the Pac-10 failed to deliver; he will continue to pursue all options to generate more money for his conference. In a matter of six months Delany brought the college football world to the edge of revolution, and he still has the power to follow through on this massive upheaval.
He could literally destroy the Big East with two phone calls and force Notre Dame’s hand. Regardless of how committed the Big XII teams are to each other, if any of them received an invitation to join the Big Ten, they would jump ship so quickly it would make Nebraska’s departure seem drawn out.
What all this means is that the Big Ten is the most powerful conference in America, and Texas missed the opportunity to check its power by aligning itself with the Pac-10. A “Pac-16” would be able to compete financially and athletically with the new Big Ten. No conference in the nation can now say that, including the SEC, whose weakness in terms of national appeal became all too apparent through this expansion process.
But I am not in the contingency that thinks Texas has magically stopped the whole expansion process with its decision. Instead, everything is where it was two weeks ago prior to the Pac-10’s aggressive move, except that some dominos have already fallen.
The Big Ten will go through another round of expansion because Nebraska was not Delany’s endgame; Notre Dame is. Delany will not rest until Notre Dame joins the Big Ten or is isolated to the point where it will cease to be a major football program. Notre Dame has flirted with Delany too many times, and he is, rightfully, angry that the Irish keep leaving him hanging.
Notre Dame realizes that its days as a independent are coming to an end. The conferences no longer treat the Irish as an equal when they go to the negotiating table, which can be seen by the newly revamped BCS deal with Irish only getting a fraction of the normal BCS payout if they qualify for one of the marquee bowls. Notre Dame is not what it used to be and even people in South Bend would be willing to say that behind closed doors. But the Irish still bring the most to the table for the Big Ten.
The Big Ten will pick up a contingency of Big East teams in about a year and move to a 16-team conference with Notre Dame. However, the conference will now be able to finish the process the way it wanted to go through with it all along.
The Big Ten never wanted the lead story on SportsCenter to be college expansion rumors. Rather, the conference will be quiet yet deliberate over the next year in its quest to find more members. I doubt the Big Ten’s next move will be hastily forced by another conference, as it was this time.
When that happens, other conferences will be forced to follow suit into 16-team conferences whether they want to or not. The Pac-10 will eventually get what it wants out of the state of Texas, and the SEC will most likely stir things up in this part of the country.
The Big XII’s days are still numbered, and in due time, no mysterious coalition will be able to save the depleted conference from extinction as has apparently happened this time. What unfolded this week was a Band-Aid on a stabbing wound, not a long-term solution.