The Buffaloes head west

The University of Colorado Buffaloes utilized their hurry-up offense this week, and with good reason.

CU jumped from the Big 12 athletic conference to the Pac- 10, pre-empting the possibility that it could be left without a conference if the Big 12 falls apart in the next few days.

The future of the Big 12 is certainly in doubt, with CU’s announcement and the likelihood that Nebraska will announce today that it is joining the Big 10.

Universities in Texas and Oklahoma reportedly have been looking for ways to keep the Big 12 together despite the defections — with rumors circulating that Arkansas, Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University could be invited to join. There are also reports that Texas A&M and Texas are being courted by the Southeastern Conference.

But the Texas and Oklahoma schools have also reportedly been invited to join the Pac-10, allowing that conference to expand to 16 teams.

If the Big 12 doesn’t hold together and a significant number of teams bolt for other conferences, Colorado could have ended up as schools such as Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State may yet be — searching for an athletic conference to join with no strong choices available.

In that regard, CU’s decision makes a great deal of sense. Why wait to see what all of the other schools will do and what’s left for you when you have a great opportunity right now?

Furthermore, in many ways CU is a good fit with the Pac-10, at least as it is currently constituted. Academically, athletically and in terms of campus culture, the Boulder-based university has more in common with, say, the University of Washington, or Oregon or California, than it does with Iowa State and Baylor.

How Colorado would fit in a Pac-16 is another matter.

If the Big 12 doesn’t fold and the Texas and Oklahoma schools don’t join Colorado in heading to the Pac-10, the Pac-10 needs one more school to make it the Pac-12, allowing it to create two divisions and hold an annual conference championship that brings in big bucks from television.

Speculation on that option is that the University of Utah would be invited to join the Pac-10. Utah also would be a reasonable fit, especially since the school’s football program has demonstrated it can be a top-tier contender in recent years.

More will become clear today, when Nebraska makes its announcement and other schools likely follow. None of the changes will occur for at least two years. But it’s hard to fault CU officials for moving aggressively to protect the university’s athletic future rather than letting the clock run out on them while other schools acted.


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