This may be a bold statement, but I believe it to be true. I don't have any facts to back up this claim, however, from what I have heard over the last day or so, expansion is almost inevitable and we should have an official announcement by spring. Now whether that announcement is that the Utes will be joining the conference, I can't say (because I do not know).
With expansion, this is how it generally happens. If you remember back when the Mountain West expanded to include TCU there were rumors tossed around as early as 2003 that the conference was seriously looking at the potential of adding another team. Here is a story from June of that year which discusses the possibility.
The interesting thing about this article is that it didn't seem the conference was too open to the idea of expansion. Chris Hill, Utah's athletic director, had this to say about a potential ninth team:
"We're pretty solid the way we are, so I don't know that we need to change right now," Hill said. "I'd like to see what shakes out around the country before we do anything. I think we have the luxury of being able to afford to do that."
Of course, the ACC raided the Big East and the whole dynamics changed. Which is exactly what we're seeing between the Pac-Ten and Big Ten. The Big Ten is obviously going to force the Pac-Ten's hands similarly to how the ACC forced the Mountain West to expand (though I'm still trying to figure out how a BCS league expanding influenced the Mountain West - a non-BCS league - to do the same).
This was in the summer of 2003. At that point, it was just rumor and not hardly concrete. In fact, the quotes provided from that article would have led many to believe that expansion was still not a very likely scenario for the Mountain West. Today, it seems that most have jumped aboard the belief that the Pac-Ten's expanding is not only likely, but inevitable.
In the case of the Mountain West, nothing happened the remainder of the summer outside of the ACC taking Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East. The Big East then grabbed a few C-USA teams (South Florida, Louisville, Cincinnati) and by late-2003, the pressure was on for the Mountain West to grab another team to bring their total to nine.
In January of 2004, the Mountain West moved on the rumor and officially invited TCU to the conference. After a short discussion between the board of trustees, Texas Christian officially accepted the invite on January 30th. They became an official Mountain West member a year and a half later in July of 2005.
This seems like a similar path Utah is heading down right now with the Pac-Ten. So far, we're only in the rumor stage. Articles being published about the prospects of the Pac-Ten expanding. Nothing official has been announced and certainly no invitation has been offered to either Utah, BYU or Colorado.
Based on history, if the P10 does expand, they're going to announce in the next few weeks, if not sooner. What I believe will happen is that the conference will let it be known this month that they have decided to expand. They won't say who they're expanding with, just that the league is now doing a thorough evaluation of every prospective program. It will prove to be a big list. Most teams won't have a legitimate shot.
Not long after this announcement and they will officially invite two programs to join the conference. The rest will be history. Utah has a very good shot of being one of those programs.
If that is the case, the Utes might officially be a member-in-waiting of the Pacific Ten (Twelve) Conference by the beginning of spring. Which means that it is very likely Utah will be playing in their final season as a Mountain West team.
Of course, if nothing comes of this, at least it will provide a wild ride.
Let the games begin...