The Pac-10 is going to need a new name


The Pacific 10 Conference is about to get bigger — probably much bigger — in the wake of what was reported Wednesday as Nebraska’s soon-to-be-announced move to the Big Ten Conference.

Nebraska’s leaving the Big 12 Conference set off a chain reaction that is likely to result in Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Colorado heading west in what would be the largest league in major college sports.

Pac-10 Conference officials declined to be interviewed about the deal because of the sensitive nature of negotiations, but a source with knowledge of the plan said, “It’s locked and loaded.”

Texas, according to the website and other sources, has already informed its football coaches that the Longhorns are headed to the Pac-10.

The new formation would go into effect in the fall of 2012 with the schools split into eight-team divisions. The West Division probably would be a throwback to the old Pac-8: USC, UCLA, California, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State and Washington.

Arizona and Arizona State, which joined the league in 1978, would join the six Big 12 newcomers. In football, the division leaders would meet in a conference championship game.

Each team could play all seven teams in its division — keeping traditional rivalries intact — with two cross-over games.

The Rose Bowl is still obligated to take the champion of the Big Ten and Pac-10, no matter the configuration.

Commissioner Larry Scott, hired last year to mine new revenue streams, may have hit the mother lode. He could take his new 16-school package to the bargaining table early next year and start renegotiating the league’s broadcast contracts, which expire in 2011-12.

The money model is the success of the Big Ten Network, which has allowed the conference to offer its members an estimated $20 million per season — about double what Pac-10 schools receive. The Southeastern Conference last week announced distribution of $17.3 million to each school.

Of course, as fast as all these expansion plans came together, they could fall apart. There are reports the Big Ten has offered Notre Dame one last chance at becoming its 12th member, and if the Fighting Irish say yes then the offer to Nebraska probably will be yanked off the table.

There are also reports that Texas legislators might demand that Baylor be included in any expansion involving Texas. If that happens, the Pac-10 could scale back its plans to 12 teams and court Colorado and one other school, perhaps Utah, out of the Mountain West Conference.

Other dominoes may fall. The Big Ten could add Nebraska and stop at 12 schools, or react to the Pac-10 move by going further to 16 teams.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said at April’s Bowl Championship Series meetings that he was not going to stand back and let any conference become bigger and stronger than his powerhouse.

The SEC could raid the Atlantic Coast Conference, the remaining six schools from the Big 12 could align with teams from the Big East, and college football could end up with four, 16-team conferences.

And then there’s the Mountain West, which has long sought automatic-qualifier status in the BCS. It could bolster its position by adding Big 12 leftovers.

However it all turns out, college football’s foundation shook Wednesday — and the temblor might only be a precursor to the Big One.