They interrupted programming last week to report that the Pac-10 conference would be joined in 2012 by major members of the Big 12, forming a super-sized alliance consisting of the traditional Pacific teams plus six major schools from the south-central region: the Hanseatic League of college sports.
It was breathtaking conjecture so assuredly reported that it hoarsened the voices of sports arbiters near and far: The Pac-10 would become the Pac-16, including (among the traditional 10 participants) Texas, Oklahoma, Texas AM, etc., in addition to Colorado.
As of today (June 15), it's the Pac-11, featuring the traditional 10 participants and Colorado.
Colorado, eh? Isn’t that the school where, prior to arriving at UW and later getting kicked out of the Dawg House, Rick Neuheisel learned to, uh, interpret NCAA rules?
The better question pertains to the activity of the past week and, of course, is: What happened?
Texas happened. In order to maintain a Big 12 (now consisting of 10 teams) to rival the prestige of the Big 10 (now consisting of 12 teams), officials at the (this gets confusing) Big 12 needed to keep marquee team Texas from going west. Thus, Pac-10 officials got sandbagged, a quaint expression that applies to card games in which a naïve and/or inattentive player gets, well, sandbagged.
Not long after Colorado officials announced that their institution would join the Pac-10, Texas deal-makers said they'd stay in the Big 12. This is because lucrative television-contract possibilities may, in effect, make the venerable southwest conference more of a Big One, with the TV-star Longhorns as Numero Uno.
Ordinarily those of us who otherwise keep to ourselves here along the Left Coast might observe the shuffling of other college conferences with mere academic interest. But this time Pac-10 officials wanted to be major players. They apparently accepted Colorado without contingencies. Shouldn't there have been a back-channel understanding that Colorado would be welcomed only in the event that specifically identified other Big-12 schools agreed to head west?
Thus the excellent symmetry of the Pac-10 (two public schools apiece from the four west-rim states plus two prestigious private institutions from populous California) becomes an ungainly Pac-11.
For guidance about how league operatives from the Pac-10 should now proceed, I myself proceeded: to a sports bar in my neighborhood. There I endeavored to elicit ideas for ways to expand the nascent Pac-11 now that Colorado is aboard.
Three camps emerged. One was composed of those who insisted that the Pac-10 should go after an established sports power, say, Brigham Young University (the Huskies' opening opponent this season). Those in the second group preferred the "safe" and "reasonable" idea of bringing in the University of Utah to make the league 12 strong.
Appropriately, given all the imagined happenings foreseen the past week, the most interesting ideas were offered by those in group three. Most of them still yearned for a Pac-16 so that there could be a pair of eight-team divisions setting up an annual conference-championship playoff game.
The new teams? Shouted out were Colorado State, Utah, Utah State, San Diego State, San Jose State, Idaho, Weber State, Portland State — every institution, it seemed, except Reed College.
When I left, of course, all remained the same, which is to say, the Big 10 has 12, the Big 12 has 10 and the Pac-10 has 11. Conference monikers, nevertheless, promise to remain the same. Why? Tradition, duh.
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