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Nebraska Set To Leave Big 12, Join Big Ten?

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The Tom Izzo rumors that emerged late this afternoon were quite large, but they pale in comparison to rumors dealing with conference expansion. Ever since the Big Ten announced it would look into expanding, there has been a firestorm of rumors surrounding which teams might join. These rumors originally just dealt with the Big Ten but quickly expanded (no pun intended) to other conferences around the country.

In recent weeks the rumors have gone into overdrive, suggesting that the Pac-10 is about to make a move that would shake up the world of college sports. So far no rumor has turned out to be true (if they all had been true the Big Ten would have about 20 teams right now), but it looks like that could change in the next few days., the main source of all this recent expansion-related news, is now reporting that Nebraska is set to make a move to the Big Ten, leaving the Big 12 and possibly setting off the domino effect that will be the beginning of the end of that conference.

A source close to the Nebraska Board of Regents told the regents informally agreed Wednesday to move to the Big Ten and that a formal announcement Nebraska is leaving will come Friday.

Sources close to Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech have suggested to over the last week that if Nebraska leaves, the Big 12 can't be saved.

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds and president Williams Powers gathered UT coaches today at 2 p.m. CT to tell them they did everything they could to save the Big 12 but that they were unsuccessful.

Since that report came out, many others have emerged basically saying the same thing -- that Nebraska is leaving for the Big Ten and it could become official within a matter of days. I've had a hard time believing any rumor just because so many have turned out to be false in the past, but this one looks legit since so many other reports have seemingly confirmed that the Big Ten is about to go from 11 to 12 teams. Case in point:

A source close to the Nebraska program told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that athletic director Tom Osborne informed staff members within the past 24 hours that the Cornhuskers were going to make the move to the Big Ten conference.

Assuming Nebraska does leave for the Big Ten, the domino effect created will almost certainly be the demise of the Big 12. It sounds like the Big 12 was willing to stick together if they all could get on the same page, even with the rumors of Pac-10 invites essentially being in the mail to six Big 12 teams. Nebraska leaving would be the move that sets off all of the other moves, however.

Already it looks like Colorado may be set to accept an invitation to the Pac-10, and Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would likely follow suit. Texas is the biggest player in all of this conference expansion talk, and if they go, the other schools mentioned will quickly follow. What would be left of the Big 12 is Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Missouri. Only Missouri really has a realistic shot at joining one of the BCS conferences and not being left homeless, but even that might not be as likely as everyone thinks.

Missouri still appears to be waiting for an invitation from the Big Ten, according to multiple sources.

An athletic director with knowledge of the Big Ten said, "Missouri is getting cold shoulder from Big Ten."

If Missouri is left out of the Big Ten, it could be a sign that the conference is content with 12 teams. After all, Nebraska would bring a lot of added revenue to the Big Ten and allow for a conference championship game in football, and the best part is that the piece of the pie would only have to be divided up by one additional team. If the Big Ten were to start going wild like the Pac-10 and expand to 16 teams, then the pot would have to be split up with five more teams. Unless those teams bring in enough money to truly make all of the logistical issues worthwhile, the Big Ten may just figure adding Nebraska is enough.

The other possibility is that Nebraska is merely the first phase of expansion. The Big Ten could decide to add Nebraska and go from there. You can bet that they want Notre Dame to join, and if that were to happen then maybe a team like Missouri could come along for the ride to get the conference back to an even number. If Notre Dame decides to remain independent, however, I think the Big Ten will just call it a day and move forward as a 12-team conference. Adding teams just for the sake of adding teams is not good business, and the Big Ten realizes that.

Further expansion down the road will certainly be the cause of a lot of speculation, but for now, at least, it looks like we are getting close to being able to say, "Welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska."