Intrigue abounded last week as, in an attempt to preempt the Big Ten's much publicized expansion plans, the Pac-10 accepted the University of Colorado into league membership. This was expected to be the first domino to fall, setting off a chain reaction that would forever alter the landscape of college Football. Indeed, within a few days the University of Nebraska had joined the Big Ten and Boise State had moved to the Mounain West Conference. By Friday afternoon, it appeared that the Big XII was on the brink of Armageddon.
Perhaps bigger news than the demise of the Big XII, especially for those on the West Coast and those in Big Ten country (such as me), was what would be coming next: the "Pac-16" superconference. Pac-10 commish Larry Scott, in a swift and shrewd move, was set to one-up the Big Ten's expansion by adding up to five additional teams including elite programs in the Universities of Texas and Oklahoma, as well as Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and others. The Big Ten's addition of a historical superpower who appear poised to return to their former glory, not to mention the addition of a much-desired conference championship game, would be completely overshadowed by the creation of what would truly be a juggernaut of a conference. Those sneaky west coasters!
However, further moves were put on indefinite hold today as the Big XII effectively circled the wagons and managed to keep the remaining ten members together. This is bad news for the Pac-10 and great news for the Big Ten: the former's expansion has stalled with the addition of a very mediocre team which adds nothing to conference prestige, and the latter has added a solid team and will be able to silence critics who complain about its teams not having as difficult a path to bowl season now that a championship game will be installed following the 2010 season. Not only that, but the Big Ten will finally no longer award shared conference titles, which is something I have never liked very much.
To summarize: Big Ten: 1, Pac-10: 0.
The non-BCS Mountain West Conference has come out of this looking good as well. That group, which already included several formidable teams in BYU, Utah, and TCU, now also includes Boise State, the plucky giant-killers. Some are saying that this will help them to finally become an automatic-qualifying BCS conference, which would help to quell some of the perennial controversy surrounding very strong teams from "mid-major" non-BCS conferences, such as Boise State and Utah over the past few seasons.
Now we just need to figure out what these conferences should be called. Pretty much everyone has been making fun of the Big Ten since it added its eleventh team--what will happen now that we have 11 teams in the Pac-10, 10 teams in the Big XII, and 12 teams in the Big Ten?
This first round of madness has left the Big Ten in a great position, helped to bolster the MWC, and given the Pac-10 another Arizona Wildcats team. I like how things have played out so far. Until the next round of conference shuffling, which appears not to be on the horizon for now, let's hope Jim Delaney can stay ahead of the game.