Buffaloes to make move starting in 2012

Updated: June 11, 2010, 9:06 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BOULDER, Colo. -- With a unanimous vote by the University of Colorado regents Friday, the Buffaloes made their departure from the Big 12 official.

Life as a member of the Pac-10 may not be that easy or so rosy.

This is a program that has recently struggled to find traction in football as well as men's and women's basketball in the Big 12.

Now, the Buffaloes will be looking west to try to gain a foothold in a conference that may not be finished retooling.

With Nebraska seeking Big Ten membership -- further eroding the Big 12 -- the Pac-10 could very well make a run at teams like Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to perhaps create a 16-team super conference.

"We won't be adding for adding's sake," said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, who was in Boulder for the announcement Friday. "It has to be the right fit. ... If it stops here, we're thrilled."

Colorado's switch was marked with pomp and pageantry at its Boulder campus and beyond. Gov. Bill Ritter joined the delegation that welcomed Scott at the airport, along with university president Bruce Benson and College Football Hall of Famer Alfred Williams.

After the regents made quick work of the vote, the panel broke into the school's fight song, with Scott caught in the middle.

The mood was extremely festive with alumni, administrators and coaches expressing their excitement over their new alliance.

"We live in an interesting time of college athletics right now and we're at the hub of it," said Tad Boyle, Colorado's new men's basketball coach. "I'm glad we were proactive. It's a great fit for our institution. As a basketball coach, it's going to be a great fit for us as well."

Still, the move is bittersweet for Boyle, who played at the University of Kansas when the school was a member of the Big Eight.

The storied conference is now teetering on the brink of collapse. Kansas, along with Kansas State, Missouri, Baylor and Iowa State, could be searching for new conference homes.

When the Pac-10 extended the invitation, Colorado sprang at the opportunity.

"I feel badly for those guys because it's been part of my athletic past," said Williams, a standout player for Colorado from 1987-90. "It's different not having those alliances. I went online and checked out the logos from the Pac-10. I'm not used to seeing them."

The Buffaloes are scheduled to begin competing in their new conference in July 2012.

Colorado football coach Dan Hawkins is looking forward to the new challenges, scouting new teams.

That is, if he's still around.

Hawkins is on the hot seat after turning in his fourth straight losing season in 2009. Asked if he thought he'd be coaching the team in 2012, Hawkins laughed and said, "We have to keep moving in the same direction. We've got a good foundation here."

That statement could have very well applied to the league itself, before the Big 12 began to unravel.

Caught in transition, CU coaches will have to keep a watch on two leagues until the changeover is complete.

That's the plan of new women's hoops coach Linda Lappe, who replaced Kathy McConnell-Miller after she was let go after posting a 65-88 record over five seasons.

"I don't know a whole lot about the Pac-10 in terms of style of play," said Lappe, who helped Colorado to three straight NCAA tournament appearances as a player from 1998-2003. "I know a little bit from what I see on TV.

"You do have to have two mindsets. You have to always keep that future in mind and know what you're looking for."

Down the road, the Buffaloes may be looking at adding sports, especially since the conference is big on baseball. Colorado ditched that sport 30 years ago.

"We talked to the commissioner about that possibility. It certainly wasn't a requirement, but as we look to the future, we should be looking at adding sports," said CU chancellor Phil DiStefano, whose school does boast a strong skiing program that has won 16 NCAA championships.

CU athletic director Mike Bohn is embracing the transition.

"I want to make it real clear that joining the Pac-10 Conference is going to be a challenge for us," Bohn said. "But we're up for that challenge."

As for the traditional football rivalry with Nebraska, that just may be a thing of the past. Unless, of course, the two sides can find a way to work the game into the schedule.

Or, if Nebraska does end up going to the Big Ten, the two schools could meet in the Rose Bowl.

"We want to get there," Hawkins said. "That's for sure."

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