In the summer of 2010, realignment rumors dominated the every day chatter of college football fans. The possibilities were endless, and we saw outlandish rumors floated on a nearly daily basis. It was probably the peak time for message board bizarros who knew a guy who knew a guy close to a program, and as dumb as it was to sift through the nonsense, it was a strangely fun time to be a college football fan.
Compared to 2010, the realignment rumors of 2016 barely register as a blip. But due to the Big 12's dithering on whether to add two teams, the world received a small but intriguing morsel from the Houston Chronicle's Joseph Duarte on Monday: Houston's AD had met with Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.
Houston AD Hunter Yurachek reportedly was the one who initiated the meeting, and the Pac-12 has stated publicly that they are not interested in expanding beyond 12 teams. There's nothing to indicate at this point that the Pac-12 has changed their mind. Officially, Yurachek was on the West Coast to watch the track team, but he did say that he met with Scott to "pick his brain on a myriad of topics related to the future of college athletics."
Even if it was a meeting just to try to plant the seed in the Pac-12 head, this is pretty consistent with Houston's efforts to try to get into a power conference.
Until now, though, those efforts were focused on the Big 12. With the big pieces either having just moved conferences or found some measure of stability in their current homes, the most attractive realignment candidate is probably Houston. This isn't meant as a slight to the Cougars. As a program, they have everything that conference executives supposedly look for in an expansion candidate, namely a large TV market in a new state and a supportive administration with ambition. That's all on top of the fact that they're really good at football right now, which helps. The Cougars are trying to strike while the iron is hot, it would seem.
One could reasonably argue that the meeting was a move to try to force the Big 12's hand and let Houston in. Despite Texas and other members preferring to stay at 10 teams, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby reiterated yet again on Monday that he will advise the conference to expand. That would certainly be a much more likely option than a move to the Pac-12, which hasn't been involved in any real expansion plans for some time now.
This is illustrative of how the college football landscape has changed over the past five years.
The big marquee names that either changed conferences or were close to just aren't moving right now. It kind of sounds insane now, but five years ago we were all prepared to see Texas, Oklahoma and a host of others leave the Big 12 for the Pac-12, and then all bets were off as to what happened to the rest of the sport. A few years later, and the biggest piece left on the board is probably Houston. Times have changed. For now, anyway.