Pac-16? Local prospect glimpses the future

THE PAC-10'S PROPOSED annexation of Texas & Co. is already altering the recruiting landscape. The No. 1 football prospect in the state of Washington – Skyline High's Kasen Williams – just narrowed his list to 10 schools. WSU was among them. So was UW, where Williams' dad used to play. With each of his top 10, Williams provided insight as to why. When he got to Oklahoma, guess what he said?

He said Oklahoma was a school that contends for the national championship and they "might join the Pac-10, which would be kind of crazy and I would like that a lot."

There you have it. Oklahoma, located in dust bowl country some 2,000 miles from home, just received a super-boost in recruiting by possibly joining the Pac-10. Imagine if they actually pull the trigger.

If the Sooners, Longhorns, Red Raiders, Cowboys and perhaps Aggies head West along with trend-setting Colorado, they'll be out here cherry picking "our" athletes till the cows come home. Of course, that works the other way, too. Suddenly, talent-rich Texas will become a prime hunting ground for the Cougs and all the Pac-10 originals. That's a pretty good exchange. Texas produces football players en masse.

Indeed, for every one kid the Sooners or Longhorns pull out of Washington or Oregon, look for 10 to be coming back the other way.

However, the expanded conference also makes California's deep recruiting pool that much tougher to pull from, because all those kids who grew up wanting to play for USC or maybe UCLA, but didn't get the offer, now have many more attractive options for taking out their revenge.

Over the years, Texas and Oklahoma have gone to California on a modest basis, but you can now expect them to be in there early and often looking to pull the cream off the top to complement their regular bounties out of the Lone Star State. Oklahoma State and the others figure to enter that market with a vegeance, not aiming to pull the cream, but stocking up on those next-tier guys who have been a boon to the Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Bay Area schools. If you thought there was a facilities arms race already, you ain't seen nothing yet. For all but Oregon, there's going to be some serious catch up to do with their new brothers in the conference.

For the complete rundown on what Kasen Williams is thinking, click to Chris Fetters' story Williams names a top 10.

THE PROVERBIAL GRAPEVINE continues to be on steroids when it comes to speculation and intrigue about the Pac-10's future. Published reports say Oklahoma and Oklahoma State officials met with Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott on Saturday. Oklahoma has a board of regents scheduled for Wednesday, while Texas and Texas Tech regents are due to convene Tuesday.

The Oklahoman newspaper also reports that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is making "one last-ditch effort" to save the conference and will aim to do so in a meeting Monday with athletic directors of the 10 remaining schools.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M is apparently thinking it may want to break away from its traditional rivals and move to the SEC rather than go to the Pac-10. You can understand the Aggies' thinking. In the SEC, their fans could drive to most games – a fact that would no doubt sell well on the Texas recruiting trail. And they would be breaking out of UT's shadow.

If A&M doesn't come to the Pac, then who would fill the 16th slot? Punditry abounds that Kansas would then be invited, but the word out of Jayhawk Country is that they're thinking they might want to help rebuild what's left of the Big 12 by picking off schools from other leagues – particularly schools with far better basketball programs than the ones that are leaving.

Could Utah enter the discussion for the Pac-16? That answer probably depends on the size of the Salt Lake TV market, but at this point the buzz in that direction is a low murmur.

Baylor? The "forgotten" Texas doesn't fit the Pac-10's preference of steering clear of religion-affiliated schools and none of their Texas or Oklahoma brethren has any interest in bringing them along.

HOWEVER IT ALL TURNS out, the world of college athletics will never be the same. For the Pac-10, it will mean a financial windfall, and no more eastern and southern biases when it comes to national respect. It also means the recruiting landscape – as Kasen Williams illustrates – is going to change in a big way. Let the race begin!

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