So the Pacific 10 Conference, the only conference other than the Ivy that resists change the way most people resist eating creamed kale, is talking about expansion. After only 33 years, well, la-di-dah.
But we don't need to go into why this is a good or bad idea, because it's just the nature of the college business. The big ones long ago tired of eating the little ones, so they've moved up the food chain.
|Relatively new on the job, Larry Scott is already talking about adding to the Pac-10. (US Presswire)|
You think not? You think exaggeration run amok? Hah, I say! This is the next step in college sports -- the mega-large eating the large, and eventually turning on each other in a festival of fevered cannibalism that ends with Texas and Michigan smeared in barbecue sauce and prepped as blue-plate specials for North Carolina and Ohio State.
Or the other way around. Take your pick.
All we know is, the Pac-10 is casting its covetous eyes toward teams like Utah, Colorado and BYU. Maybe Fresno State or San Diego State. Maybe even Boise State, in case the conference thinks blue turf is the new black, and Chris Petersen is the new Pete Carroll.
This is part of new commissioner Larry Scott's mandate to modernize the conference, which is fancy talk for "catch up to the SEC in five years, or pay the price."
The Pac-10 used to be the gray old lady of college sports. It had UCLA basketball, which meant it had college basketball, and it had the Rose Bowl, which meant it had college football. So it only let in two new members in 45 years, and sat back and let the status quo be its friend.
But it was the only one. The Big Ten, its partner in conservatism, added Penn State. Elsewhere, it was ants on a dessert cart. The classic Southwest Conference -- the eight Texas schools plus Arkansas -- was obliterated, its members now part of four other equally volatile conferences. The ACC and SEC ate. The Big East ate a lot. And around them, the smaller conferences formed and re-formed, without ever getting much traction from those reformations.
It was dog-eat-cat, and this is the next wave.
The Pac-10 is also trying to catch up on the TV front, where it has been fairly well pounded by its deals with Fox and ESPN. Those two networks chunked over $43 million to the conference in 2008, while the Big Ten Network alone made $66 million for its members in the same year. Thus, Scott hired former Big 12 commissioner, BCS spokesman and Big Ten Network head Kevin Weiberg to be his majority whip.
But it is the expansion that has everyone's eye. As the Left Coast conference, its menu options are limited, and truth be told, Utah and BYU are the most obvious selections. This, of course, would force the Mountain West to grab Boise State and maybe one other WAC team, thus forcing the WAC to go after a Big Sky member or two.
And on down the line, except for one thing. If the Pac-10 takes Utah and BYU, the distance between the Mountain West and the BCS conferences would grow wider, and then TCU would want to find a way into the Big 12, so as not to be left holding the bag.
Or, if the Pac-10 grabbed Utah and Colorado, another rumor spinning about, the Big 12 would probably take TCU to keep its membership full, and now BYU is the last turkey in the shop.
Either way, Scott's move becomes the full certification of the BCS system and the death of the plucky small school. Boise State would advance itself up the ladder only to find that it lost ground to the ever-moving adults table, and look around to see that TCU isn't waiting around to welcome it, either.
And once that's done, the only thing left for the big conferences to eat are each other -- the way the ACC took a bite out of the Big East. It's a nature show, with reality TV overtones.
Oh, and Notre Dame? That little loophole will have been closed as well. The school's vulnerabilities as an independent are now greater than its strengths, and as soon as Comcast realizes that NBC isn't making nearly the money on the Irish that it used to, that special deal will be gone, too, and the only thing left will be the Big Ten. Or the Big East. Or the National Hockey League.
But we digress. Let the devouring begin. And you kids, stay clear of the knives and forks. This could be messy, and it will be bloody.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.