TCU, Big 12 could be caught in midst of national shake-up

Posted Sunday, Sep. 18, 2011  comments  Print Reprints
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PASADENA, Calif. -- As matters heat up on the conference realignment front, where Big East members Pittsburgh and Syracuse have applied to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Saturday that a decision to exceed 12 teams in another league could trigger a response by his conference.

An expanded Pac-12 is viewed as the potential home of Big 12 members Texas and Oklahoma, both of which have regents meetings scheduled Monday to take action in regard to conference alignment.

"I'd like to think over the last couple of years we've established we're going to be at the forefront of changes in the college landscape," said Scott, whose league added Colorado and Utah as members last summer and almost reeled in another foursome of Big 12 schools -- Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech -- before that group opted to remain in the Big 12.

"I certainly anticipated this day would come when there was further realignment... I'm surprised at the pace of the destabilization in other conferences."

But it is happening, with the Big 12 at the epicenter of what could be a national shake-up that touches multiple leagues and impacts TCU, which joins the Big East starting in 2012-13

"I'm never surprised by anything in college athletics today," TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said. "There are so many moves across the board."

Del Conte declined to speculate on how the changes would affect TCU, but he said he felt good about the quality of the athletic program and where it fits in the college landscape.

"All these things are out of our control right now," he said. "We feel great where we're at."

The ACC announced Sunday that it will add Pitt and Syracuse, a move that gives the ACC a 14-team league and likely will hasten the move toward 16-team superconferences. That could trigger raids on teams from the Big East and the Big 12.

In a written statement, Big East commissioner John Marinatto said he was disappointed about the developments.

"I continue to believe the Big East Conference is well positioned for the future and that the events of the past 24 hours will unify our membership," he said.

"We have been working steadily to solidify and strengthen the Big East Conference and position us for our upcoming TV negotiations and I am confident that we will again emerge from this situation and remain strong."

The Southeastern Conference already has extended a conditional invitation to Texas A&M to become its 13th member, pending waivers of legal claims by Baylor and other Big 12 schools related to the move.

The Big 12's instability has put the same four-school group that considered Pac-12 membership last summer back on Scott's radar screen.

Multiple Big 12 sources have said the Pac-12 is Oklahoma's preferred destination. Texas officials have expressed a preference for remaining in the Big 12, where they could keep their 20-year, $300 million contract with ESPN for the Longhorn Network.

But Texas officials have begun exploring other options in the past week. Sources with knowledge of the situation have identified the ACC and Pac-12 as two of those options. Texas President Bill Powers said Saturday that he would have no comment until the realignment issue is settled.

Scott gave strong indications Saturday that his conference would be willing to work with expansion candidates, saying the Pac-12 can offer "a lot of flexibility and a lot of creativity" to its divisional alignments, including the possibility of four-team pods -- in lieu of divisions -- if it becomes a 16-member league.

Scott also expressed hope that the Pac-12's existing relationship with ESPN would be helpful in tweaking the Longhorn Network to fit under the league's existing structure of regional networks if Texas became a Pac-12 member.

Under Pac-12 rules, members play their non-conference games in the first three weeks of the season.

That means the Texas-OU game would have to be played in September if only one of the two schools joined the league. If both joined the Pac-12, the game could continue as a conference game during October at the Cotton Bowl.

Staff writer Stefan Stevenson contributed to this report.

Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

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