Let me make this first point very clear. I would love for Colorado to go to the Pac-10 and form the Pac-12 with Utah. It would be a great fit on many levels and ultimately, I think many Pac-10 fans would say that is the best option for expansion. I also don't believe going to the Mountain West is a slam dunk choice as their are plenty of reasons not to be excited with that proposal. Overall, though, I would sign up for both of those options over playing under the Big 12 South's rules. Call me scared of competition, call me crazy for leaving money on the table, I may be both but after all of this political positioning, it is no longer the same Pac-10 I was hoping the Buffs would be given the opportunity to join. This isn't an indictment on Texas, Oklahoma or members of the Big 12 South either. Texas is big time athletics and part of the reason the University of Colorado hasn't succeeded over the past few years is their inability to compete with big time athletic programs both financially and on the field. Getting lumped back into the Big 12 South directly instead of indirectly like we are in the North seems like a recipe for disaster. Sure, the "Texas'" political games make them an easy target for angered tirades but heck, Texas has the power and they know how to use it. But to me, that power would drive the Pac-16.
At first, like many of you, I was ecstatic at the thought of Colorado joining the Pac-10. I still would be happy if the Buffs ended up there but things have certainly changed. Over night, the Pac-10 has lost its luster. News of the Texas legislature trying to exclude Colorado and add Baylor to mix has foreshadowed what it might be like if Texas and the Big 12 South were to join the Pac-10.
For me, the excitement of joining the Pac-10 was to get away from Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Texas A&M: Universities who are in an arms race with facilities and boosters who can donate more money than Colorado can even fathom. We get excited over the mention of million dollar donor clubs forming, at Big 12 South schools that sort of commitment is the norm, it is the expectation and it is how they succeed.
Don't get me wrong, the Pac-10 is no "Little Sisters of the Poor" with schools like USC, UCLA , and Oregon having plenty of money. A few schools are not the strongest academically either but in my mind, the Pac-10 had a sense of pageantry, a sense of regalness that I think people in Boulder were trying to mold Colorado into. Beautiful campuses, strong academic institutions, a different attitude towards athletic excellence compared to the Big 12 South, etc. Of course, perception might not be reality as I shouldn't call myself a Pac-10 expert but from the outside looking in, the product seemed fresh, exciting, and to a different standard. It seemed like a place Colorado could succeed in with an influx of money and a strong west coast alumni base.
With the Big 12 South supposedly joining the Pac-16, if Notre Dame doesn't go to the Big Ten and if Nebraska and Missouri take the pending Big Ten offer (all "rumors" from one Chip Brown at orangebloods.com who I hadn't heard of until Friday night), I'd be good with going to the Mountain West. First off, I think Colorado won't be able to compete with the Big 12 South minus Baylor plus Colorado (I mean we haven't competed with the Big 12 North over the last five years, let alone the South). Colorado would still be in the same arms race. We potentially could be traveling to mostly Texas, not California, Oregon or Washington. Clearly, if Texas gets its way, they will be calling the shots on who is in what conference.
So I ask what does switching conferences with the Big 12 South get us? Sure, more money but can Colorado be competitive with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma? They aren't now so why would they be in the future?
I know Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and others look attractive to many people but I wonder what many of the Pac-10 schools are thinking today with all of the sound bites by the Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodd ("We did not start this," Dodds said. "If we need to finish it, we’ll finish it.") and the Texas legislature getting involved. I find it hard to believe the current Pac-10 schools want the Big 12 South coming into play. Sure many might say the competition would be great and envision OU/Texas playing USC/Oregon in the championship every year but what about Arizona, Arizona State, Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford? Do they really want this?
I can see it now, the Pac-16 will get a championship game and in the contract somewhere with Texas joining the conference, Jerry Jones will get them to put the championship game in Dallas at the new Cowboys stadium, where every sporting event seems to be going now a days. I really don't know what we did without that place before last year. No longer is the Pac-10 a West Coast jewel but part of big dollar Texas. I have no doubt that will be discussed if Texas is courted especially with all of this Baylor talk going down. Clearly the dollar is winning out in these discussions and the 100,000 seat stadium in Dallas is the next battle to be picked by the Big 12 South. Forget playing the game on the West Coast where fans would flock during the winter.
Again, from an outsider's perspective, Utah and Colorado seem like a great choice for the Pac-10 compared to dealing with the political positioning and power both on- and off-the-field. You gain two great television markets in Denver and Salt Lake City. You keep the conference relatively regionalized with Colorado being somewhat of an outlier but still a logical choice in terms of academic standards, attractive destination for travel, a very accessible campus close to Denver, etc. Plus you get a top 20 television market. You also don't water the conference down with 16 teams which keeps your current teams happy and challenging for a conference title every year. The current Pac-10 administration could dictate how Colorado and Utah comply with the conference. You make Colorado use the increased money from the television deal add in baseball, men's soccer, water polo, etc. To me, it makes more sense, keeps things relatively simple but accomplishes the main goal of getting a championship game, gaining two decent size television markets, keeping the conference's identity intact along with keeping the power where it should be. Add the Big 12 South, the power shifts. Ask Nebraska and the Big 12 North.
Of course, the Mountain West seems like a step down in the grand scheme of things but if they act right, the conference could be in a good position to turn in a pretty impressive lineup of teams which may result in an automatic bid of some sort. Off the top of my head:
Utah - (BCS player, Salt Lake City television market)
BYU - (has been strong athletically, helps with the Salt Lake television market, natural rivalry with Utah)
San Diego State - (southern California television market, could be swapped out potentially with another team)
UNLV - (Las Vegas television market, relatively solid basketball program, good place to host basketball conference championships)
TCU - (BCS player, surprising they aren't getting talked about in the Pac-16 formation, better than Baylor and probably Texas Tech)
SMU - (Dallas television market, seems like a program on the rise with a good amount of alumni support)
Colorado - (carries some historical prestige, Denver television market)
Colorado State - (helps with Denver television market, built in rivalry with Colorado)
Boise State - (BCS Player)
Kansas - (basketball powerhouse, might jet for a better basketball conference but they are in a tough spot geographically)
Kansas State (by now you are all saying this doesn't compare traveling wise to the Pac-10. Nothing will unless you are in the Pac 10 without the Big 12 South)
Houston (Baylor got picked over Houston, TCU and SMU to join the Pac-10. Still has me chuckling. Guess it helps to have some people in high places - Houston television market)
Gonzaga (how about enticing them to join as a basketball program, like a Georgetown who doesn't have a division one football team but still plays in the Big East)
Sure it's not the Big 12 or the Pac 10 but Colorado hasn't exactly lit up the Big 12 and won't light up the Pac-16. Maybe in the future but if the Mountain West can get a automatic football qualifier, that is a pretty solid lineup of teams who have played in BCS football games recently. Other sports like basketball might suffer but keeping Kansas, bringing in Gonzaga, developing Colorado, UNLV, Utah and BYU, it may work out.
It won't be as glitzy or as relevant but looking at the list above, their might be only three or four teams more irrelevant than Colorado right now athletically from a big sport perspective. Regardless, I don't want to be politically controlled by Texas or in an arms race financially with Oklahoma State.