In Lincoln, Neb., Nebraska athletics director Tom Osborne spoke of the “elephant in the room.”
In Denver, Colo., the Colorado University Board of Regents talked options with lawyers.
In Iowa City, Dr. Jean Jew, a University of Iowa professor in neuroscience with a listed summar statement of “sympathetic and peptidergic control of gut motility,” wondered aloud.
“What’s the justification for calling it the Big Ten?”
Perhaps unintentional and completely innocent, but great question. Too bad there’s no real answer.
Welcome to Iowa City, Iowa, the hinterlands of college football expansion.
The boom may or may not happen in South Bend, Ind., home of Notre Dame. Or it could happen in Nebraska, where there are near confirmations of a pending invite from the Big Ten. Signs pointed to Colorado leaving the Big 12 late Tuesday, but the board of regents were in information-gathering mode.
At the Presidential Committee on Athletics meeting Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, a few of the big questions were asked.
Iowa athletics director Gary Barta did his best to answer.
“Evaluating academics, athletics, financials, culture and just kind of updating us,” Barta said of his communications with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany during the Big Ten meetings in May. “At that time, no invitations had been made, just continuing to study. There’s really not much more that can be shared. The commissioner has a plan. I like the plan. He’s communicated with our presidents every step of the way.”
Meanwhile in the Big 12, reports have the conference issuing ultimatums to Nebraska and Missouri, with the Big 12 demanding a pledge of allegiance or a fond farewell in the June 17 neighborhood.
“One, I don’t know if it’s accurate. And two, I don’t know what agreement they have if there was an ultimatum or what the consequences could be,” Barta said.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Smith has the authority to issue invites. Rumors have swirled about Smith possibly inviting as many as six Big 12 teams, thus marking the end of the conference.
“The Pac-10 has a new commissioner,” Barta said. “Whenever you have a new person in leadership, there’s potential for new philosophies or principles. That certainly could be part of this. I only know what I read in terms of what the Pac-10 is up to.”
Asked flat out if Nebraska was joining the Big Ten, Barta issued a — in a “why are you asking me” tone — “I don’t know.”
“Jim is going through the same process he told us he was going to go through,” Barta said. “When we met with him, he updated us. He said, ‘OK, here’s where I’m at, here’s what the next step is.’ Now, there are all sorts of rumors.”
Repeating he didn’t know what the Pac-10 was up to, Barta said an aggressive Pac-10 move could alter the Big Ten’s timetable.
“The speculation of what the Pac-10 may or may not be doing, I don’t know if there’s any truth to it. I don’t know if there’s any relevance to it,” Barta said. “If there is, that’s something Jim would have to react to, I suppose. But at this point, he’s not changed his tone in terms of his plan, his process and his ultimate timetable.”
If the Big 12 crumbles, Iowa State will suddenly find itself without a home. On Tuesday, Gov. Chet Culver told the Des Moines Register that he plans to play a role in conference realignment and try to help Iowa State, including pushing for ISU to join the Big Ten.
Barta said any Iowa State doom scenarios are based on speculation. He also was asked if there were any scenarios out there that made him nervous.
“I honestly don’t sit here and think what could be because it could go so many different directions,” Barta said. “I’d probably spend a lot of time worrying about scenarios that couldn’t possibly materialize. S0, I’m going to wait and see and if something does change in the Big 12, if that has an affect on us, I’ll react to it.
“Right now, I’m focused on one, Iowa and budgets and whatever we’re going to do next year and, two, if there is a change in the Big Ten, how it’d affect us.”
Barta was asked about his communcation with Delany. Last week, the Columbus Dispatch gained access to e-mails between Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee and Delany. The e-mails outlined overtures to Texas and mentioned a “Tech problem,” presumably a way for Texas Tech to also join the Big Ten.
No e-mails for Barta.
He was updated during Big Ten coaches and AD meetings in Chicago. UI president Sally Mason was updated during the Big Ten’s scheduled meeting with presidents and chancellors.
“I’ve had one other phone conversation with him [Delany] and that’s it,” Barta said.
The boom might not happen here, but it will be rattle the windows.