The Big Ten has monopolized most of the headlines the past few months regarding conference expansion chatter, but it looks like the first seismic shift fittingly may originate in California.
According to a report from Chip Brown of Texas-based OrangeBloods.com, the Pac-10 is prepared to strike first at its conference meetings in San Francisco this weekend by offering membership to six Big 12 teams. If Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado accept, the result would be a 16-team juggernaut spanning the Western half of the United States and including seven of the nation's top 20 TV markets.
Give new Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott credit for concocting a scenario that could boost his league's TV revenue by 50 to 100 percent, but the school that holds all the power right now is Texas.
If the Longhorns agree to head West, many of the other Big 12 teams would probably join them out of fear of separating from their region's cash cow. If the Longhorns balk, it's unlikely that Oklahoma, Texas A&M or the others would leave and the Pac-10 might not be interested anymore anyway.
The decision for Texas will likely come down to four factors: TV revenue, geography, athletics and academics. Here's a look at what the Longhorns will consider:
1. TV revenue
Texas' ideal scenario would likely be to stay in the current Big 12 and pursue its own TV network, giving the school a unique, potentially lucrative revenue stream it wouldn't have to share. Unfortunately, that may be difficult to pull off in this climate considering Texas' Big 12 rivals are already upset with the current revenue-sharing agreements. Schools like Oklahoma or Texas A&M may be inspired if they feel the Longhorns' added TV revenue would give them a further competitive edge.
If the Longhorns don't feel they can create their own network at this time, then joining the Pac-10 could be attractive TV-wise. Texas reportedly gets $10.2 million a year in TV revenue right now, a number that could easily increase 50 to 100 percent if a revamped Pac-10 boasting seven of the nation's top 20 markets negotiates a new TV deal next year.
From a geographical standpoint, the Big 12 makes far more sense for the Longhorns as long as it remains close to its current form. The furthest Texas currently travels in the Big 12 is 987 miles to Colorado, less than half the distance of a trek to face either Washington or Washington State. The current Pac-10 teams already complain about how long the trip to the Palouse takes, so you can only imagine how bad it would be for the Longhorns or other prospective conference newcomers.
The most attractive part of the Pac-10's offer for Texas is that it gives them a way of escaping a potentially crumbling Big 12 without forfeiting its longtime rivalries with Texas A&M and Oklahoma. The Longhorns also would have some attractive new annual matchups to look forward to, whether it was USC and Oregon in football or Arizona and UCLA in basketball. On paper, a Pac-16 would instantly rival the SEC in football without suffering in basketball or the Olympic sports.
Missouri officials recently angered the rest of the Big 12 by saying that their school fit in better academically in the Big Ten, but the same could be said for a big research institution like Texas in the Pac-10. They resemble USC, UCLA, Stanford and Cal far more on and off the field than they do some of the schools they're currently partnered with in the Big 12.