Hey Stewart — love the new Facebook Mailbag submissions. This past week there has been a lot of talk about the Big 12, possible expansion, and what really went down a few years ago when four schools bailed out. One silly comment that was made was that Nebraska should move back to their old conference. Please, PLEASE tell me that was simply the musings of a misguided coach/blogger/crack fiend and not a likely possibility.
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— Thom Roose, Cincinnati, Ohio
Ah yes, realignment rumors. You never fail to amuse me.
Nebraska left the Big 12 in 2010 due in large part to the league’s chronic dysfunction (fueled at that time by Missouri openly lobbying to join the Big Ten). Five years later, the Big 12 is still marked by divisiveness, odd marriages and questions about its stability. So yes, absolutely, Nebraska is going to reverse course on the steady, markedly unified and filthy rich (and about to get that much richer) Big Ten to go back to the Big 12. Suuure. But according to Lee Barfnecht of the Omaha World Herald, whose realignment stories last week fueled this latest round of buzz, "The topic of Nebraska looking at a mulligan on conference affiliation was — and maybe still is — hot in these parts." Hence, the (unfounded) rumors.
Aside from that, the details Barfnecht reported about five Big 12 schools reaching out to the Big Ten in 2010 were absolutely correct, according to sources in the conference. But I wouldn’t read too much into that. During those chaotic few weeks when Texas nearly bolted to the Pac-10 and Texas A&M first flirted with the SEC, everyone in that league was exploring all of their options. They had no choice. And while this line at the end of his story — "… the Big Ten has done its ‘homework’ to evaluate Oklahoma and Kansas as potential members" — worked realignment fanatics into a frenzy, I’m told "nothing is happening" on that end. Even if the Big Ten does decide to go to 16, it would have to want those two schools badly enough to go to court and challenge a Grant of Rights deal that all current Big 12 schools signed through 2025.
Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for FOXSports.com. He covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter@slmandel and Facebook. Send emails and Mailbag questions to Stewart.Mandel@fox.com.