The Utah Utes won't be acquiring new league rivals anytime soon, after the Pac-12 Conference decided late Tuesday not to expand, ending weeks of intense speculation about whether it would invite as many as four high-profile members of the Big 12 Conference and dramatically alter the landscape in college sports.
The surprising announcement came late Tuesday night, after league commissioner Larry Scott spoke with university presidents from around the league.
There was no need for a vote on whether to invite any of the Big 12 schools, sources said, because Scott and the presidents knew they ultimately did not want to move in that direction after a weekend meeting with officials from the University of Texas.
"I'm obviously supportive of what has happened," Utah athletic director Chris Hill said, "and we are very happy to be at 12" teams.
The decision means that Oklahoma and Texas the two driving forces in the expansion discussion, along with Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will have to find some other way to satisfy their interests, and could signal the survival of the presumed-dead Big 12.
Representatives of the rival schools will meet in the next few days to negotiate a deal that keeps both in the Big 12 for five years, according to The Associated Press.
One online site dedicated to the Brigham Young Cougars DeepShadesofBlue.com Â reported that if the Big 12 does stay together, the Cougars are "highly likely" to join it as a full member. The site quoted an anonymous source as saying BYU and the Big 12 were close to announcing a deal before Texas A&M announced plans to leave the Big 12, triggering a landslide of speculation about conference realignment and putting everything on hold.
In the end, the Pac-12 decided against expanding after Scott met with Longhorns officials in Los Angeles last weekend.
That's when sources said it became clear to the Pac-12 that it would not be able to incorporate the lucrative new Longhorn Network with the league's forthcoming Pac-12 Network in a way that was fair to the existing Pac-12 members.
In other words, it wouldn't work with Texas.
And though sources said the league considered inviting Oklahoma and Oklahoma State without the Texas schools, the Pac-12 decided that it would not receive enough new revenue from such a move split 14 ways, instead of just 12 to offset the increased scheduling challenges and increased travel costs that would accompany it.
"After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference," Scott said in a statement. "While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve.
"With new landmark TV agreements and plans to launch our innovative television networks, we are going to focus solely on these great assets, our strong heritage and the bright future in front of us," Scott said.
It was not immediately known whether the Big 12 capitulated to Oklahoma's recent demands that commissioner Dan Beebe be removed in order for the Sooners to stay in the league, or whether it agreed to move toward a more equitable revenue sharing model as the Sooners also wanted.
The Orangebloods.com website dedicated to Texas athletics reported late Tuesday that other Big 12 schools have joined the Sooners in notifying Beebe that they want a change in leadership.