Texas has declined an invitation from the Pac-10, and thus its neighbors Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M will stay put. This nixes the vaunted Pac-16 super-conference that we had heard so much about. Apparently, the Big 12 kept Texas by promising a greater share of revenue to more prominent schools and allowing Texas to create its own TV network.
I can't say I'm completely disappointed with this decision. While Pac-10 schools will lose out on millions that it could have earned with the Texas and Oklahoma teams, a 16-team super-conference seemed unwieldy. There was also a concern that the power in the Pac-10 would shift to Texas, which is exactly what happened in the Big-12, where the six southern schools control most of the policy decisions. That's one of the reasons why Nebraska left for the Big Ten.
Plus, I don't know too many West Coasters who were thrilled about the possibility of Texas and Oklahoma becoming Rose Bowl regulars. Does anyone really want to see a Nebraska-Oklahoma Rose Bowl? This isn't Big-8 country. Colorado was a good fit culturally, but the other schools weren't really.
With the addition of Colorado to the Pac-10, the conference now has a foothold in the Denver market. A Pac-10 TV network on cable providers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Portland, Denver, and most other West Coast markets is still extremely lucrative, and it will lead to a dramatic boost in revenue for Pac-10 schools.
So what's next for the Pac-10? Right now the conference has 11 schools, with Colorado set to join in 2012. The conference wants to get to 12 in order to host a conference championship game. With the Texas and Oklahoma schools out, that essentially leaves Utah as the most likely university to receive an invitation. The Salt Lake City market isn't enormous, but it's the No. 36 DMA in the nation with over 1 million people, and it will add more cable subscribers to the Pac-10 Network.
We've gone over expansion candidates before, and Utah makes the most sense from an academic and athletic perspective. The Utes have been a very competitive team in football and basketball in recent years, and Utah has an academic profile that works with the other Pac-10 schools. San Diego State and UNLV aren't good enough in football, and those markets would probably get the Pac-10 Network anyways. BYU is just as good athletically as Utah, but it doesn't fit academically. Boise State just joined the Mountain West, and I just don't see enough excitement for TCU.
With two new teams, the Pac-10 will likely change its name to the Pac-12 Conference. Although, I still prefer the name "Pac-West". A conference championship game would be played every year, likely rotating between Seattle and Phoenix until new football stadiums are built in Northern and Southern California. Also, the Big-12's new promises to Texas pretty much nix the idea of a Pac-10/Big-12 TV network, which I discussed a few weeks ago.
Overall, the Pac-10 is in much better shape today than it's ever been. Fifteen years ago, Colorado and Texas declined invitations to join the conference. Today, Colorado is a member of the conference, and a proud Texas program came extremely close to shaking the foundations of college football to play in it too. Pac-10 fans have to be pleased with the work new commissioner Larry Scott has done, and I look forward to seeing his next move.