Nebraska jumps to the Big Ten Conference, leaving the future of the Big 12 in jeopardy

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 12, 2010; D03

So the Big Ten has 12 members and the Big 12 has 10?

At least for a few days.

In what one conference commissioner dubbed a game of musical chairs, where "you want to have a seat when the music stops," Nebraska on Friday made the expected move, leaving the Big 12 Conference for the Big Ten.

"This is a historic day for the Big Ten Conference," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said.

Following Colorado's departure Thursday for the Pacific-10, it is anticipated that the Big 12 as it is currently constructed could disintegrate in the coming days. Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are all believed to be targets of the Pac-10 as it seeks to become the nation's first superconference.

"This will bring stability the Big 12 cannot offer," Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman told the university's board of regents.

Although Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne said moving to the Big Ten would not provide an immediate financial windfall, it is generally agreed by most observers that potentially lucrative television broadcast contracts have spurred the realignment and expansion discussions as conferences seek to maximize their revenues.

Texas could be the next to move; its board of regents meets Tuesday to consider the matter. If the Longhorns opt for the Pac-10, it almost certainly would open the floodgates to perhaps create a 'Pac-16.' If Texas stays, the Big 12 might remain viable with its remaining members.

While there is an expectation that Texas will lead the migration westward, at least one longtime administrator believes otherwise.

"If Texas holds the Big Whatever together, the Pac-10's 'quick strike' will come back to haunt them because they are now committed to finding at least one more member who can add value to the Pac-10," East Carolina Athletic Director Terry Holland wrote in a wide-ranging and candid letter to his school's followers. "Colorado's main value was as 'bait' for Texas, Oklahoma, etc. in order to create real value for the Pac-10."

The Southeastern Conference, however, also could have a say in the matter if it chooses to court additional members; Texas A&M is believed to also be interested in the SEC.

"Certainly we have had a couple of disappointing days at the Big 12 Conference," Commissioner Dan Beebe said in a conference call, vowing to fight to the finish to keep his league intact. "We are still working tirelessly to make sure that the other 10 members have a bright future."

That has meant showing projected revenues to the remaining members -- especially Texas -- hoping to sway the decision-making process.

Beebe acknowledged that the remaining members of the Big 12 are trying to determine their course of action and are talking to other leagues. Beebe said that he does not believe any remaining members of the Big 12 are being considered by the Big Ten, including Missouri, which was once thought to be under consideration.

Some Big 12 members could head for the Mountain West Conference, which on Friday convened an early-morning conference call to vote in Boise State as a new member. Boise State is currently in the Western Athletic Conference. Or they could head to Conference USA, which "is rapidly preparing to compete for the remaining Big 12 members if the meltdown continues to a full implosion," Holland wrote.

Neither of those conferences, however, provides automatic qualification in college football's Bowl Championship Series.

Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said he continues to speak with representatives of unspecified universities about potential membership in the conference, even though he is personally bothered by the sea change that seems ready to envelop major-college sports.

"I think the geographics have gone out of vogue, which is unfortunate," Thompson said. "I don't like that natural historic rivalries have passed over. We seem to have gone quite corporate in chasing the elusive dollars at the expense of what logically might make better sense. That proverbial ship has sailed."

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