With Nebraska, and possibly Missouri, reportedly facing a Friday deadline from Big 12 officials on whether they intend to remain in the Big 12, speculation is mounting that the Big Ten may speed up the 12- to 18-month timetable it announced in December for deciding on expansion.
However, Big Ten officials tried to distance themselves from the swirling rumors after a meeting Sunday in Park Ridge of the league's 11 presidents and chancellors.
``It's not just a conference making a decision,'' Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. ``It has always been and will continue to be about institutions making a choice. For us that would be an application process, an assessment process.''
The Austin American-Statesman reported that Nebraska and Missouri ``have been given an ultimatum by the Big 12 and told they have until this Friday to decide if they want to remain in the conference or entertain the possibility of joining the Big Ten.''
Other reports said only Nebraska was given the Friday deadline, but Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne told the Lincoln Journal-Star he was unaware of any deadlines for his school.
One possible explanation for the Big 12 forcing an early decision from schools rumored to be potential new Big Ten members is the domino effect Big Ten expansion would have.
If some Big 12 schools defect to the Big Ten, the Los Angeles Times reported, the Pac-10 is considering inviting six Big 12 schools to join it and form a Pac-16. Orangebloods.com, a website devoted to Texas Longhorns athletics, reported that Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Colorado, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the schools being eyed by the Pac-10. At Pac-10 meetings in San Francisco, commissioner Larry Scott said he has been given authority from his conference presidents to add schools.
With conferences across the nation bracing for Big Ten domino effect, Delany pointed out that the Big Ten still might choose not to expand.
``There could be a decision not to act,'' the commissioner said. ``That's always been on the table.''
That option seems far less likely, though, than the Big Ten expanding--with at least three new members.
Big Ten officials said no formal action was taken at Sunday's annual spring meeting, but Delany did say that the ``timeline could be affected'' by all the turmoil around the country.
The wild card in all of this continues to be Notre Dame. The Irish seem steadfast in their plan to remain independent in football. But with speculation mounting that college football could become dominated by four super-conferences, ND may have to take another hard look at its stance.