The Texas Tech blog, Double T Nation had an exceptionally interesting item on another reason why Beebe et al were so fired up about "saving" the Big XII. While the reasons were monetary, they were more far-reaching than you'd think, and for reasons the media have neglected to reported upon
A Colorado newspaper obtained Beebe's outline for a Big X
II salvation plan that had "exponential" revenue increases from the networks. This was seen as a definite plus in that it did not involve the creation or expansion into superconferences.
Why the problem with the superconferences? To quote:
[the move to superconferences in a blatant cash-grab would have invited] "more governmental, legal and public scrutiny" and could have resulted in athletic programs losing their tax-exempt status and possibly the payment of athletes for their services."
"Pressure to compete may rise with resulting higher salaries and more churning of ADs and coaches...Clear identification of the highest level of intercollegiate athletics reduced to a smaller grouping of schools (e.g., four 16-member conferences) could cause eventual tax consequences and tremendous pressure to pay those student-athletes responsible in programs driving the most revenue and pressure, and whose coaches and administrators are receiving more and more financial rewards."
Money was indeed a factor. But it seems that it wasn't purely the love of the stuff, rather the fear of losing it through a variety of regulatory and legal means, such as the loss of 501(c) tax exemption status; anti-trust legislation, paying coaches and ADs even more; and (most cynically), that such a system could result in having to actually pay student athletes for their athletic endeavors
So, while the Congressional anti-trust boogeyman did seem (and to me, still seems) a silly fear, it was very much a concern among the conferences raking in hundreds of millions of dollars. Likewise, I don't think that the IRS is pulling any school's tax-exempt status over expansion any time soon, but, the fear was palpable enough and apparently real enough to merit consideration.
There are real concerns here going forward that relate to the bottom-line profits of the schools and conferences, particularly the recognition that coaching salaries are out of whack and can rise even higher without a correction. And, the last statement is particularly damning as if there were ever any doubt that schools will fight tooth and nail to hang on to the low-cost services of 18-22 year-old kids.
So, while the megaconference seems "imminent" (h/t Joe Schad), if these concerns are pervasive enough, and the regulatory monster is that valid of a concern, then we may be a long, long way (if ever) from the Pac 16 and the like.