Pac-12 Expansion Isn't Dead, Just On Snooze

Conference realignment seems to be cooling back down now that the Pac-12 closed the doors. But that doesn't mean it's over forever for the best of the west.

The Pac-12 will always be tempted by expansion, especially if new television deals from the other conferences start accumulating more aggregate revenue for its members. Right now there's no impetus to add new members. The Pac-12 TV contract reigns supreme. Everyone has all the money they want with equal revenue sharing rules in effect. No one wants to upset the balance quite yet.

Larry Scott discussed how the conference was never really close to additional expansion, as Oklahoma could only come along with Texas, that Oklahoma couldn't come on their own, and Texas was never coming close to backing off their demands for keeping the Longhorn Network the way it is. So all this talk about the Pac-16 was just talk. Oklahoma claims that they were just leveraging the Pac-12, which Scott dismissed cheerfully because Oklahoma is a sweet little kid that just needs to do some growing before they're ready to drag Texas along with them to a Pac-16.

And the Pac-12 will have to reconsider things themselves. The Big Ten might not be willing to stand pat at 12 schools. The ACC is already teetering at 14 and beyond, and the SEC stands at an odd 13, possibly 14 if Missouri jettisons the faltering Big 12/9. All those schools figure to cash in on the next round of negotiations, and by then the Pac-12 would thusly look to try out more expansion to stay up in the college arms race.

Oklahoma probably won't stop exploring other options. The Big 12 appears to be moving toward building Berlin Walls on the conference, and we all know why people build walls. Six year deals that rob universities of their autonomy? Texas will do just fine even if they have to make concessions. Oklahoma is trapped unless they're willing to sacrifice Oklahoma State (who are practically imprisoned). And the conference will be looking to expand to include TCU or BYU or Rice, schools that were just recently barely scratching midmajor profiles. Seems like a truly healthy relationship for everyone involved.

Texas wasn't willing to give up the Longhorn Network to join the Pac-12, so they'll have to learn whether the Longhorn Network will be worth it in a conference full of members that probably despise its existence. The Horns are trying to lock teams into the Big 12 to make it all work. But it's not likely that it'll be enough to keep them together for too long. Texas might be the biggest squad in the heartland, but the more teams get courted by other major conferences, the harder it'll be to keep them together. 

Then the Texas and Oklahoma schools may have to reconsider looking back to the Pac, because it's likely their profile and clout could be diminished.  If the LHN doesn't work and if the Big 12 can't stitch things back up, then everyone could end up going their own separate ways, and those schools will be scrambling for a home.

And Scott can bring them in on his terms and the terms of the other 12 schools. Equal revenue sharing, one umbrella of regional networks, and consolidating the LHN. It would be the ultimate victory for the Pac-12 if Scott could get Texas to concede everything.

It's still a victory if Texas and Oklahoma do manage to keep the Big 12 together, because it's unlikely they'd fit quite as well into a Pac-12 structure. The rest of their conference mates are too geographically remote to really regain the sense of rivalry that was part of the SWC/Big 8/Big 12 tradition. Sure, there would've been some fun Oregon-Texas or USC-Oklahoma matchups to look forward to every year, but the conference might just have been a bit sterile if it worked out like that. Expansion just might not be worth it for everyone involved. 

So for probably the next half-decade, and maybe even longer than that, we'll be living in a Pac-12 world. And that's cool. Super conferences for college football might be the way the world's going, but we can turn the world a little slower to get there.

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