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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

September 4, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Pac-12: Keep that logo flexible

Just as you were getting used to an expanded Pac-10 conference to the new Pac-12, there are strong indications that the league might soon be finding room for more.

Texas A&M’s impending move from the Big 12 to the SEC has brought about a ripple that could bump the Pac-12 by four more schools in the not-too-distant future.

What’s just happened: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said over the weekend that schools have reached out to the conference about joining. There seems a strong likelihood one of those would be Oklahoma, and another Oklahoma State.

The Daily Oklahoman, in a story headlined “OU’s sole focus now on joining Pac-12,” quoted Oklahoma president David Boren as saying that the Sooners expect to make a decision within two weeks on their preferred future. It’s believed that Oklahoma State would follow suit; the godfather of Oke State, T. Boone Pickens, says he thinks that’s where OSU is headed.

The expansion Holy Grail, of course, is Texas, which the Pac-10 pursued last year before a deal fell apart. Subsequently, the Longhorns assembled their own TV network with ESPN, and that has been the perceived sticking point with the Pac-12, which just announced its own networks to launch in a year. Moreover, Scott implemented a plan of equal revenue-sharing when expansion to the Pac-12 became reality.

But Orangebloods.com, the Texas-based website that was all over the original expansion stories in the late spring of 2010, reported the other day that the Pac-12 left wiggle room for the Longhorn Network to be reworked to accommodate the Pac-12 Networks. It also cited a source saying that if Oklahoma were to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-12, Texas would likely follow.

Of course, nothing may come of this. Or nothing might happen in the short term. But it doesn’t look that way, given A&M’s departure.

While Scott clearly would love to include the Longhorns — reviving the possibility of a Pac-16 West Division that would mirror the old Pac-8 Conference — what could be happening is a bit of what took place a year ago, when the league added Colorado; hoped for, but didn’t get, a five-team block from the Big 12, and instead moved to annex Utah to make it a Pac-12. In the newer scenario, the Pac-12 would take the Oklahoma schools, keep pushing for Texas and probably Texas Tech; but if it can’t pull off the Longhorns, move to pull in two other schools — one of them perhaps Kansas. But that’s merely speculation.

A year after the Texas push failed, it could be falling neatly into place for Scott, simply because of the crumbling of the Big 12 and the need for Texas — behemoth though it may be — to desire conference membership. Ironically, what would be igniting this latest round of expansion is A&M, whose athletic director, Bill Byrne, was a Pac-10 athletic director back at Oregon in the 1980s.

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