"No one man should have all that power."
Apparently, Larry Scott is not going to dance around if the Texas Longhorns decide to start playing their games again. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News had this to say.
Sources: Pac-12 probably would take the Oklahoma schools even if Texas is off the table.
It's a significant change-up, because an earlier report stated that Texas was the ultimate prize. Texas's Olympic sports were a huge factor, something that neither Oklahoma nor Oklahoma State can offer. But this approach seems more football-motivated than anything else, and help get more eyeballs in on the formulating Pac-12 network.
But could it also mean the Pac-12 is reconsidering how they think of expansion? Or is the conference trying to catch the more willing fish to help lure in the more difficult targets? In other words, is Scott trying to hardball Texas by taking their fellow top tier football programs, sap the Longhorns of their best-quality opponents and biggest rival, and force them to chase and join the Pac-12 on the commissioner's terms?
It's bold and calculating. But in terms of pure business, it's the logical step to take. If Texas isn't going to come of its own accord, best to drain them of the power in their current conference to try and get them to crack. Either Scott gets one of the best programs in the country, or significantly strikes back at it for ditching in the eleventh hour the year before. Win-win for Scott, and Texas would be left stuck sapping on the strength of a devastated Big 12, or they would be his. Michael Corleone would have nodded approvingly at Scott's decision-making regarding expansion.
Texas is running out of game to play
Texas would probably have joined the original Pac-12 in a heartbeat last season if it wasn't for the TV ramifications. Keep in mind that Texas loves their precious little Longhorn Network, and they don't want to have to give any of it up. It's so bad that they floated some inane rumor of joining up with the ACC to their virtual media mouthpiece Chip Brown, most likely to leverage Scott into keeping the LHN in its current state. Scott's counterattack appears to be Wilner's above tweet, which has to horrify the Longhorns to no end and delight everyone in the Sooner State.
Clearly no one in the Pac-12 would be too happy if the LHN existed in its current form, because it would provide them with preferential treatment over the rest of the conference members. If USC doesn't get that treatment, Texas hardly deserves it either, and they'd have to renegotiate with ESPN to get entry into a decent conference.
The other big reason that Texas seemed to stand between the Pac-12 and further expansion were its extensive Olympic sports package, which could've brought the Conference of Champions so much success in almost every sports category imaginable. If you were to go through the list of everything that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were to offer long-term for the conference, the list would at first glance start and end at football.
It's not to say that the Sooners and Cowboys are starting to get a little better in both regards. Oklahoma has been building up solid finishes in the Director's Cup thanks to top five women's track and field and men's/women's gymnastics performances, and Oklahoma State has a strong wrestling tradition. But they're not Texas by a long shot.
Still, Larry Scott probably recognizes that conference expansion is entirely football-based, and that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are two top-25 caliber programs (and Oklahoma almost always top ten). Considering how Pac-12 teams struggle to stay ranked relative to other conferences, it'd be nice to have an additional presence that'll ensure at least secondary footing to the SEC in terms of relative power, which means stronger footholds for future negotiations.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State know that sticking with Texas is a losing proposition, and any deal they could strike with ESPN would still leave them playing second fiddle. They would be on equal footing in the Pac-12 and have excellent revenue sharing opportunities. Plus they know if they head out West, Texas would likely chase, and they'd get everything they want out of the arrangement.
Who are the final two teams?
With Oklahoma and Oklahoma State out, the Big 12 pretty much dies, and it's up to the remaining teams to figure out what to do. The Pac-14 immediately becomes very attractive, and the Kansas schools, Missouri, Texas Tech, and those Horns have to think about picking up that phone to Walnut Creek.
- The Kansas Jayhawks and Kansas St. Wildcats seem more willing to look at the Big East because of basketball reasons. K-State has had success in the past in football, but it's not enough to attract attention. Kansas might like the idea of dominating the Pac-12 Mountain division in hoops though, similar to how Oklahoma could enjoy relative preeminence (for now) in football.
- Missouri has had SEC overtures, so that's probably the direction they'd lean toward. Still, lot to like about the Tigers coming to the Pac-12. The problem is having a suitable partner--Kansas is the only school that'd apply. If Texas/Texas Tech doesn't work, Kansas-Missouri seems like the next best option for a Pac-16 to fall into place.
- If there's no Texas, it probably means no Texas Tech. The Red Raiders might be willing, but they need the Horns to dance here to have a suitable rival to partner with in the state.
- If Texas joins, it could be Tech, it could be someone else. It'd probably be Tech though.
The biggest question left (and why the Pac-14 will ultimately become the Pac-16: If Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the only two schools that come over in the next movement to expansion, how do you divide up the divisions into seven?
Pac-12 Pacific: Cal & Stanford, USC & UCLA, Oregon & OSU, Washington & WSU
Pac-12 Mountain: ASU & Arizona, Colorado & Utah, Oklahoma & Oklahoma State
Yeah, someone's not going to be happy here (and I doubt anyone in the Mountain Division will be particularly happy without an additional influx of teams) unless teams split up into divisions of eight and six. Someone would have to sacrifice in seven-team divisions, and I doubt that member will be easy to placate for further expansion.
It seems like the Pac-14 would have to be a VERY temporary solution, and would only be used as a bargaining chip for further expansion. Garnering the support of the Oklahoma schools could be enough to get Texas to seriously reconsider moving forward in joining the Pac-12, or at worst other teams.
But of course, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State still have to play their hand. Will they go for further expansion, or start playing both sides like Texas did last year and try to get the maximum possible self-benefit for their schools?
They'd better come to a decision soon, or Texas is about to get messed with. Hard.