Why so much attention on the University of Colorado?

For the past two weeks, the Buffs have been at the center of Big 12 expansion rumors and an assumed poster child for frustration with the long-drawn-out TV contract renewal for the Pac-12.

It’s as if this university in Boulder is suddenly a linchpin, a cornerstone, a key of sorts to any movement, be it the Big 12 adding teams or the Pac-12’s demise in a domino departure scenario.

On Saturday, Denver Post columnist Matt Schubert penned a piece after a week of passionate speculation with the theme “Why rush?”

Why does Colorado need to be at the center of things? Why make a quick jump? Why not wait until the Pac-12 announces a media deal and see what’s in the pot?

All good points.

And truly, Colorado should find out the facts before deciding to stay or go to another league.

Trouble is, the Big 12 has a lifeline out there for any who will listen in the Pac-12, and according to reports, many have, and Colorado has delved into it more deeply than others.

That lifeline could be grabbed by San Diego State, a target the Pac-12 is looking at to fill in a spot with USC and UCLA leaving for the Big Ten. SDSU has been mentioned as the No. 1 expansion candidate for the Pac-12. But on June 30, if SDSU doesn’t give notice of leaving the MWC, the penalty to be paid will go from $17 million to as high as $34 million. 

Big 12 commish Brett Yormark has publicly said he wants a national conference with four time zones. A Pacific time zone partner would fit that criterion, be it SDSU or Gonzaga — just for basketball.

But why is so much talk centered on Colorado?

Because for weeks, Colorado has most often been mentioned as the most likely to start all kinds of movement. New York Post media columnist Andrew Marchand, who has a myriad of dependable TV sources, said back on April 10, “Watch Colorado.”

That was like two months ago.

River otters have offspring in that kind of time.

Part of the Pac-12 dream is that a TV deal will be made that everyone can live with.

As Schubert illustrated in the Post, there is a dream among Pac-12 teams that keeps hope afloat and faith intact.

Wrote Schubert, “The real prize is an invitation from the Big Ten or SEC, neither of which is coming until CU re-establishes itself on the national stage. And in the brave new world of the 12-team College Football Playoff, where the Pac-12 champion will be included every season, the best place to make that happen is in a 10- or 12-team Pac-12. Not in the scattered 16-team Big 12 of Yormark’s dreams.”

That attractive juice in the giant flute before them keeps Pac-12 presidents and ADs speaking positive and upbeat — while many are talking to Yormark and the Big 12 in the shadows.

This past week — months later — Barry Trammel, a long-time respected columnist at the Daily Oklahoman, made national news when he wrote Colorado is ready to commit to joining the Big 12. It was a simple declarative sentence. Trammel doesn’t pander, his reputation is solid. Similar reports came from CBS national college sports columnist Dennis Dodd on May 30 when he said Colorado is having “substantive” talks with the Big 12. 

People are talking as if adding Colorado to the Big 12 is a given in a world where this topic has as much wiggle room as the elastic in a mile-long bungee. Of course, nothing is official and Colorado’s first preference is to be in the Pac-12, according to athletic director Rick George.

Said George, “We are proud members of the Pac-12. In a perfect world, we’d love to be in the Pac-12, but we also have to do what is right for Colorado at the end of the day.”

Colorado is a hot topic because of split assertions like this from George.

The Buffs have struggled to make any kind of big wave in the Pac-12 and have lost money. The pandemic-shortened sports season and money owed to Comcast ($5-6 million) are among their financial woes.

Some have wondered, why Colorado?

The Denver TV market would immediately be No. 3 in the Big 12 behind Houston and Dallas. 

Colorado would add a Mountain region presence with new Big 12 member BYU.

Colorado’s return to the Big 12 (departure in 2010) couldn’t be any worse than its experience in the Pac-12, where it found itself almost invisible with the Pac-12 Network’s dismal exposure.

Then there’s the domino deal.

The Big Ten, possibly other Pac-12 members, certainly SDSU and Yormark of the Big 12 are all waiting for a Pac-12 fracture. Then the dam breaks.

Jon Wilner, along with other Pac-12 media stalwarts, said Colorado going to the Big 12 wouldn’t be a big hit; that SDSU could be plugged right into the slot. But the Buff fan attendance is better, the stadium holds more bodies and TV numbers are larger.

It isn’t like adding Colorado would be like the Big 12 getting a brand replacement for Texas or Oklahoma. It wouldn’t be an impact addition like UCLA and USC are for the Big Ten.

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But, this is a piece of business investment with expected dividends.

Colorado is absolutely a symbolic figure in what we’ve all been discussing and debating since last summer when the Big 12 jumped the line in TV negotiations, leapfrogging the timetable set for the Pac-12, the summer Yormark announced the Big 12 was open for business.

The dividend is what happens in the aftermath of a Colorado departure from the Pac-12.

It could be the grand opening of a yard sale and buy with at least three conferences.

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