Is the Big 12 at the Beginning of the End?

Marlin TerryContributor IJune 9, 2010

Wednesday could be the day that the Big 12 begins to collapse, and the entire college football landscape could change as we know it.

According to's Chip Brown, the University of Colorado is holding meetings Tuesday night to discuss the legality of leaving the Big 12 as early as Wednesday, most likely in an effort to bolt to the Pac-10.

After months of rumor and speculation, the first shot in conference realignment is about to be fired out of Boulder.

The Big 12 broke from conference meetings late last week amid rumors of the Big Ten and Pac-10 eyeing a few of their teams in an effort to widen their conference footprint and expand their television viewership.

Looking to secure the stability of the conference, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe asked each university to pledge its allegiance to the conference. Missouri, Nebraska, and Colorado were the only three schools to not give their commitments.

The three schools were given until mid-June to commit. It appears that Missouri and Nebraska are waiting to see if they will receive invitations to join the Big Ten before they give their pledges to the Big 12.

For Colorado, though, the wait for their conference invitation could be over.

About the time that the Big 12 was done with their conference meetings at the end of last week, Brown also reported that the Pac-10 was getting ready to formally invite six schools from the Big 12, including Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado. Since that rumor leaked, some Texas legislators with Baylor ties have gone into full-blown PR mode, attempting to get Baylor an invitation in place of Colorado.

After Tuesday's news, it looks like Colorado has usurped those attempts.

If the Big 12 only loses Colorado, it will most likely just look to replace the Buffaloes with another university. Even if Colorado and Missouri take their football and large television markets elsewhere, it is still possible that Beebe can hold the Big 12 together by replacing them with a Utah or BYU.

Any exodus that includes Nebraska, though, and you can pretty much put the nail in the coffin for the Big 12. 

The Cornhuskers are the only real program in the Big 12 North with any kind of national clout. Although they have been down lately, they aren't that far removed from the college football mountaintop.

Texas and Oklahoma need a northern team to be consistently great to bring balance to the conference. More importantly, the conference needs a northern school to challenge the southern powers to give the Big 12 more national legitimacy for their upcoming television contract negotiations. Nebraska is the most likely and attractive candidate.

But the Cornhuskers are sick of Texas and a conference that they once owned. The Cornhuskers ruled college football at the time the Big 12 was formed. But the University of Texas came in, along with the other Texas universities, and started shaking things up. Gone were partial qualifiers. Revenue started being distributed according to television appearances, where Texas happens to prosper most.

So if Nebraska gets its way, the Big Ten will come calling soon. Many believe that a Big Ten invitation hinges on whether or not Notre Dame accepts their invitation to the conference.

A Notre Dame commitment could halt the Big Ten's expansion plans, leaving both Nebraska and Missouri high and dry and stuck in the Big 12. But if Notre Dame chooses to stay independent, the Big Ten could invite one or both of the Big 12 schools to their conference.

Missouri and Nebraska are still on the clock as they wait on their invitations from the Big Ten. If the invitations come, or if their given deadlines pass without a commitment to the Big 12, the five other universities invited to the Pac-10 will most likely accept and leave the Big 12 in shambles.