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Will Texas A&M Cause the Big 12's Extinction?


Buckle up college football fans. Texas A&M’s decision to leave the Big 12 could spur another round of realignment.

Needless to say, with Texas A&M’s departure, the Big 12 is hanging on by a thread. The conference could survive with nine teams, but is aggressively pursuing expansion.

The key to the future of the Big 12 rests with Oklahoma and Texas. As long as these two teams stick together, the Big 12 will exist. If one school gets unhappy? Get ready for change.

Cougar Town?

The Big 12 is courting BYU, which would be a great fit as the conference’s 10th member. Getting BYU could ease the concerns of Oklahoma and Texas about the Big 12’s future – especially since the Cougars could be an annual top 25 team.

However, the Cougars decided to go Independent after the 2010 season. Would BYU want to ditch their Independence that quickly? With an automatic bid into the BCS, it would be hard for BYU to turn the Big 12 down.

One positive for BYU joining the Big 12 would that it could continue to use its network – BYUtv – similar to how Texas is using the Longhorn Network. The Cougars would also expand the Big 12’s geographic reach and would add a different market. BYU is also an attractive television partner for the Big 12’s current deals.

If the conference strikes out on BYU, there aren’t many other options on the board.

Notre Dame? No way. Arkansas? Forget about it. Pittsburgh? Hard to see without Notre Dame joining.

Houston, SMU and Air Force have been mentioned, but none bring the national credibility that BYU could. The Big 12 hasn’t ruled going back to 12 teams, but 10 seems more likely – for now.

Sooner Rather Than Later

Although the Big 12 is trying to add BYU, the conference’s future still hinges on what Texas and Oklahoma want to do.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe should be placing daily calls to Norman and Austin, just to be sure everyone is on the same page – right?

While Oklahoma and Texas have pledged their support for the Big 12, things could get interesting if the expansion agenda does not go according to plan.

If Oklahoma or Texas decides to bolt, say goodbye to the Big 12 – and hello to the first super conference.

PAC Your Bags

If the Pac-16 becomes a reality, expect Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to head west with Texas and Oklahoma.

While Beebe is just trying to keep his conference together, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is ready to pounce.

Last summer, Scott nearly created college football’s first super conference, with Texas and Oklahoma part of a Big 12 contingent for the Pac-16.

With all of the uncertainty and turmoil facing the Big 12, Scott released a statement earlier this week, which detailed the Pac-12’s current stance on expansion:

"Our sole focus has been on developing the tremendous opportunities we have as a new, 12-team Conference and we have no current plans to expand the Pac-12,” Scott said. However, I have made clear my vision that the health, stability and future of college athletics will likely include further consolidation and re-alignment. While I can not predict if and when this might make sense for us, we will listen to and evaluate any scenario that would benefit our member institutions, our student-athletes and our fans."

Here are the key words in that statement: no current plans. And you can bet Scott is closely monitoring things.

If Oklahoma or Texas gets a little restless, you can bet Scott will be on the plane to Norman and Austin with invites in hand.

Think this is crazy? Think again. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, who's been covering Texas football for a long time, believes the Pac-16 will become a reality in October.

If the Pac-12 becomes the Pac-16, expect the SEC and Big Ten to follow with a 16-team conference shortly after.

Could the era of super conferences be right around the corner for college football? For fans not crazy about the idea of 16-team conferences, you better root for the Big 12 to bring in BYU and prevent the conference from going extinct.

The Big 12 is in trouble, but it’s not too late to save it. However, Oklahoma and Texas hold all of the cards. If both schools want to make the Big 12 work, it will survive. Should either school start looking west, the Big 12 will become extinct and there will be a lot of scrambling between the rest of the teams in the conference to find a home.

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