I told a buddy of mine last night that, to follow up on what I said about Twitter being the "Internet of the Internet" a couple of days ago, that we saw all the best and the worst of the Internet over the past few days. When news is breaking quickly, like it did on Thursday, the Internet is amazing. I mean, we caught everything in real time. Something happened, and we knew about it within about 45 seconds. And with everything that happened on Thursday -- Colorado, USC, Masoli, etc. -- it was just a whirlwind.
Wednesday and Friday, however, it was a debacle. Why? Because the narrative now moves at 115 miles per hour, even when nothing is really happening. When we woke up yesterday morning, we knew one thing was likely to happen: Nebraska was going to agree to join the Big Ten. At the end of the day, Mizzou fans and others were dizzy with dismay and dread because ... Nebraska agreed to join the Big Ten. That's really it. There were a few small surprises -- 1) Boise State joined the Mountain West after all, 2) NU announced that they would be leaving after one year, not two (meaning their last trip to Faurot Field was their last ... which is depressing in so many different ways), and 3) NU stuck a shiv into Mizzou's ribcage on the way out the door with the "Well, we didn't want to leave, but Mizzou said nice things about the Big Ten a couple times, so we were forced to leave," nonsense.
But nothing happened that changed the overall plot line, and yet it felt like things were falling apart.
(By the way, I don't at all blame Nebraska for leaving for the Big Ten. They agreed to make the jump for all the reasons that Mizzou would have almost certainly accepted an offer. But using Mizzou as part of an excuse, for both leaving and ludicrously attempting to avoid paying the early-departure fee because they were "forced out" is absolutely bush league, and I expected much better than that from Tom Osborne and company.)
So where do things stand right now? Around the same place they stood this time yesterday. I said in my last post that I'm done making predictions -- I'm sticking by that, but I can at least drop some hints as to whether I feel options are more or less likely than they were yesterday. I'm adding an option here just because of a story that came out yesterday, but I'm not pretending it's very likely.
It's odd to say it, but I don't feel any different about Mizzou's chances getting into the Big Ten than I did yesterday, and for two main reasons:
1) I didn't read anything whatsoever into Beebe's "My understanding is there isn't any other conference institution being considered by the Big Ten" comment, and I would hope that you do not either. For those who did not think Mizzou was going to get in anyway, this clearly reaffirmed their viewpoint, and that's fine -- they might eventually be proven right. But whatever Delaney said to Beebe was a formality. A month or two ago, he told Beebe he wasn't looking at any Big 12 team ... and yet, Nebraska still made the move. No matter how you feel about Mizzou's chances, good or bad, Beebe's comment last night should not have had any impact on you.
2) I didn't feel amazingly strong about Mizzou's chances yesterday.
We all know the draws of Big Ten membership to Mizzou -- no need to go into it again -- but what we still don't know is the draws of Mizzou to the Big Ten. And it's sounding more and more like we won't know about that for a while. For that reason alone, and the fact that so many other factors could come into play (Texas, Notre Dame, other conferences' moves, etc.), you simply cannot rate Mizzou's chances for getting into the Big Ten very high.
We're all expecting either four or five members of the Big 12 South to be joining the Pac-16 sometime between now and mid-week (A&M is still floating around out there, thinking about the SEC). If that happens, then the Big Ten will go to at least 14, and probably sooner than they originally hoped. At 14, it's hard right now to love Mizzou's chances. Sure, they could still get in, but the weeks of naysaying about Mizzou have beaten me down a bit. At 16, however, Mizzou's chances are still very good. There are basically six supposed candidates for four slots at that point -- Missouri, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Maryland. (And maybe a seventh: Kansas.) Depending on how the dominoes fall, or how the Big Ten wants them to fall, Mizzou's odds are far from great, but they're still decent, and nothing that happened yesterday changed that.
Dan Beebe is actually right about something: when he says that the Big 12 still has quite a few strong, marketable programs in it, he's right. For at least another day or two. Clearly the odds of the Big 12 staying together right now -- with the Pac-16 draw looming -- are not good. It is still certainly a possibility, depending on how the supposed secret Big 12 conference call today goes, but ... if I were in Vegas right now, clearly I wouldn't be betting on the Big 12's survival.
(If I were in Vegas right now, I would be up at 7am, drinking a beer in a sports book and watching soccer for the next 6-8 hours. And I wouldn't be thinking about conference realignment at all. It would be glorious.)
EXPANDED Big 12
The goal of the Big 12, really, has to be to survive longer than the Big East. If they can do that, then there could be some higher-level programs willing to listen and find a new home. One problem: if the Big East dies, it's because the Big Ten does some raiding ... and the Big Ten is not making another move until the Pac-10 does. And what's the Pac-10 about to do? Raid the Big 12. Game over at that point.
Gabe at PowerMizzou made a good point this morning ($). Basically the one media outlet pushing the "Big East collects Big 12 leftovers?" story is the Washington Examiner ... which isn't exactly the Washington Post. If it were a real possibility, others would be pursuing the story. (Then again, they pursue everything else ... so why the hell hasn't somebody called Paul Tagliabue about this? I'm thinking he'd talk. Hell, I'll do it. Somebody give me his number.)
At the same time, if the Big 12's odds are going down quite a bit, somebody's odds have to go up, right? Zero sum, etc. So I'm bumping up the Big East's odds a tic, for one simple reason: they want to survive. If the Big Ten doesn't go after Big 12 teams, then they're probably going after Big East teams. That being the case, if the Big East wanted to improve their odds of survival, they would act aggressively the moment the Pac-16 makes its move.
Whatever the Mountain West Ends Up Being Named
This is still an absolute possibility, and really, maybe their odds increased a bit when the Big 12's odds fell. But I'm going to say they stayed level. Adding Boise was a no-brainer, and it did nothing to change the chances of making other moves.
In a potentially insane move, East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland came straight out and told fans yesterday that the Conference USA would move quickly to try to score Big 12 leftovers if the South goes to the Pac-10. Good luck with that. THIS, Mizzou fans, is the new worst-case scenario. Joining a Mountain West conference with TCU, BYU, Boise State, and (maybe) Utah is one thing. Joining a Conference USA with Memphis, Tulsa, UTEP, and Rice is another. I'm actually surprised I didn't have nightmares about this last night.
I don't think this scenario is even remotely possible, but since I technically had the odds of this at 0% yesterday, then technically they get the up arrow today for making the list at all.
(By the way, this doesn't really have much to do with CUSA, but I wanted to mention this somewhere: the thing Mizzou fans need to be rooting against the most is A&M straying from the others and going to the SEC. The Pac-10 would still need one more team in that instance, and early rumblings are that they'd go after either Utah or Kansas. If Kansas leaves, then Mizzou's leverage crumbles that much more. In that instance, the odds of Mizzou ending up in the MWC or CUSA increase a decent amount. Do the right thing, A&M, and stay with Texas and Tech.)
In Gabe's post this morning, he tried to convince me (and, well, everybody else) that the SEC is at least a slight possibility. (The reasons are behind the pay wall.) Let's just say that I still don't see it, but if I think there's even a 5% chance of this happening, that means I think there's a better chance than yesterday.
Yeah, still more funny than realistic.
In theory, we shouldn't get much news over the weekend, at least not until Sunday evening's meeting between Mike Alden and the Mizzou curators. (And even that meeting might not produce any news that we need or deserve to hear about just yet.) Clearly this remains in everybody's mind, but I recommend watching some World Cup, having a few drinks, hopping on the treadmill a bit, and doing other relaxing things that keep you mind off the thought of Mizzou in Conference USA. Alden, Gary Forsee and others are right -- Mizzou is a strong state university with a good fanbase, solid academics and great facilities. We'll almost certainly be alright, even if a) we don't get our #1 choice, and b) we remain in limbo for a while.