UPDATED: Big 12 not dead, just catching its breath

Pac-12 says 12 is plenty, and the Big 12 lives on

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Were it not for the damage that could be caused to one our state universities, all this conference realignment chatter would be wildly entertaining.

The Texas-Texas A&M on-field rivalry will end. So might Pittsburgh-West Virginia. Missouri and Kansas could still land in different leagues.

TCU is waiting to join the Big East though no other member is within 950 miles of Fort Worth, but the league may disintegrate before the Horned Frogs arrive. That’s entertainment.

But how's this for a swerve: Tuesday night, the Pacific-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said "after careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference."

Clearly, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech lacked the votes from Pacific-12 presidents to gain admittance into that league, along with sidekick Oklahoma State.

And really, why would the Pac-12 have admitted four schools that includes just one (No. 45 Texas) in the top 100 of the national universities rankings in US News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” edition for 2012?

All four Pac-12 schools from California are in the top 25, by the way. All 12 of the league’s schools are ranked ahead of Texas Tech.

Missouri, which hoped against hope that it would get a Big Ten invitation last year, let it leak Tuesday that it has been invited into the Southeastern Conference. The SEC then denied Mizzou had been invited. That was after a CBSsports.com report that Big East sources said West Virginia won’t be accepted into the SEC or ACC.

What, you don’t want a school that sells beer in its on-campus stadium?

Pittsburgh joined Syracuse in recently bolting the Big East for the ACC. Eight years ago, Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said this after the Big East unsuccessfully kept Miami and Virginia Tech from leaving for the ACC:

“We really have been focusing on preserving and protecting the Big East as our goal.

“Personally, I thought we’d earned the right to coast for a while, but life didn’t treat us that fairly. Instead, we now have another challenge to meet if we’re going to do just that — protecting our programs, sustaining our momentum and continuing to compete at the highest levels and doing that in an honorable, principled way.”

Last weekend it was more like “See ya, Big East, wouldn’t want to be ya.”

But all news is local, and the news got a good bit brighter for Iowa State late Tuesday night. The Big 12 isn't officially revived, but the chances sure look a lot better. Yes, Oklahoma could flirt with the SEC, but let's not discuss such a thing unless/until it becomes a distinct possibility.

Should the Big 12 have ended up in tatters, it would have been incredibly bad news in Ames. Being in a less-prestigious conference would mean less revenue for ISU, less television exposure, a probable smaller enrollment in years to come (big-time sports draws students), and perhaps less jobs and an overall downsizing.

It wouldn’t be a good thing for the university, it wouldn’t be a good thing for the state. If Hawkeye fans disagree, pretend you’re a Cubs fan living in Chicago and there was talk the White Sox could get relegated to Class AAA. That wouldn’t be so good for Chitown, would it?

But, the fear factor has eased, for now. There will be more of this as long as some schools or leagues think they can squeeze more money for themselves over the long term.

Once upon a time, Iowa State and Oklahoma and six other schools were happy in the Big 8. Then they willingly merged with four Southwest Conference schools in the 1990s to become something other than what they had been for many decades. One of those four schools was Texas, which doesn’t like to share.

Nebraska fled the Big 12 because of how the league tilted toward Texas. Then, Texas A&M bolted the Big 12 because it wanted out from the shadow of Texas and its Longhorn Network, which ESPN has helped develop, launch, operate and distribute in a deal worth $300 million to Texas over 20 years.

Then, Oklahoma didn’t particularly want to deal with Texas any longer, either, and all but declared itself a new member of the Pac-12. Someone forgot to tell the Pac-12, apparently.

Earlier Tuesday, it was reported that Oklahoma would stay in the Big 12 if league commissioner Dan Beebe were fired and the Longhorn Network was reined in tightly. I don't know about the former, but the latter isn't happening. So You know this isn't going to get wrapped up in neat little bow anytime soon. But perhaps the Pac-12 tapping the brakes will encourage the SEC and ACC to do likewise. And perhaps that's just a crazy dream.

Will the Big 12 prove to have more lives than a litter of kittens? Stranger things have happened, and seem to be happening in college athletics every five minutes.

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