The Pac-10 concluded its meetings in San Francisco Sunday by giving commissioner Larry Scott the authority to pursue any possible expansion, while not committing the conference to adding any more schools.
Scott addressed the chancellors and presidents on the final day of the weekend meeting about possible expansion scenarios and was given permission to move ahead with the process without having to go back to the board for approval.
"What direction that process takes still could go in different directions," Scott said. "Everything from remaining as we are as a Pac-10 that has some very bright days ahead of it, to a bigger conference foot print. I have the authority to take it different directions depending on various scenarios and discussions we will have."
The conference will decide its future plans by the end of the year before negotiating a new television contract for the 2012-13 academic year.
The Pac-10 administrators arrived in the City this weekend to a report that the conference was ready to invite Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor from the Big 12 to create a 16-team megaconference.
There has also been a report that Baylor could replace Colorado in that scenario or the Pac-10 could choose to keep the status quo or add only two teams in a smaller move.
"We probably have contemplated or are contemplating almost everything you've read about," Scott said. "The Pac-10 is in a very fortunate position. We have tremendous prospects exactly as we are. We also have some potentially exciting opportunities regarding expanding the footprint of the conference."
Scott, the former head of the Women's Tennis Association, took over the conference last July. In February, he said the window for possible expansion would be until the end of 2010 before the conference negotiated a new television deal. Since then, speculation has grown about if the Pac-10 would choose to expand, and if so, what teams it would seek to add.
The Pac-10 had perhaps been the conference most resistant to change in recent decades. While all of the other five major football conferences had either expanded or swapped teams since the start of the 1990s, the Pac-10 has been in its current format since adding Arizona and Arizona State in 1978.
With five pairs of natural rivals, the Pac-10 has been able to hold down travel time and costs and play a full round-robin in football and home-and-homes against each team in basketball.
A major motivation for the expansion talk is to increase revenues for the schools under a new media contract that begins in the 2012-13 academic year. Negotiations will start early next year and could lead the development of a Pac-10 network similar to what the Big Ten has successfully done.
Pac-10 teams make considerably less from television and bowl deals. Big Ten schools reportedly receive about $22 million each from television and bowl deals and SEC school each get at least $17.3 million. Pac-10 teams, meanwhile, reportedly only get about $8 million to $10 million each from the conference deals.
Scott said the reason for expansion would be that it could create "exponential" growth in terms of money and exposure.
"I can't say for sure sitting here today that there are options that will achieve these goals where the Pac-10 can stay true to its DNA and its special values," Scott said. "But there are some very exciting possibilities out there. That's why we're investing so much time and effort."