Pac-10 takes Colorado, possibly setting in motion massive conference realignment

Colorado, left, is headed to the Pac-10. Nebraska, meantime, is reportedly prepared to join the Big Ten.
Colorado, left, is headed to the Pac-10. Nebraska, meantime, is reportedly prepared to join the Big Ten. (Jack Dempsey/associated Press)
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By Josh Barr and Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 11, 2010

In a series of moves that likely will set in motion conference realignment that significantly could alter the college sports landscape, Colorado on Thursday accepted an invitation to join the Pacific-10 and Nebraska reportedly is prepared to join the Big Ten.

Meantime, Texas and Texas A&M officials reportedly were to meet Thursday to discuss their next move, given the now-tenuous foundation of the Big 12. Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds has said he would prefer to keep the Big 12 intact, though that proposition seems increasingly unlikely.

According to reports from several media outlets, the Pac-10 is interested in acquiring Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, in addition to Colorado, for the purposes of forming a 16-team conference.

Baylor and Texas Tech officials have said they would like to remain united in conference affiliation with Texas and Texas A&M, should the Big 12 implode.

"No assurances, no invitations have been issued," Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said Thursday in a teleconference, adding that he had no timetable. "I'm authorized to pursue several different scenarios. . . . We're evaluating different options and having various conversations and waiting to see what may develop nationally before we decide what to do next."

It might not take long to see how things play out, though. Asked about a potential buyout penalty from the Big 12, Colorado President Bruce D. Benson said he was unsure what it might cost.

"I don't think we can comment on that until we see what happens in the next few days," he said.

Conferences are striving to maximize their television network contracts, and that motivation may lead to a complete overhaul of the current alignment structure.

Negotiations on a new television contract for the Pac-10 will begin next year.

"The motivation for all this always has been football television dollars," said Tom Hansen, the Pac-10 commissioner from 1983 to 2009. "Expand the number of homes you have for the sale of football television rights. This is one of the few places where you can enhance your revenue stream. It has happened before and it will probably happen again in the future when conferences are forced to juggle membership to handle these TV demands."

Said David Carter, principal of the Sports Business Group, a marketing firm: "These conferences have seen the success of the Big Ten Network. They have seen the success and revenue brought about by conference championship games like the SEC's. They see these and think about how it can extend their revenues and footprint. And now is the time."

Hansen said the Pac-10 considered adding Colorado and Texas in the mid-1990s, but that the plan died when Texas politicians made it clear that if Texas could only leave the Big 8 for the Pac-10 if Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor also were included.

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