Tue Feb 09 05:15pm EST
For lack of actual events in reality, the offseason is often a time for fantasy: Sweeping, top-down conference realignments, impossible playoff brackets, hypothetical new rivalries, bizarre rules changes. One theme certain to hold at the top of the "what if?" list for the next six months is conference expansion, already a source of tentative projections and wildly irresponsible rumors in the Big Ten. From the sounds of new commissioner Larry Scott's conference call with reporters this afternoon, we might as well add the Pac-10 to the expansion watch list:
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott says that if the conference is going to expand, a decision will likely be made in the next year.
Scott said it made sense to have a decision about expansion before starting to negotiate new television deals that expire following the 2011-12 academic year.
Scott says "serious evaluation" of the topic will go on in the next six to 12 months. He said the primary factor in the decision will be finding schools that fit into the conference culturally and academically and determining whether the benefits of adding extra teams outweigh the costs.
On Monday, Scott named Kevin Weiberg -- a veteran who helped oversee Big Ten expansion from 10 teams to 11 as the conference's deputy commissioner in the early '90s, and returned to help put together the Big Ten Network after doubling revenues during a nine-year stint as commissioner of the Big 12 -- as the Pac-10's new deputy commissioner, a good indication a copycat Pac-10 Network could be in the works. When the San Jose Mercury-News' Jon Wilner asked Scott if Weiberg's addition could be read as a prelude to expansion before negotiations for the conference's critical new television contract heat up next year, Scott admitted "this would be the logical time."
Is a mini-blitz in the media an indication that Scott is necessarily more serious about expansion than he was three or six months ago? He says no: "I think I’ve been consistent on that subject." Is it a starting gun for far-reaching, recklessly sourced theories about how the cards may fall if another heavy-hitting league starts to sprawl in search of fresh blood? Of course it is:
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - The University of Utah to the PAC 10? BYU to the Big 12? It could happen.
This is all speculation...but sources are telling ABC 4 Sports that Utah will be invited to join the PAC 10 conference, but not BYU. The Cougars could wind up in the Big 12...or staying put in the MWC.
Several dominoes have to fall first, but here's how it could all play out...
Speculation by anonymous sources indicates it could happen if certain other purely speculative moves happen first. Or not ... Thank you, Woodward and Bernstein. (Unwritten rule of thumb: The reliability of any report is typically in direct opposition to the quantity of ellipses therein.)
Which isn't to say it isn't going to happen: The longstanding fallout plan if the Pac-10 ever started to look outward calls for the league to snatch up Utah and BYU, or to take one of the Beehive State powers along with Colorado, leaving the other (in this scenario, BYU) to fill the Buffaloes' slot in the Big 12 North, which would welcome the addition of the fastest-growing state in the Union to its footprint. The burning question then: Where does the Big 12 turn if the Big Ten snatches up Missouri to fill out its vision of a two-division behemoth? Would it turn to one of the reigning mid-major darlings, Boise State and/or TCU? (Hey, this is kind of fun, actually ...)
Yes, all indications at the start of a new decade point to the emergence of the long-envisioned league of superconferences to leverage themselves for the ever-increasing spoils and put even more distance between the haves and have-nots. But they're still moving verrrry slowly for the foreseeable future. (The unforeseeable future, on the other hand, looks awesome.)