Dick Harmon: Constant change marks news of college conference realignments

Published: Tuesday, June 15 2010 12:14 a.m. MDT

If you want the latest on college conference expansion, you'll have to tune in about every hour because things are changing that often with this hot topic.

On Monday, Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com (a Rivals website that follows the University of Texas) and ESPN's Joe Schad began the morning with two opposing reports of what the Big 12 and Pac-10 were up to.

In a war of tweets on Twitter and other Internet postings, it was a genuine showdown.

Brown, who has become the most accurate media source on reports of what's happening in expansion, said key meetings among the remaining 10 Big 12 teams, led by kingpin Texas, saved what could have been the demise of the league. Schad reported Big 12 south teams including Texas would be headed for the Pac-10 to join Colorado and form a super conference.

As the day progressed, Schad backed away from his claim and Brown piled on layers to his growing credibility. If Brown's scoop holds true, it is great news for the University of Utah, which could be on the brink of a Pac-10 invite this week.

If this all sounds like a big soap opera, that's exactly what it is. The past two weeks may also be a watermark for social media like Twitter, because it had one of its biggest impacts in reporting a big sports issue. As the Los Angeles Times put it: The guy who broke the story of Texas going to the Pac-10 just broke the story Texas wasn't going to the Pac-10.

Also Monday, it was reported on KSL.com via a tweet by "Sportsbeat," that ESPN radio station "104 The Horn" in Austin, Texas, claimed BYU and Air Force would be added to the Big 12 by Wednesday. Within 30 minutes, "104 The Horn" issued a statement the station had never reported such news. "We apologize, but it seems like someone had access to the account that shouldn't have," read a tweet from the station.

If we see the smoke clear today, there is one man who deserves credit.

This weekend may belong to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, who got his league's remaining teams to the table to carefully look at a revamped TV deal. He literally lifted up a dead league and gave it life. Beebe proposed a 10-member league would still make as much money as a move to the Pac-10 and Texas could have its own network as well as keep the lion's share of the new television revenue.

If Beebe succeeds, and it looks like he will, he would have slowed down the insanity of expansion the past five days. He may have also prevented creation of four super conferences, forcing the Pac-10 to settle for Colorado and Utah (12 teams) and stopped Texas A&M from wandering to the SEC. And that could prevent raids by the Big Ten and SEC on the ACC and Big East.

Almost lost in the shuffle is the issue of the BCS's war with Congress. Some believe if Utah goes to the Pac-10, Senator Orrin Hatch will back off his campaign to get an antitrust action filed against the BCS.

But Brown, the super sleuth reporter in this expansion controversy, posted last week that his Big 12 sources say the BCS is not clear from congressional action in the future.

This is backed up by a little publicized exchange during last week's senate Antitrust Subcommittee hearing featuring Department of Justice Antitrust Division head Christine Varney and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz.

Hatch showed he is not backing down. He discussed the substantial antitrust issues raised by the BCS, emphasizing that consolidation among the six automatic qualifying conferences would only intensify the status quo's anti-competitive effects.

Hatch knows neither Varney nor Leibowitz could substantively comment due to the Justice Department's ongoing BCS inquiry, so he asked the pair: "Would the fact that these issues revolve around college sports keep the Justice Department from bringing a case against the BCS?"

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