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As Conference Expansion Turns: Texas Turns Down Pac-10; Big 12 Survives

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Just a few days ago it looked like Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were all headed to the Pac-10, basically killing what's left of the Big 12. Then Texas A&M started getting into serious negotiations with the SEC, and reports suggested that the Aggies were headed there instead of west with its Big 12 South counterparts. Finally, today this entire plan came crashing down and the Big 12 got up out of its death bed and walked out of the hospital ready to move forward.

The quick change from death to life for the Big 12 all came about because of a last-ditch effort to save the conference based on a new TV deal that will serve as a raise in pay for the 10 remaining schools, especially at the top with Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

According to sources familiar with the deal, Texas stands to earn between $20 million and $25 million in television revenue, including money from its own network. The UT network figures to generate between $3 million and $5 million, according to sources.

According to sources, the deal will mean more money for Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, who all stand receive $20 million from the new deal. The other seven schools in the Big 12 would make between $14 million and $17 million, but would nearly double what they currently receive in TV revenue (roughly $7 million to $9 million).

Because Texas has already decided to get on board with this new plan and forge ahead as one of 10 members of the Big 12, it is believed Oklahoma and Texas A&M will follow suit. Although an imbalanced pay scale still exists, giving more power to the top schools like Texas, OU and A&M, it's not like the rest of the Big 12 has much of a choice. Just days ago schools like Kansas and Missouri were facing the prospect of having to join the Mountain West or another non-BCS conference (right now). Now, however, they are going to make more money and remain in the Big 12.

What all of this means is that, right now, the Big Ten has 12 schools, the Big 12 has 10, and the Pac-10 has 11. Confusing names of the conferences aside, the Big 12's survival likely means that expansion or realignment on a drastic level is unlikely. The Pac-10 is expected to add a 12th school, with the top candidate now being Utah. Although their dream of creating a super conference is now dead, adding a 12th member will allow the Pac-10 to have a conference championship game. The conference will also likely launch their own network, which will generate a sizable amount of revenue if it comes even close to the level of success the Big Ten Network has achieved.

For the Big 12, it looks like they will stick with 10 teams for the time being. The loss of Nebraska and Colorado didn't damage the value of their TV deal very much, and with two less shares to go around, teams actually will receive more money. There will be no more conference championship game as long as there are only 10 teams in the conference (NCAA rules state that 12 teams are needed to stage a title game), but I don't think that's a very big issue considering nobody thought the Big 12 would be around for that to even be a concern.

It's still possible that the Big Ten could expand beyond 12 teams, but the consensus is that Notre Dame would have to join next for there to be further changes. Since super conferences aren't on the horizon like originally thought, there really isn't any serious pressure on Notre Dame to give up its independent status. Really the only way the Big Ten could get Notre Dame to join at this point is by raiding the Big East of its top schools. That wouldn't affect Notre Dame for football, but for all of their other sports it would pose a problem, potentially forcing the Fighting Irish into a move. I don't think that will happen, though, because I don't believe adding four more teams would generate enough revenue to make it worthwhile. Sure, it'd be nice to add Notre Dame, but since conferences aren't all moving to have 16 teams now, it would seem like adding teams just for the sake of adding teams.

I have to say, as a college sports fan I am very pleased with this news about the Big 12. I honestly felt bad for schools like Missouri and Kansas, which would have been left homeless had the Pac-16 become a reality, and I really didn't see the appeal of a bunch of super conferences. All along I was hoping the Big Ten would add only three teams at the most, but my preference was just getting to 12. I would be for going to 14 if it meant that Notre Dame was on board, but I am more than content with going forward with just Nebraska as a new face in the conference.