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CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT: Pac-12 Officially Declines Expansion (For Now?)

Ever since the Pac-10 took the bold step a little over a year ago of pursuing roughly half the Big 12 in an effort to expand to 16 teams -- an effort that eventually resulted in Colorado and Utah moving and joining the Pac-12 -- the conference has been linked to just about every potential realignment scenario as Dan Beebe's league inches ever closer to its inevitable demise.

It's been widely presumed (and reported) that at least Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are headed to the Pac-12, and probably also Texas and Texas Tech, wherein the Pac-12 would become the country's first BCS automatic qualifier superconference with 16 teams.

This, apparently, comes as news to the Pac-12. The conference issued the following statement tonight:

In light of the widespread speculation about potential scenarios for Conference re-alignment, the Pac-12 Presidents and Chancellors have affirmed their decision to remain a 12-team conference. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said, "after careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference. While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve. With new landmark TV agreements and plans to launch our innovative television networks, we are going to focus solely on these great assets, our strong heritage and the bright future in front of us."

To say this statement comes as a surprise is putting it mildly. Like most, I have a hard time believing the Pac-12 is really all the way out of the realignment game. But reading between the lines, it appears Scott is drawing a very public line in the sand: If you want to join the Pac-12, you're going to play by the Pac-12's rules. (Looking your way, Texas.)

There will be no negotiating revenue shares with separate broadcast entities. There will be no usurpation of power. Either you fall in line, or we'll manage just fine without you.

Honestly, the more I've thought about it, the less attracted I've become to the idea of a 16-team conference. I don't often agree with Jim Walden, but I did tonight -- I don't trust Texas. The Longhorns will always be about themselves, and one of the things that I think has made the Pac-10/12 great is the stability over the years. Nobody has left the conference since the conference that would become the Pac-8 was formed in 1964. Arizona and Arizona State joined 14 years later, and Utah and Colorado joined 30-plus years after that.

The conference is a model of stability. You could say that hasn't always been a good thing because the conference hasn't been as aggressive as it could have been in the past, but in this case, I think leaning toward stability is wise. The ACC is panicking, so it struck first. The Big East is now panicking. The Big 12 is on the verge of either collapse or becoming some kind of zombie conference that will add a team or two that ultimately lowers its overall profile just to stay alive.

All the while, the Pac-12 just sits back and watches the carnage with everything it already wants in hand -- a football championship, an enormous TV contract, its own digital media network. Perhaps not taking on the football properties of Oklahoma and Texas puts the conference in a slightly weaker position a decade from now in media rights negotiations, but if that's the price to pay for not getting used like a cheap tramp by Texas until the Longhorns find a better deal, I'm all for patience.

Utah and Colorado want to be here for the long haul. The Longhorns' history says they're merely mercenaries. For now, I think Scott's strategy to wait it out is a good one. He holds all the cards, and he knows it.


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