Larry Scott

Column

Head coach Mack Brown celebrates the Longhorns 49-20 win over UCLA on Saturday. His team will remain in the Big 12 for now.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Mack Brown may get what he wants after all.

The longtime Longhorns head football coach has repeatedly expressed his desire to keep the Big 12 Conference intact and maintain regional rivalries. That seemed less and less likely with the Pac-12 Conference becoming a probable destination for Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. But after Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s announcement that his conference won’t expand, the Big 12 could be saved in the 11th hour yet again.

Even if Missouri follows Texas A&M into the SEC, the Big 12 won’t be beyond salvaging. The Big 12 has proven it can make things work with 10 teams but may soon be stuck with eight. Fortunately for the Big 12, the Big East is in an even worse spot with Syracuse and Pittsburgh headed to the ACC (and Connecticut and Rutgers eager to join them).

The Big 12 needs to go after Texas Christian University and West Virginia. TCU is set to become a member of the Big East soon but would be a better fit in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs would make sense geographically and would quickly become one of the Big 12’s most competitive teams.

West Virginia, who was rejected by the ACC and SEC (possibly for academic reasons), clearly wants to leave the Big East for a more stable conference. The Mountaineers would, unlike TCU, provide another television market to explore, as well as great football and men’s basketball programs.

If either of those two teams isn’t willing to come to the Big 12, Louisville is also a viable option. But TCU and West Virginia would put another Band-Aid on the Big 12’s wounds and keep the conference around a bit longer.

Oklahoma’s recent demands for a new Big 12 commissioner and new rules regarding the Longhorn Network (which may be responsible for this whole conference realignment mess in the first place) could be problematic. But the Sooners lost all their leverage when joining the Pac-12 was eliminated as a possible destination. Problem solved.

The ACC is also a potential landing spot for Texas. It’s handled this conference realignment chaos beautifully by realizing it’s not a football powerhouse and playing to its strength: basketball. Look for Connecticut, whose men’s basketball team just won a national title, to join Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the ACC, along with Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish have made it clear they want to stay independent in football, but the ACC would be their first choice if they gave it up. The ACC should let them keep their TV deal with NBC, especially since Notre Dame meets its academic standards.

Texas is beginning to look more and more like Notre Dame now that it has its own network. And, like the Fighting Irish, the Longhorns could go independent. It would make scheduling difficult, especially for teams playing Olympic sports. So, like Notre Dame and the Big East, Texas would likely have to join a conference for its non-football squads to compete in anyway.

Only 24 hours ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Texas was going to the Pac-12. That’s no longer the case, but such is the nature of conference realignment. Just when you’ve finished packing your bags, you find out you’re not going anywhere.

You’re welcome, Mack.

Printed September 22, 2011 as: Big 12 to remain intact, Pac-12 says no to expansion

Texas and Oklahoma fans form a divide at the Cotton Bowl in last yearÂ’s Red River Rivalry. The annual game in Dallas could end if the Sooners leave the Big 12.

Photo Credit: Corey Leamon | Daily Texan Staff

At some point, Texas A&M seems destined to end up in the Southeastern Conference, whether Baylor or any other member of the Big 12 likes it or not.

Then the focus will turn to Oklahoma. The Sooners leadership, clearly feeling a bit left out with the Aggies and their rivals at Texas hogging all realignment spotlight, have made it clear that they’re not about to be “wallflowers” in this high-stakes game of musical chairs.

After that, maybe West Virginia will be up for grabs. The SEC could use the Mountaineers to provide some eastern balance to Texas A&M. Or Missouri. Still hoping for the Big Ten to come calling, maybe the Tigers will “settle” for the SEC.

Last year, after the Big Ten added Nebraska and the Pac-10 grew by only two, adding Colorado and Utah, many in major college football let out a collective sigh of relief. The seismic shift many felt was on its way, and not good for the game, did not happen.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s plan for a 16-team league that stretched for the Pacific Northwest to southeast Texas did not come to fruition and spark other changes to major college football’s landscape.

But what Scott said at the time turns out to be right. The superconference wasn’t dead, he predicted. It was simply being put on hold.

Instead of a giant leap toward further consolidation of power and money, major college football is getting there through with a series of agonizing half-steps and missteps.

Change isn’t coming too fast. The process of conference realignment is actually happening too slowly.

The Big 12 is being whittled into extinction. The Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conferences are twisting in uncertainty, wondering whether their teams are the next targets for the SEC or even the Big Ten.

Baylor and the other ugly ducklings in the Big 12 such as Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State are facing the possible downgrading of their athletic programs. What if there are no spots left in BCS automatic-qualifying conferences for them?

Just go ask SMU, which currently resides in Conference USA and has been practically begging for an invite to the Big 12, how important it is to live in the right neighborhood.

“College athletics looks more like Wall Street than a group of institutions of higher learning,” former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

“I don’t know what’s going through the minds of people already having success and wanting to get bigger. Bigger is not necessarily better.”

Tranghese’s analogy to Wall Street couldn’t have been more perfect to explain what motivates athletic conferences to grow.

But at this point we’d all be better off if they just got there already — because this trip is excruciating.