Expansion rumors all the rage on Thursday

Colorado became the first pawn to be played in a huge game of chess between the power brokers of the major athletic conferences Thursday, as the Buffaloes chose to leave the Big-12 for the Pac-10. They did this, in part, to take away any chance Baylor might have in moving in on the first 'supergroup' of its kind.

The idea, floated by Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com initially last week after reporting that six schools from the Big-12 had been invited to join the Pac-10 starting 2012, appeared to gain some steam with Colorado's decision. Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the other five expected to make a move soon, but Brown also reported Thursday that there could be a battle brewing with Texas A&M that might see the Pac-10 choose Utah or maybe Kansas instead of the Aggies if they take too long to decide.

Either way, CU's decision sparked a rumor mill filled to the brim with sources claiming they knew where the orphaned Big-12 schools would end up. Nebraska is supposed to announce Friday that it has accepted an invitation to join the Big-10. And later Thursday afternoon, Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said that Colorado just might be the only Big-12 school they go after, and he seemed to throw some cold water on Brown's theory, adding that no other invitations have been tendered to Big-12 schools.

But that didn't do anything to crush the rush of speculation. After the CU decision went public, it wasn't long before TMZ, a site normally dedicated toward reporting on Hollywood, ran a story on its website citing a source within the Oklahoma State Athetic Department that had OSU the next in line to head to the Pac-10. Here is the story from the Tulsa World outlining OSU's denial of the report.

Meanwhile, the Waco Tribune-Herald ran a concurrent story stating that Texas and Texas A&M held an emergency meeting to discuss the tenuous future of the Big-12. Originally Baylor and Texas Tech weren't invited, but soon after news of the meeting became public the other two Texas-based schools did join in discussions.

Around 1 p.m. PST, the Oklahoma Daily - the school newspaper - announced the offer to join the Pac-10. Right around that same time came arguably the biggest rumor of the day: Texas and Texas A&M to the Big-10 and Oklahoma to the SEC, but that rumored announcement came and went without much evidence backing their claim. It was disputed by Brown.

Roughly a half-hour later, the Dallas Morning-News published a story citing a report that the three Texas schools would definitely leave the Big-12 if Nebraska did too. And right about the same time, KCTV-5 News in Kansas City cited 'high-level sources in multiple conferences' in a story that had Texas and Texas A&M to the Big-10 right behind Nebraska, and Oklahoma was set to petition the SEC for membership. Later in the afternoon, the Kansas City report was being debunked by a number of radio stations in Houston.

The chatter in the Twitterverse was clearly wide and varied as well; many people Thursday were speculating that Texas wants to join the Pac-10 but is hesitating because the Pac-10 can't guarantee the Longhorns their own network - an obstacle the SEC is willing to overlook. Later in the evening, the Waco Tribune-Herald updated its findings from the Texas-Texas A&M meeting that took place in Austin earlier Thursday. In short, both schools have different ideas for what they want to do, although ideally they'd like to keep the Big-12 together - but that's unlikely at this point.

And the last salvo to be launched may be nothing more than hot air. The Oklahoma Daily reported late Thursday night that OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel told those attending the Independence Bowl Hall of Honor Banquet that the Sooners are headed to the SEC. Apparently when asked about it afterward, Heupel denied making the remarks.

Expect a lot more rumors to come out Friday, especially if Nebraska's move to the Big-10 happens, as expected. Scott, as he stated at the beginning of the week, has been given permission by the Pac-10 to entertain any and all scenarios regarding expansion, so we're probably just getting started on what could be a very interesting period of time while all the schools involved try and sort through what's best for them and their respective futures.


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