As many of you know, the news that the Pac-10 was planning to invite six Big XII teams to join the conference was leaked on Thursday by Texas writer Chip Brown. The rumors had been floated before, but this time there seemed to be more than just innuendo. The information contained in Brown's story was important, but the timing of it was the interesting part.
Word of Pac-10 expansion leaked in the early afternoon on Thursday. At the same time, the Big XII was having their annual meeting. All the Big XII teams were gathered together, with a press conference called for later in the day on Thursday. Shortly before the press conference, word of the Pac-10 making a move surfaced, sending the Big XII into panic mode. What happened next can only be describe as the ultimate game of "Do you like me? Check yes or no". The Big XII asked all of its members to pledge their solidarity to the conference in a show of unity in an attempt to quell the rumors. Problem was, Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado all reportedly checked "maybe". The press conference was canceled and the meetings ended without a clear resolution.
What resulted from the Big XII meetings was a deadline for the schools that didn't pledge allegiance to the conference to voice their intentions. The deadline is June 11th, giving them all of this week to calculate the next move. This gave the Pac-10 a window of opportunity to make a move. On Sunday, Scott finally addressed the rumors, announcing that the Pac-10 schools had given him unanimous authority to move forward with expansion. While the grandiose expansion plans of the Pac-10 appear to hinge on the actions of Nebraska, Larry Scott is waging a full fledged media war in an attempt to get his way.
The Big XII, and its survival, is the key to expansion for the Pac-10. By floating that the Pac-10 wants to take a bite out of the Big XII, it creates doubt in the minds of the rest of the schools in the conference. If Nebraska leaves, so does Texas and vice-versa. Either scenario places the conference in a precarious position. By creating doubt that Texas will stick around, Larry Scott may just be able to force Nebraska to jump to the Big Ten for fear of being left out in the cold. If Nebraska goes, the Big XII becomes completely vulnerable, allowing Scott to make his move. The structure of major conferences in the NCAA all hinges on Nebraska and Texas, with the Pac-10 attempting to play the two against each other. Its a risky move, but one that may actually work.
Leaking the expansion rumors during the middle of the Big XII meetings, and the day of the canceled press conference, was a shrewd media decision. The continued media onslaught throughout the weekend, and presumably all of this week, allows the conference to create a buzz in their own fanbase, but most importantly in the fanbases of the possible expansion candidates. If the constant barrage is enough to nudge Nebraska toward the Big Ten, an expansion that includes the Texas and Oklahoma schools becomes a realistic idea for the Pac-10. The use of the media this week has been well thought out, with a direct purpose in mind. Whether it worked or not remains to be seen.
For more expansion news and updates, check out SBNation's expansion storystream.