When reports first surfaced last week that the Pac-10 plans to offer membership to six Big 12 schools, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told reporters the timetable for his conference's expansion "could be affected."
Looks like "could be affected" may be code for accelerated six-to-12 months.
An executive from another Big 12 school told the Omaha World-Herald that Nebraska could be en route to the Big Ten as soon as Friday, a decision many believe could be the first step in the Big 12's demise. The Big 12 had reportedly given Nebraska and Missouri until Friday to decide whether to pledge loyalty or continue looking elsewhere, so the Huskers likely want some assurance of the Big Ten's interest before revealing their preference is to leave.
Nebraska wasn't ready to confirm the World-Herald's report, but the lack of outright denial suggests the story is accurate, as does comments athletic director Tom Osborne made during a monthly radio appearance Tuesday night. "I think before too long — I don't know exactly what that time frame is — we'll be able to put this to bed,'' he said, before jokingly adding, "because I'm getting tired of it.''
Assuming Nebraska is indeed leaning toward leaving and that Missouri follows suit later this month, the future of the Big 12 is now essentially in Texas' hands. The consensus has been that Texas would like to stay in the current Big 12 if possible, but that the departure of both Nebraska and Missouri might be enough to persuade the Longhorns to lead an exodus to the Pac-10.
If Texas opts to stay, the Big 12 could survive in a slightly weakened state by replacing Nebraska and Missouri with the likes of TCU, Memphis or another similar candidate from a non-BCS conference. If Texas opts to leave, the five other schools invited by the Pac-10 would almost certainly follow and the Big 12 would cease to exist.
Kansas, the most prominent program that could be left without a major conference as a result of these maneuvers, literally begged Nebraska to remain loyal to the Big 12 on Monday in hopes of avoiding that doomsday scenario.
The Jayhawks better find a plan B in a hurry because each day seems to bring us one step closer to the Big 12's demise.