Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.
On a busy day in the sports world (Steven Strasburg, NBA Finals, USC sanctions, World Cup, Izzo to Cleveland, etc.), the most chatter throughout the land was about Nebraska either with one foot already in the Big Ten – or not, depending on who you ask.
Once again, Orangebloods.com and their columnist Chip Brown are leading the way on this, and he is reporting that this is close to a done deal. A quick run-down of his reporting:
- Nebraska’s Board of Regents has informally agreed to join the Big Ten and that would become official with an announcement on Friday.
- There is, in fact, an invitation from the Big Ten for Nebraska.
- Sources from Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech have intimated that if Nebraska leaves the Big 12, the conference would be beyond help.
- Texas president William Powers and athletic director DeLoss Dodds informed Texas coaches today that their attempts to save the Big 12 were unsuccessful.
- The Pac-10 will invite the six teams reported first last week — Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech — and those invitations will likely be accepted, with the new conference alignment going into effect in 2012-13.
- Officials from Texas and Texas A&M will meet on Thursday to confirm their plans in the event of the dissolution of the Big 12.
- Missouri, which has burned bridges with the rest of the current Big 12 members while attempting to garner an invitation to the Big Ten has been “getting the cold shoulder from the Big Ten” according to a Big Ten athletic director and could be on the outside looking in.
- Joe Schad of ESPN reports that the Big Ten remains interested in Notre Dame, and with Nebraska added, its fourteenth member is likely to be either Maryland or Rutgers.
- There is in fact a deadline of June 14 for Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska to commit to the Big 12.
- Baylor, which had been rumored as a possible Pac-10 invitee in lieu of Colorado, is off the table due to the objections of some Pac-10 administrators towards adding a religious institution.
Elsewhere, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne has informed staff members that a move to the Big Ten is imminent. And Nebraska’s move has been reported as finalized by Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. Greenstein also quotes Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany as saying that the Big Ten could “act and act again,” read as that while the Nebraska invite appears to be the only imminent move, there could be additional moves by the Big Ten down the line. And Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Pac-10 invitations to the six current Big 12 schools are “locked and loaded.”
Osborne has since denied that there is any final decision made, has denied that he told his staff that the move was coming, no member of the Nebraska Board of Regents has gone on record confirming any of this, officials from both Texas and Nebraska have denied these reports and there has been no word from the Big Ten that an invitation has been extended to Nebraska. But, while there is no official, on-record confirmation of any of this at this point, there is an awful lot of smoke here for there to be no fire. It looks like the first domino has been pushed over, and the remaining dominoes could fall very quickly from here on out.
Starting with Nebraska, this is a huge move for an athletic department that prides itself on tradition. In making this move, they are cutting themselves off from their entire history. It has been more than 80 years since Nebraska has competed in a conference that did not include Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and Oklahoma, but if they accept entry into the Big Ten, that link is over. While it still remains possible that Missouri could follow as well, the other four schools are clearly not bound for the Big Ten. From its administrators on down to its die-hard fan base, this move could not have been an easy one to make, certainly one that has been looked at from every angle before a decision was made. But if the decision has been made, Nebraska is just the first big stone in what looks like an avalanche to come.
For the college hoops fan, the Nebraska move is only important in terms of the other moves it triggers. Let’s face it, Nebraska is one of the weaker basketball schools historically of the current BCS conference schools. In their history, they have made the NCAA tournament six times, the last time 12 years ago. They have never won an NCAA Tournament game. Beyond that, they’ve made 16 NIT fields. That’s it, the sum total of Cornhusker success in basketball. But their impact on the way the sport’s landscape will look beginning in 2012 cannot be understated, something the Mayans clearly knew when they made their calendar.
For the Big Ten, this move is likely just the first in a series of moves, and one forced by timing. If the Big 12 had not issued their ultimatum, things could have played out a lot slower and the Big Ten may have been able to announce all their moves at once. But if serious talks were already ongoing between the Big Ten and Nebraska (and there is no reason to believe they weren’t), the ultimatum made Nebraska get assurances from the Big Ten that if they were to leave the rest of the Big 12 hanging, they would indeed get an invite.
The news about Missouri being ignored by the Big Ten is nearly as interesting as the news that Nebraska is going. Just a week ago it was assumed, by me at least, that Missouri and the Big Ten were a foregone conclusion and that Nebraska might be left out in the cold. Now there are reports that the only way Mizzou gets an invite to the Big Ten is if they decide to go all the way to 16, and even then, Missouri may have to fight off teams like Connecticut, Pitt and Syracuse to get the invitation.
Notre Dame still remains the Big Ten’s priority, even more so than Nebraska. However, the Big Ten is reported to have given Notre Dame a deadline to make its decision. Giving Notre Dame a deadline could spook the Irish if they feel like the Big Ten would raid the Big East for teams like Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and/or Connecticut, effectively gutting the Big East and killing off the football side of the equation there. It may be up to ND to call the Big Ten’s bluff if they figure (probably rightly) that the Big East basketball-only schools will remain together even if the football league dissolves.
And then there’s Pitt, rumored all along to at least be in the running for a Big Ten invitation. However, Jim Delany commented on Sunday that expanding the Big Ten’s presence in Pennsylvania is not a priority for the conference in expansion, despite the fact that 17 percent of the state does not have access to the Big Ten Network, the largest percentage of any state in the conference’s footprint. While that isn’t the last word on the subject, it looks like Pitt is running behind.
Pac-10 or Pac-16
For the Pac-10, the Nebraska move goes a long way toward turning it into the Pac-16. With Nebraska gone, Missouri looking for anywhere else to go, and Colorado already California dreaming, if Texas is sufficiently spooked about the long-term prospects of the Big 12, they’ll be headed west with the rest of the Big 12 six. Then, presumably, the Pac-16 creates its new cable network and….. profit! Along the way, the only remaining major conference with a full football round robin AND a full home-and-home basketball round robin expands to 16 and has to come up with some sort of plan to create a reasonable schedule in both sports, not an easy task.