The proverbial conference expansion tables have turned, and Jim Delany doesn't like it one bit. According to a source, Delany doesn't like having his hand forced, but that is exactly what the Big 12 has done with their loyalty ultimatum they handed down to Nebraska and Missouri.
Teddy Greenstein is now reporting that the Big Ten "could act and act again," meaning that Big Ten expansion could come in stages instead of a big bang approach that could rock the college athletics landscape.
As a result, the Big Ten may need to hand out an invitation to Nebraska as early as the end of this week and stop at 12 teams.
College football would, at least temporarily, be given a stay of execution.
If this happens, Nebraska joins the Big Ten as their twelfth member. The Big 12 probably stays in tact with Nebraska moving to the Big Ten and Colorado and Utah moving to the Pac 10. According to Chip Brown, the Orangebloods.com editor that has been all over these expansion rumors, the Big 12 would be interested in BYU and Air Force filling the holes left by Colorado and Nebraska.
The college athletics conference landscape then looks like this:
Big Ten (12) - Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State
Big 12 (12) - Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, BYU, Air Force, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor
Pac 10 (12) - Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah
The Mountain West takes a serious hit in this scenario. They will have lost both Utah programs and an Air Force program that are three critical pieces in their bid to become a BCS conference. If the conference is, in fact, staring at a world without Utah, BYU and Air Force, the Mountain West probably turns back to the WAC and raids the conference for not only Boise State, but perhaps also Fresno State and Nevada.
The Mountain West could also propose a full-scale merger/takeover of the WAC, jettisoning Louisiana Tech* to the Sun Belt and creating a 14-team league comprised of TCU, Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Colorado State and the 8 remaining WAC programs.
All rumor and innuendo, but if the Big Ten stops with Nebraska and the dominoes fall as described above, it sounds like college athletics insanity may be avoided, at least temporarily. If the Big Ten and Pac 10 stop their expansion plans at 12 teams, that temporarily eases the anxiety that the ACC and Big East conference brass are no doubt feeling at this point.
* Louisiana Tech seems like a better geographic fit in the Sun Belt, but I honestly have no idea as to the history of the Bulldogs in the WAC. If you have an idea, please enlighten me.
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