Contenders in the Pac-10 Expansion

A lot of fuss has been made about conference realignment recently, especially by me. The Big Ten said they are looking into it, and we already know what that means- welcome Missouri or Syracuse into the Big Ten. Add the Pac-10 to the conferences looking to expand. Their new commissioner has said it is something they are looking in to. Granted, they have in the past, but with all the money of a conference championship, and having the famed Rose Bowl in your conference, it only makes sense to expand and compete with the other big conferences. So who are the contenders to join the conference? Let’s take a look.

First, the Pac-10 has 5 sets of natural rivals. They are close to each other, hate each other and have a history. With that in mind, the big wigs in control are only going to offer admittance to the conference to schools who would come together and add to the natural rivalry. Keep in mind, the Pac-10 tried to get Texas after the demise of the Southwest conference, so geography means nothing here. And sticking with the Conference of Champions tag line means certain schools are just out. Also remember the strong academics and overall athletic programs the Pac-10 boasts. Getting an invite is no easy thing. I think there are 5 possible sets. Here they are, in order from no chance to likely.

5. Fresno State and San Jose State. Natural, close rivals. That’s about all they got going for them. Fresno State opens up more of the California market and gives them a big brand name, but does the Pac-10 need it? Fresno State also has an excellent baseball team that regularly competes for the title. But San Jose State offers little to nothing to the Pac-10. This duo is just the last ditch resort of everyone else turns them down.

4. Boise State and Idaho. Let’s be honest, Idaho doesn’t meet a single criteria for the Pac-10. Boise State has absolutely nothing outside of football. Still, adding Boise State is a lot more attractive than Fresno State or San Jose State. They are the second to last ditch resort.

3. UNLV and Nevada. Now UNLV is a contender for sure. Good academics and athletics, great big market to open up. But Nevada isn’t quite as exciting. UNLV can certainly bring their rising basketball program to the table, and that Las Vegas market is sure an attractive one.

2. Colorado and Colorado State. This looks good in a lot of ways. Colorado hates the Big 12. Colorado State would love to be in a big time conference. They poach two different conferences. Colorado brings great athletics and one of the strongest academic programs in the nation. Geography is the only issue here. I have a hunch this is who will get to join the conference in the end, only because number one will turn them down.

1. BYU and Utah. This is by far and away the best choice the Pac-10 could make. Both schools have incredible academic programs. Both compete in a variety of sports. Geographically they fit in. They have one of the nastiest rivalries in all college football already. They already beat up on Pac-10 schools in football and basketball. It just makes sense. Except for one thing- BYU and Utah make the core of the MWC. They don’t want to leave because it is on the bring of becoming its own big time conference, where they are the big dogs. They will turn down the Pac-10 when they come calling. One potential issue could be that BYU does not play on Sundays though, as a lot of athletics outside of football occur that day. I think the Pac-10 looks past it though, but they get a cold shoulder.

So what does this mean? Well, it means I think the Colorado schools are headed for the Pac-10 in 2011. This means the MWC will immediately bring in 4 schools to get their own championship. The shoe-ins are Boise State, Utah State, Nevada and Fresno State. This is true because Boise State will go first. And after that, the other schools will beg to get in to the MWC- they will have their choice. They won’t neg Utah State because of the in state rivalries they have going on with Utah and BYU. They need Fresno State to get a foot hold in California recruiting. And Nevada gives UNLV a great in state rival as well.

The Big 12 will need to replace Colorado, too. I’m sure they would prefer not to add another Texas school to the mix if they don’t have to. Look for New Mexico to be the clear choice, but Houston and TCU as back ups. If New Mexico goes, then I would imagine Hawaii, New Mexico State or Idaho gets an invite to the MWC to replace them.

Don’t forget, I already believe Syracuse is abandoning the Big East and headed to the Big Ten. This means The Big East is picking up Marshall, Memphis, East Carolina and/or UCF. This summer will surely be an interesting one as this all plays out.