PULLMAN – The first step in what could be a complete reshaping the college sports landscape began Thursday, when the University of Colorado accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10 Conference.
The announcement the Buffaloes would leave the Big 12 in 2012 and affiliate with the Pac-10 came amid reports of even more drastic change to the two conferences that span most of the western United States.
“It was clear to us that in any scenario we were going to consider for expansion, Colorado was a great fit,” said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, who has held that position for the past 11 months. “I said coming out of (the Pac-10) board meeting last weekend there are several different scenarios that could pan out.
“But in every single one of those scenarios, Colorado made sense for us (so) there was no reason to wait any further.”
Colorado, who Scott said was only officially invited Tuesday, becomes the first new school to join the Pac-10 since July 1, 1978, when Arizona State and Arizona were added.
But the Buffaloes might just be only the first this month, with numerous reports surfacing that Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have been contacted in hopes of creating a 16-team super conference.
“Anything is possible,” admitted Scott, who repeatedly sidestepped questions on a media call related to further expansion, only alluding to different “scenarios” the conference is discussing.
He did say, however, the authority given to him by the Pac-10 presidents last weekend allowed him to move forward quickly, though “no invitations have been issued.”
Just how much Thursday’s news and any possible seismic conference change will have on Washington State University is still unclear, even to those who will have to deal with it.
“It all balances out,” football coach Paul Wulff said. “Ultimately everybody is still going to play 12 football games. If anything, we could have less league games. … Financially, it could give us a lot more freedom to schedule a lot more home (non-conference) games. So there could be a lot of gain from it.”
“I’ve been around 14 months and it’s a big change, I know that,” men’s basketball coach Ken Bone said. “I never dreamed we would be adding a team or a few teams, possibly, when I was hired. I do think it makes our conference that much stronger.”
WSU athletic director Bill Moos vocally opposed expansion when he took the position in February. He’s changed his mind. In fact, he doesn’t want the conference to stop with Colorado.
Asked if a much larger Pac-10 would be good for Washington State, Moos answered, “I believe it is. I’m convinced of that now.”
Moos said his worries were based on losing a presence in Southern California and the Bay Area, fertile recruiting grounds for WSU sports. But the more the conference expands, the greater the chance the Cougars would be aligned with the California schools.
“Now that we’ve gone to 11, anything we can do … that can keep us with east/west type of divisions, so we can keep that California presence,” is crucial, he said. “If we start going north/south, we probably would not see that.”
If the Pac-10 expands to 11 or 12 schools, there might be a push for combining the California and Arizona schools. If it hits 16, there is a good chance the old Pac-8 members would stay together.
But those thoughts are for the future. Right now there is only one new Pac-10 member.
“I don’t know if it affects us a whole lot,” Wulff said of Colorado’s entry. “I don’t think one school will change anything. I do think a number of additional schools would, obviously.”
Colorado is not a stranger to Washington State in football. The Cougars are 2-4 against the school, though the Buffaloes have never played in Pullman.
The two WSU home games were contested in Spokane (a 14-10 WSU win in 1981) and Seattle (Colorado won 20-12 in 2004, the last time the teams met). Interestingly, the Buffs were scheduled to play in Martin Stadium on Sept. 15, 2001, but that game was canceled after 9/11.
WSU is 1-1 against Colorado in men’s basketball, last playing in 1969.