Think of the college football landscape as the Oklahoma Territory just before the Great Land Rush. But in this case, the "Sooner" who jumped the gun was Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, who convinced the University of Colorado to switch to his conference from the Big 12 Thursday, a move that could precipitate a real Buffalo stampede in the next few days and months.
Colorado got the jump on Big 12 member Nebraska, which is expected to vote to accept an invitation to the Big Ten Friday or Saturday. It's considered a certainty the Cornhuskers will become the 12th member of the Big Ten, a leading brand name despite the inaccurate count.
After Nebraska switches conferences, what happens next is anybody's guess, including how the fallout affects the Big East, which currently has an automatic bid in the Bowl Championship Series. "There are all kinds of theories," a Big East insider said. "No one talked about Virginia Tech leaving to go to the ACC until the 11th hour. There's always twists."
One major key is what Notre Dame decides to do. The Irish cherish their football independence and have emphasized their commitment to the Big East in all other sports. If Nebraska joins the Big Ten, it could bode well for the Big East should Notre Dame, which is coveted by the Big Ten, not want to be viewed as following the Cornhuskers' lead. On the other hand, if the Big East breaks up, Notre Dame might be forced to join the Big Ten.
"There's been no indication of that," the Big East source said.
Rutgers and Syracuse reportedly are possible targets for the Big Ten if it expands to 14 or 16 teams, and now Maryland of the ACC is believed to be in the conversation. Big Ten interest in Missouri of the Big 12 apparently has cooled, according to a curator for that school who said no invitation has been received. Missouri is supposed to declare its intentions to the Big 12 Friday.
When the news about Colorado's move to the Pac-10 broke, there was widespread speculation that five other Big 12 schools, including Texas, Texas A & M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, would follow suit, making the Pac-10 the nation's first 16-team "superconference" in football. But that scenario is on hold.
Representatives of Texas and Texas A & M reportedly met Thursday to discuss strategy. They could lead an exodus to the Pac-10, try to save the Big 12, petition the Big Ten for entry or possibly consider a shift to the Southeastern Conference. Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione told the Tulsa World the Sooners also have been approached by the SEC.
At this point, Texas holds all the cards because it can generate the most television revenue for whichever conference it joins.