The conference shuffle is on once again, and the blackjack hands that are showing may mean UTEP and Conference USA could beat the house with the 12 they have.
Sage words from that savvy gambler, Kenny Rogers, say you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em (OT: too bad Kenny couldn't apply that lesson when it came to plastic surgery). As the big boys battle for high stakes C-USA just needs patience to cash in.
It's a touch different from the predictions made in this space earlier, but the gist remains the same.
The Big 10 opened with a large bet -- talk of inviting four to six new schools to create a Superconference.
As was said here earlier, whether Big 10 commish Jim Delany was bluffing, serious or wanted to flush out other conferences to see their intentions, his talk about another 11 months before the Big 10 would seriously discuss expansion was ridiculous.
He couldn't shut Pandora's box now if he wanted to. And he didn't, as the Columbus Post-Dispatch proved through using open records laws. Read it here: http://bit.ly/c8LTQS.
I speculated at the time that Delany was the closest thing college sports had to a Bond villain -- not evil, just conniving. I think I'm right.
Delany's play will decimate the Big 12, which takes some pressure off Nebraska and Missouri, the announced objects of the Big 10's affections. The surprise is that another object of affection is Texas.
It works in some ways -- academically, Texas is a great fit for the Big 10 -- but, as was learned in the Big 12's formation, big-time Texas college football is a big-time Texas political football, too.
This is what Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee probably meant in his E-mails to Delany about Texas Chancellor William Powers having a "Tech problem".
Don't think for a second that powerful West Texas oilmen and politicians would let the Horns go without Texas Tech hitching a ride.
That's why Texas leading a charge of six Big 12 schools to the Pac-10 makes more sense. Read that one here: http://bit.ly/cGI3Xf .
For certain, Texas would love for the Big 12 to stick together -- because that would benefit Texas. UT wants its own TV network, something they wouldn't get in a new Big-Pac-16 or in the Big 10.
But now that the Post-Dispatch pried loose the rock exposing the bugs crawling underneath, don't think that Texas, A&M and Oklahoma haven't talked to the Southeastern Conference, too.
The SEC lets schools make their own multi-media deals in addition to its large national TV package. Texas would like that.
As Berry Tramel of the Daily Oklahoman points out, signs are that this massive reshuffling depends on Nebraska making a binding Big 12 commitment: http://bit.ly/bd33rE .
Wonder if the Omaha World-Herald is working on an open records request for Huskers' AD Tom Osborne's E-mails, specifically any addressed to "jdBig10Rocks@yahoo.com"?
Where does this leave Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor?
Where does this leave C-USA and UTEP?
Maybe together in some form or fashion.
C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky has to have made contact with these schools. He may not have a BCS conference to work with, but that doesn't leave him powerless.
While the Mountain West hopes that this Pac-10/Big 6-of-12 merger happens to keep the Pac-10's eyes off of Utah and maybe even BYU, while the WAC is losing Boise State ( http://bit.ly/9kuA7e ), Banowsky has the luxury of waiting to see who deals and who reels.
In part, this has to do with not having a whole program any other conferences want. Memphis basketball? Sure.
But you have to take Memphis football, too. Ew.
Nonetheless, I still believe UTEP is in a good place. Banowsky has negotiated a better TV contract than both the WAC and the Mountain West already, and his conference vision is Texas-centric.
If the Big 10 loses Texas, raids the Big East for more than just Rutgers, kills that conference as it's also raided hy the ACC, perhaps forcing Notre Dame to join, Memphis may have to stay put.
Even if C-USA loses the Tigers, to lose Memphis basketball with the possibility of gaining Kansas basketball?
Uhh, sure. No problem.
Heed the words of Kenny and all will be well.