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This conference expansion/reshuffling talk is confusing. But if I understand everything correctly, here is a summary of what might soon transpire:The Pac-10 becomes the Pac-16, although it wouldn't be as purely "Pac" as it is now.The Big Ten stumps mathematicians by adding one school to become a 12-team conference. The Big Ten, of course, can't become the Big 12 because there already is a Big 12.Although there is a chance that the Big 12 no longer would be Big or 12. Or perhaps even be. In that case, I guess the Big Ten could use the name Big 12. Or call itself the Big Twelve considering it spells out "Ten" now anyway.Cartographers already mad at the idea of having Texas and Oklahoma schools, and possibly Colorado, in the Pacific-10 conference will throw their compasses and quadrants in disgust if the Mountain West Conference expands to add non-mountainous, non-West schools such as Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State.(Whoever came up with the name for Conference USA deserves a raise. Talk about a conference name that's one-size-fits-all in numbers and geography.)Again, if I understand correctly, there are two important dominoes in the college sports landscape: Notre Dame and Nebraska.The Big Ten is courting both.If you, like me, for some reason turned on the Big Ten Network on Tuesday morning and saw the replay of the 1999 football tilt between Illinois and Indiana, you understand the reason for wanting to add a school with Notre Dame's national appeal. Plus, with the recent records of the Fighting Irish football teams, the extra conference victories for the Big Ten's top programs wouldn't hurt, either.Notre Dame would join only if the conference does not expand beyond 12 teams. If Notre Dame decides to remain an independent, Nebraska might leave the old Big 12 for the new Big 12 or even what could become the Big 16.Remember stopping at a Stuckey's in the good old days and seeing that postcard with a U.S. map, but with Texas oversized and the rest of the little states squeezed in around Texas? It looked like a great idea to us. But anyway, that's the way Nebraska folks picture the Big 12 Conference -- it's all about Texas.If Nebraska goes, that could send Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State packing for the Pac-10.Colorado has been mentioned as that conference's possible 16th team, although Baylor is making a political push to keep the Texas teams together. Which, if you think about it, is kind of the same thing that TCU, SMU, Houston and Rice unsuccessfully pushed for when the Southwest Conference split up in the mid-'90s and Baylor stayed with the Texas schools that joined the Big Eight to form the Big 12.All political ironies aside, this is where we find ourselves. Wherever this is. I'm not going to attempt to post a "You Are Here" sticker on the college sports map. Besides, the entire map is on the verge of changing around us.But, as you know, I'm the kind of guy who prefers to see the conferences as half full, not half empty.With the much-discussed possibilities involving these geographically expanding conferences for all sports, it is obvious that the issue of student-athletes missing classes because of travel time diminishes in concern if there's money to be made because of football.So even if the conferences don't change much, or not even at all, we should no longer have to hear about missing class time as a reason we can't have a college football playoff.David Thomas, 817-390-7697
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