Mon Feb 15 01:23pm EST
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, trying (along with anonymous Texas officials) to pour water on the "Texas to Big Ten?" rumor that spread like a mini-wildfire last week, did all he could on a local radio interview on Friday to shut down any and all speculation about the conclusions of the conference's ongoing expansion probe (emphasis added):
"There were reports a few weeks ago about one institution [Pitt]," Delany told WSCR. "This week, there were reports about another institution [Texas]. I can report to you guys we haven't had any informal or formal interface with any institutions. We're in the process of an internal study, and we'll take those studies and those options and talk to our athletic directors, who then will pass on their thoughts to our presidents. I hope, by the spring or the summer, we'll have an idea of what it is we'd like to try to do, if anything."
"When the story happened two or three weeks ago about a Big East member and when it happened about a Big 12 member, I know it lights up the lines, I know it's good content, I know it builds ratings, I know it puts the Big Ten out there in a public light. But that's not even a subset of what we're trying to achieve."
In short: The Big Ten isn't even sure if it wants to expand, much less who it should be talking to. Patience, people!
About the same time, Nebraska athletic director and pater regnum Tom Osborne was trying to politely and honestly answer a local beat reporter's question about the Cornhuskers' potential place in Expansion Dominoes with the same response -- i.e. "nothing has happened, and we don't know what's going to happen, if anything happens at all." But if he had any intention of fighting the premature conjecture, the old coach may have been a little too straightforward for Delany's tastes (emphasis added):
"I haven't heard anything from (Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delany, so you don't know exactly what they’re thinking,” Osborne said Thursday. "We haven't entered into any formal talks with anybody right now. We're focusing on the Big 12. But I don’t think that means if somebody wanted to pick up the phone and call us, that we’d hang up on them. You listen. But we don’t have any plans to do anything different at this point. "We'll have to see what the landscape is six months, a year, from now. If we start losing schools, it could change the whole dynamic of the Big 12 Conference."
Come to think of it, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe probably isn't too happy with the suggestion that Armageddon could be at his league's doorstep, either, or the resulting headline from ESPN's Big Ten blogger, Adam Rittenberg: "Nebraska willing to listen if Big Ten calls." Twitter immediately lit up with speculation and debates about the relative merits of snatching Nebraska (nationally recognized brand!) or Missouri (St. Louis market!) out of the Big 12 North
In any case, there remains no doubt that the money is better in the Big Ten, and any team in the Big 12 -- with the possible exception of Texas, but maybe even the Longhorns, too -- would be better off making the move if it has the opportunity; as Osborne suggests, it's much too lucrative a possibility not to listen. At this stage, though, his uncertainty about the future "dynamic" of the Big 12 is more interesting than the future footprint of the Big Ten: Combined with Colorado's hypothetical exit to the newly reconfigured Pac-12 -- the Buffs, too, would listen that sales pitch -- the loss of an anchor program like Nebraska or Texas could punish the Big 12's viability as one of the true powerhouse conferences, especially if it has to reach down for minor-leaguers (say, BYU and/or TCU) to fill the void.
Think of it this way: No one is suggesting the Pac-10 is in danger of losing schools under any circumstances. The SEC is certainly not in danger of losing schools. The Big Ten is not in danger of losing schools. By all appearances, the ACC is not in danger of losing schools. But a full third of the Big 12's membership -- including two of its three bellwether football programs -- is suddenly rumored to be in play for a better deal in another league, however farfetched the reality. What's wrong with this picture?