It now appears, as of late Monday, that the option that seemed the least likely in recent days, the survival of the Big 12 with Texas as a member, will now happen. ESPN sources also suggest that Texas A&M will reject the move to the SEC and re-commit to the Big 12 as well.
We had been saying in recent days that Texas was one of the keys to the survival of the Big 12 conference. I wrote this weekend on how there were essentially two options that would prevent the death of the Big 12 -- either Dan Beebe convinces Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M all to stay put and form a 10-team Big 12, or the Big 12 South schools depart and the remainder of the Big 12 swallows the Mountain West Conference.
Someone should give Beebe an award, because the sales job he pulled on Texas and Texas A&M is nothing short of spectacular. According to ESPN, the Texas schools and Oklahoma stand to essentially double their share of projected TV revenues based on a new TV deal:
Texas had a meeting Monday with the other remaining nine schools in the Big 12 about a TV deal included in a plan put together by Beebe that would keep the league intact with its current programs, according to multiple reports.
Based on a TV deal in the works that could pay upwards of $25 million per year, Texas leaned toward staying in a 10-team Big 12 for the foreseeable future, Orangebloods.com reported, citing sources familiar with negotiations.
Clearly being able to come at least close to the Pac-10 financial projections, while being able to still launch a network, may have swayed Powers to change his mind.
The official reason for the re-commitment of Texas to the Big 12 appears to be that Texas wants to keep open its opportunity to have their own school-specific sports network, which is something that they would have had to give up had they joined the Pac-10. Whether this is actually why Texas is staying put remains unknown. We've had reports over the last several days of forces in Texas politics, specifically the Texas legislature and Gov. Rick Perry "expressing" their opinions to the regents of the University of Texas regarding conference realignment. It is possible that threats from the political quarters, more so than the Longhorns TV network, is really what inked the Beebe deal.
Assuming this report is true, conference re-alignment wouldn't cease entirely tomorrow. It would, however, likely wind down considerably. The addition of Colorado to the Pac-10 has created an 11-team conference, which would need at least another school to hold an annual championship game. ESPN (Insider) suggests that school may finally be Utah, leaving the MWC still at nine teams even after the Boise State Broncos make the switch from the WAC.
As for the Big Ten, with the chaos in the Big 12 coming to an end, they will likely stand pat for at least several months. The interim president of the University of Illinois today told the Chicago Tribune that he feels that a 12 is "a good number" for teams in the conference now that Nebraska has joined.
It is likely that this wouldn't be the end of expansion for the Big Ten, however, we would most likely be back to the plodding pace that we seemed to be on last fall when the Big Ten first announced that it was exploring possible expansion. It is probably likely that other schools end up in the Big Ten eventually, especially if the Big East dies a slow death over the next several years, but if the Longhorns stay put in the Big 12, we probably won't see any more movement to the Big Ten for quite some time.
So, to recap, it looks like we'll have:
- A Big Ten conference with 12 teams;
- A Big 12 conference with 10 teams;
- And a Pac-10 conference with 11 (perhaps 12) teams.
Fun! I can't wait to see what tricky negative space using logos the other conferences roll out now....