The Pac-16?

As the Pac-10's spring meetings begin this weekend in San Francisco, rumors are swirling about the conference's potential expansion. Colorado AD Mike Bohn told the Boulder Daily Camera that the Pac-10 is on the verge of issuing invitations to Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. This comes after several smaller media outlets had similar reports.

In the meantime, the Big-12 Conference is holding its meetings in Kansas City this week, which have devolved into a complete frenzy. With news that Missouri and Nebraska could be headed to the Big-10, the Big-12 could wind up dissolving.

A proposed Pac-16 could put USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, the Oregon schools and the Washington schools in an 8-team western division. The six new schools would likely join Arizona and Arizona State in an eastern division, and an annual conference championship game would take place in football.

Can you imagine USC in the same conference as Texas and Oklahoma? That could make for some intense regular season football games, depending on how the schedule is structured.

All of this underscores what a desirable position the Pac-10 is in right now. For a conference that is often ignored in the East and in the South, it's refreshing to see the Pac-10 in a place of power. With college athletics on the verge of a virtual Armageddon, it appears that the Pac-10, Big-10, and SEC are the only three conferences that are both assured of the right to survive and the opportunity to expand.

This is largely because of geography. With schools in major markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Phoenix, the Pac-10 has the ability to create a quality TV network that universities want to be a part of.

So will this actually happen? While it's incredibly fun to talk about, I wouldn't bet on it. Expanding to 16 teams poses a slew of logistical problems, and there are serious questions from Pac-10 presidents about the academic credentials of some of the schools being considered.

A more probable scenario is that the Pac-10 will add two teams, with Colorado and Utah being the most likely new members. The Big-10 will probably add Missouri, Nebraska, and 1-2 schools from the Big East, with Rutgers, UConn, and Syracuse being among those discussed. At that point, the Big-12 will have lost three members, and will seek to replace them among a group of schools that could include TCU, SMU, BYU, UNLV, Houston, New Mexico, and Memphis.

At that point, rather than adding six Big-12 schools, the Pac-10 and Big-12 will enter into an alliance, and create some sort of western regional TV cable network. The alliance could also include some scheduling partnerships. While it's possible the Pac-10 is actually issuing the invitations to those six Big-12 schools, my guess is that only Colorado will accept right away. The Texas and Oklahoma schools will hold out until they are assured that the Big-12 will survive.


More by Phil Wallace:
USC fires Lane Kiffin
Hollywood Park back in the picture
HBO's Real Sports highlights Chivas USA's troubles
Don't get too excited about the Lakers' cap space
How Jim Buss ruined the Lakers
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