The Pac-12 is right where they want to be as far as future conference expansion is concerned.
Imagine that several beautiful women are talking about leaving their boyfriends, which you have no connection with, to be with you. Assuming you’re single, would you deny their advances or a chance to talk to them?
Why, then, is Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott insisting that his conference is not actively seeking new members?
Amidst all the rumors that teams like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and even Texas are thinking about exploring their options outside of the Big 12 conference, it would seem that a conference like the Pac-12 would jump at the chance to converse with officials at those schools. Super-conferences are the future of college football, and it would seem absurd that any conference wouldn’t love the chance to be the first to become one.
Of all the conferences poised to add new members, the Pac-12 has done the best job of any. Unlike the SEC, it isn't getting on anyone’s bad side by actively pursuing new members. However, unlike the Big Ten, teams are still dropping the line for the Pac-12 to bite. In a time of such uncertainty, the conference gets to enjoy the best of both worlds: being watchful and indecisive, yet still wanted.
So should we believe Larry Scott when he says that he thinks 12 is a good number? The answer, quite simply, is absolutely not.
The Pac-12 wants more than 12 teams. All the talk about television deals and divisions and scheduling being made difficult with more teams is just that: talk. It just doesn't want to be the one that causes the dominoes to begin to fall. Luckily for the Pac-12, it doesn't have to be and can still get what it wants.
The best possible destination for the Oklahoma schools is the Pac-12. The Pac-12 knows that, and the Big 12 knows that. The Big 12 also knows that as soon as Baylor gives up the fight to keep Texas A&M out of the SEC, the floodgates will be opened. Once Texas A&M is in the SEC, a major conference will have broken the 12-team mold that both conferences and individual schools are claiming suits them.
Oklahoma won’t admit it now, but it knows that a 16-team conference won’t severely affect its revenue stream. In fact, with the possibility of a playoff far greater with several 16-team conferences, its revenue stream would probably increase.
The Pac-12 is doing the right thing by staying quiet about the possibility of expansion, though. If and when it does take teams, it will almost undoubtedly be from the Big 12. Although not directly responsible, the Pac-12 will have had a large impact on the demise of the Big 12 conference. It isn’t necessary or smart to go out and essentially say, “We want to make moves that will destroy the Big 12” when it is going to happen regardless.
The Pac-12 knows that it will need to get 16 members to remain relevant in college football in the future. It just doesn’t want to look like the bad guy in getting its teams. Thanks to the SEC and Baylor’s beef with Texas A&M, it won’t have to.
It will be the rare case in college football where someone gets to have their cake and eat it too.