The first domino has fallen--multiple sources are reporting tonight that the University of Nebraska will accept an invitation to join the Big Ten. It also appears certain that the University of Colorado is poised to accept a similar invitation from the Pac 10 and join that conference, which also has eyes for Big 12 schools Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
So, what does this all mean, and what of Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri?
- It means the NCAA is an ineffectual body. When have you seen an NCAA official quoted in any story on conference realignment? Where is the righteous indignation from this group on the effect of all these shifts on the "student-athlete," a term the NCAA uses hundreds of times over the course of the three Mens Basketball Tournament each late March/early April?
- It means that Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe has no influence in the world of college athletics, and has been played by his counterparts in the Big Ten and Pac 10.
- In the category of "thou doth protest too much," it means Nebraska and its Athletic Director, Tom Osborne, has never forgiven the University of Texas for the impact they've had on the power within the Big 12. Osborne, of course, denies that this was an impetus for NU's impending departure.
- It means Notre Dame thought about the Big Ten but again rejected it for its basketball affiliation with the Big East and, more importantly, its exclusive TV deal with NBC as football's lone major independent school.
So, what of Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri? Will they be left sitting at the curb while the Big Ten and Pac 10 buses pull away with their conference mates, less Iowa State and Baylor?
It's my prediction that the Texas schools will reject the Pac 10 and stay affiliated with the remaining 10 schools in the Big 12. Staying together allows Texas to basically control the league and provides an opportunity to recruit in TCU. While Arkansas would be the next logical suspect to poach into a revamped Big 12, the Razorbacks would have to gain a commitment that their revenue impact will be equaled by leaving the profitable SEC deal for a reunion with their old Southwest Conference brethren in the Big 12 South.
If, of course, the gang of five from the Big 12 South chase the big TV bucks in a new Pac 10 super-conference, covering the Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Portland, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Oklahoma City and San Antonio TV markets, then it is indeed college sports' Armageddon. KU, KSU and MU would scramble to find a new home...and it would be hard to consider them banding together with some hodge-podge lineup of schools like TCU, Baylor, Iowa State, Utah and Boise State. Would they Big Ten make a play to pick up these Big 12 scraps? What about the ACC or SEC--do they make any moves or stand pat?
Now that the first domino has fallen and the second is teetering, how many more will fall?