Sources close to UteZone indicate that Utah informed the Mountain West Conference Monday of its intentions to leave the conference. When asked about this report, a representative from the Conference could neither confirm nor deny the alleged report. If sources are to be believed then, the deal to invite Utah has already been done, and is merely a formality at this point. All that would remain of course is the announcement from the PAC-10 and a press conference by the University of Utah.
With the Big 12 getting set to announce their intentions to stick together on Tuesday, the stage could be set for Utah to be formally announced as the 12th member of the PAC-10 and college football fans nationwide will breathe a sigh of relief with the end to conference-expansion-palooza 2010. The Big 12 is now the Big 10, the Big 10 is now the Big 12, the PAC-10 will be the PAC-12, and the Mountain West will still be the Mountain West, just swapping Utah for Boise State. Life will return to normal until the world is ready to accept the next step in college sports: Super Conferences.
Texas Two Step
In a stunning turn of events, the University of Texas pulled together the remaining nine members of the Big 12 Monday to repair the damage done in the past two weeks and make plans for life in a 10-team Big 12. Money has a way of repairing hurt feelings in a quick way.
News reports have been circulating around the internet the past several days indicating Texas was bound and determined to bolt the Big 12 to the PAC-10 with division members Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. When Texas A&M put the whole thing into jeopardy with their overtures to the SEC, Texas flinched.
In what many believed was a well played game of poker, Texas swooped in at the last possible minute, the savior of the conference, and resurrected what many already blamed them for destroying. Bravo Texas.
Air Traffic Control
As Larry Scott was completing his tour of the Southwest, nervous fans from Utah and Kansas anxiously tracked Scott's every move on the web. When Scott's plane submitted flight plans Sunday night for a destination of Kansas City, Ute fans could be heard jumping off the ledge and Kansas fans began to celebrate. Then Scott flinched.
In what many believed was a plan to replace Texas A&M as the 16th member of the newly emerging PAC-16, Scott was heading to Kansas City to make a deal with KU, and kill Utah's chances at the big time. At the last minute however, whether it was the severe thunderstorms on the horizon, or more likely no longer a need for Kansas, Scott stayed put in Austin for the night.
What a Difference a Day Makes
Monday morning, the college football world woke up with a Texas hangover amidst fears of the beginning of the next shift in college football to super conferences. All was for naught however, as behind the scenes IMG worked with a big fish named Fox to broker a last minute deal to keep the ten-member Big 12 alive.
So what did Texas want? Was the PAC-16 ever viable? It's almost certain that if Texas could have gotten what they wanted in the Pacific Athletic Conference, they would by now be the newest members along with the four other Big 12 schools. Without the opportunity to start their own network however, Texas' end game was more about power and money. By force feeding stories to the media via controlled leaks, the poker game played by Texas will end up being a case study in cutthroat business wheeling and dealing one day. Texas goes all in, forces Colorado and Nebraska to make their moves, A&M antes up with all their chips, and Texas calls their bluff. Wonderfully played Texas.
Behind the scenes four months ago, a deal was made with the University of Utah and Colorado to bring them in as the 11th and 12th members of an expanded PAC-10 conference. One caveat for Utah that was inserted into the tentative agreement however was a scenario in which Texas could be lured away from the Big 12. Conspiracy theorists would have you believe that the PAC-16 had actually been in the works for two years, beginning with Kevin Weiberg's handpicked replacement of Dan Beebe to run the Big 12. The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle.
So now with Texas out of the picture, and the PAC-10(11) still looking at expansion options, it would stand to reason that a logical 12th team to the PAC would be Utah. Will the PAC-10 move quickly on adding the 12th team? I don't see any reason for stalling. With the negotiations for a new TV deal set to begin in early 2011, the PAC-10 would need all those key pieces in place before the end of 2010. With Utah needing to serve notice to the MWC before July 2010, a move will be sooner than anyone anticipates.