The Latest on Conference Expansion

Most of us were sure the conference expansion talks would die down after Texas decided to stick with the Big 12. Following their announcement, the entire league essentially announced how “committed” they were to Texas…er, the Big 12. So with the 10 team league in tact, the Pac-10’s plan for a mega conference was foiled. Most thought conference expansion talk would finish. But not quite. The Pac-10 is now the Pac-11. They need one more for that conference championship game.

Reports are now circulating online that this team is going to be Utah, that Utah received an invitation and has informed the MWC of its intent to leave the conference. First of all, none of this is confirmed. It just makes the most sense that Utah would be their number one target, so everyone is reporting it as if it were fact.

Secondly, Utah probably wouldn’t have much interest in getting their butts handed to them each year by the likes of USC, UCLA and the rest of the Pac-10. Does it make a lot of sense to go from kings of a conference on the verge of an automatic BCS berth to cellar dwellers of an elite conference?

People cite two reasons they would move: money and recruiting. First of all, the money would be much better in the Pac-10. The prestige would certainly be there as well as a much better TV contract than The Mountain. (Worst station ever.) Recruiting could be helped slightly, but not much. Utah recruits from all over the West, and they certainly don’t compete with the likes of USC or Oregon now, so they wouldn’t in the same conference either. Utah has a lot of polynesian players, who come from Hawaii often times. Aside from Utah they also recruit a lot in Arizona and Nevada. I don’t see a new conference helping that out or opening a lot of doors into new places, at least not any time soon.

Fact of the matter is this. Utah is the perennial power of the MWC. Why would you give that up? You have one of the top 5 rivalries in all of college sports. You make big payouts for getting to the BCS. Would you rather be a big fish in a smaller pond, or a small fish in a bigger pond? Plus, I’m not sure Utah would want to be pried away from BYU. The schools are synergistic and feed off each other.

The question is this- if not Utah, then who? No one else fits athletically, academically and geographically with the Pac-10. Maybe not, but UNLV is the next closest thing. If they got desperate they might even consider Hawaii. I know Utah is at the top of everyone’s list, but I don’t know if the Pac-10 is at the top of theirs.

I think in the end they will go and the MWC will raid the WAC to compensate. If so, you can all but guarantee that Fresno State, Nevada and probably Hawaii would all be receiving invitations shortly. That would make a MWC with Boise State, Nevada, UNLV, San Diego State, Fresno State and Hawaii as the west division and TCU, Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming, New Mexico and BYU as the east division. That would probably be a conference with an automatic bid, but we’ll see when the BCS evaluation comes up who is in what conference and then things will sort them out.

In the meantime, I’m really not convinced Utah will jump ship for the Pac-10. What do you think?