But CU officials weren't exactly shedding tears at the news Monday.
With the Pac-10 likely to add Utah and become a 12-team league with a championship game in football as well as starting its own television network, Colorado will probably receive as much, if not more, in annual conference distributions in the future than it would have had it remained in the Big 12.
Plus, all the other reasons for making the move remain unchanged.
"Our move was decisive, strategic and represented the importance of connecting with the conference that allows us to have a fit with out colleagues in the league and we remain elated to be a part of the Pac-10 Conference into the future," athletic director Mike Bohn said Monday evening.
It appears if the Pac-10 does stop expansion at 12 teams, it will split the league into north and south divisions. Pac-10 sources indicated the most likely split in a 12-team league is Colorado and Utah joining Arizona, Arizona State, USC and UCLA in the south with the other six schools in the north.
Bohn said it would be premature to speculate on division lineups before the Pac-10 has completed its expansion plans. However, sources said when Bohn informed his coaches and other athletic department staffers last Thursday that CU was switching leagues, he said CU had been promised it will compete in the south division if the conference expanded to only 12 teams.Plenty of uncertainties remain to be worked out in the coming weeks.
At the top of the list is when Colorado will officially leave the Big 12 and begin playing in the Pac-10. The initial plan was for the Buffs to make the switch at the start of the 2012 football season. But when Nebraska announced on Friday that it was joining the Big Ten at the start of the 2011 season, it likely pushed up Colorado`s timeline.
Nebraska leaving the Big 12 in 2011 will force the league to redo its conference schedule for one year. It`s possible the league could accomplish that with Colorado, but it would probably prefer to part ways with both schools at the same time.
However, if the Big 12 forces Colorado to leave a year early with Nebraska, it could save CU some money in exit fees.
Another factor at play is whether television partners in the Pac-10 will be willing to restructure their contracts with the league for one season to include at least one new member in CU and possibly two, if Utah joins.
"I`m confident after all the league shakeup is confirmed that we`ll have the opportunity to sit down with both conferences and explore potential solutions to whatever shakeup is finalized," Bohn said.
If Colorado does leave a year early in 2011, it won`t be hard to change the football schedule for the 2011 season. CU is slated to play Cal that season as one of its nonconference games. That game would simply become a conference matchup while the other three nonconference games remain on the schedule.
Another reason CU is likely to move up its change in conference affiliation is the probable addition of Utah. The Utes figure to be the next target for the Pac-10 now that the Texas and Oklahoma schools are staying in the Big 12.
The Mountain West Conference requires only one-year notice to leave the league, which would allow Utah to join the Pac-10 in 2011 with little problem.
The other big issue CU must work out is absorbing the cost of any exit fees it ultimately incurs from the Big 12.
Big 12 bylaws stipulate that if a school gives two years notice that it is leaving the conference, it forfeits 50 percent of its conference revenue distribution for each of those two years. That would cost CU between $4.5 and $5 million for each year or somewhere between $9 and $10 million over the next two years.
Colorado and Pac-10 officials said last week they have agreed to a plan in which the Pac-10 would help Colorado absorb the cost of leaving the Big 12. How the plan will work remains to be seen. Bohn said no matter how it is done no money from taxpayers or revenue from the CU campus will be used.
"I`m sure we will have the opportunity to evaluate how that is structured and then we will fund it from future conference distribution from the Pac-10 Conference," Bohn said. "We anticipate being able to structure some type of financing related to future disbursements."
Nebraska faces the possibility of losing $9 to $10 million in one year because it gave only one year notice. Exit fees rise if less notice than two years notice is given.
However, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman has suggested that his institution might not owe an exit fee to the Big 12 because of confusing bylaws and his assertion that Nebraska was forced to make the move in its own self interest. If the Big 12 does stay together, it is sure to keep any fees it believes CU and Nebraska owe, which could lead to legal action.