As suspected following Nebraska's apparent defection for the Big Ten on Wednesday, the unraveling of the Big 12 continues apace in the North Division with Colorado, which plans to make its long-rumored move to the Pac-10 official on Friday:
The University of Colorado will announce at an 11 a.m. Friday press conference that the school will leave the Big 12 and join the Pac-10.
Multiple sources confirmed the deal to the Camera early Thursday, and league officials are scheduled to be in Boulder on Friday for the announcement.
Colorado officials have spent the week working behind the scenes to make sure the school was part of the Pac-10's expansion plans. The deal was finalized Wednesday after CU's board of regents gave athletic director Mike Bohn the go-ahead to secure an invitation at a meeting Tuesday night in Denver.
The Pac-10's website confirms the news. The Buffs are fully on board.
Of the seven Big 12 teams connected to imminent Pac-10 membership over the last week, Colorado is the only one that doesn't come as part of an implicit package deal: Unlike Texas and the other potential defectors of the Big 12 South, Colorado has been a pawn in fantastical Pac-10 expansion scenarios for years, owing to its geography and rather obvious cultural fit. You can cite CU's strong California alumni base and academic ties – Colorado already has more joint research projects with Pac-10 schools than with the Big 12 and shares membership with eight of its ten new conference mates in the Association of American Universities – but frankly, Boulder just fits the whole vibe of Berkeley, Palo Alto, Eugene and Seattle better than it does Lincoln, Manhattan and Ames, you know?
The addition of the Buffaloes gives the Pac-10 options even if it somehow fails to follow through with the Texas/Oklahoma contingent from the Big 12 South, namely snapping up Utah as the conference's 12th team, thereby facilitating the standard two-division split and conference championship game (as well as moving the Pac-10 footprint into the fastest-growing state in the union).
That remains Plan B, however, and an unlikely one. Despite their efforts to salvage the Big 12 and possible flirtations with the SEC, Texas and Texas A&M are widely expected tp sign on to the Pac-10 in a matter of days, bringing along Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to forge a 16-team mega-conference that stands astride the entire Western half of the continent. From the sound of things last night, Texas Tech and Oklahoma officials only need to know when to book the flight and how much sunscreen to bring along to their new roles in the No Country For Old Men Division with Arizona and Arizona State. Colorado is only the first domino to fall in this direction.
For it's own sake, let us hope it is: The Big 12's exit fees amount to $10 million for an immediate pull-out or a forfeiture of half of all conference revenue over a two-year lame-duck period, according to conference bylaws. For an admittedly cash-strapped athletic department that couldn't afford to buy out its foundering head coach's contract last November, those are steep penalties unless nine of the league's dozen members vote to formally dissolve the conference, absolving all debts.
(While we're on the topic of oddball cultural fits, let us not forget Waco, as well, where enthusiastic Baylor lobbyist Buddy Jones and his Bear-backing friends in the Texas legislature are facing a sober future, having apparently failing to ride the Longhorns' coattails into another relatively lucrative position despite contributing almost nothing to the profile of a major prestige conference. C'est la vie, Bears. I hear the Sun Belt needs a new drummer.)
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.