By Lance Epstein
This upcoming weekend, the Pac-10 Conference is set to have its annual meetings in San Francisco to discuss a variety of topics. However, none of the issues that will be discussed at the meetings are bigger or more compelling than the conference inviting six Big 12 teams to join the conference.
In a stunning and bold move, the Pac-10 is preparing to invite Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Colorado to join their conference. If those teams choose to accept the offer it would transform the perception of west coast sports. More importantly, it would give a conference that could rival the powerhouse Big East.
With the additional six teams, the Pac-10 would be divided into two divisions of eight teams. One division would consistent entirely of the old Pac-10 regime. It would include USC, UCLA, CAL, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.
In the other eight-team division, the six Big 12 teams would team up with Arizona and Arizona State.
Ultimately by adding the six teams into the mix, it would mean the conference could finally hold a championship game in football. The NCAA does not allow any conference to hold a championship game unless they have 12 participants. Like the Big 12 conference currently does with their championship game, the site could change from year-to-year [in fact, the Big 12 has been discussing the site of this year’s Big 12 Championship Game at their conference meetings in Kansas City this past week]. Some venues that could support a championship game are the University of Phoenix Stadium, Qualcomm Stadium, the Rose Bowl and etc.
More importantly, if the Pac-10 can manage to pull in Texas and Oklahoma along with already having USC as part of the conference, it would have three of the top and most historic programs in the history of college football.
Besides football, the college basketball slate would have nearly a premiere matchup on almost every single night. Texas, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma teamed up with Arizona, UCLA, Washington and California would allow for major networks like ESPN or Fox Sports to offer an insane contract for the rights to the conference at the next TV renegotiation rights after the 2011 season. After the last couple of years of Pac-10 basketball, the conference could use the national powerhouse of Texas to put it back on the television map.
Furthermore, if the schools came together to create this union then the conference would have six of the country’s top 20 TV markets in Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, Dallas, and Seattle. With that kind of lineup, it would bring mega bucks for the newly constructed super conference.
Nevertheless, the reason that the Pac-10 yearns for this and the six Big 12 might check the attending box on the invitation is because of the establishment of a “Pac-16” Network. According to various reports, Fox Cable Network [who is a key operating partner with the Big Ten Network] wishes to establish a Pac-16 Network to go along with the Big Ten Network.
Additionally, the potential Pac-16 Network is extremely beneficial to the teams of the conference as well. According to multiple reports, the Big Ten Network’s TV revenue distributed $14 million to the schools of the conference in its first fiscal year [06-07]. In the second fiscal year of 2007-08, the revenue jumped to $22 million. With the extra money for each school, the teams can recruit better and build better facilities.
Even with all the positives there are some negatives to think about. First, the Pac-10 would lose a lot of the rivalries that have built up over the years. For nearly a decade Arizona, Stanford and UCLA have been the perennial powers in basketball and atop of the Pac-10 standings.
If the realignment is accepted, fans might only get to see the squad’s face-off against each other once a year. Moreover, fans would only get a home game against their bitter rival once every other year.
All this is assuming the schedule has every team facing one another at least one time per season. There could be the factor that teams will not face each other every year. In football, it will be impossible for every team to face each other since the maximum allowance of games is 12 [not including bowl games]. So while everyone would be pumped for a USC versus Oklahoma or Texas, it might only happen once every two or three years. Not every season like fans will demand.
Another potential downfall is the time zone difference. The conference would have to deal with three different time zones. The biggest problem would be with basketball and baseball games times [since football is played on Saturday there is not a major concern]. For example, if a USC-Texas game started at 6 p.m. in Austin [assuming the part of the year where there is a two hour time difference], fans in Southern California might not be off work in time to watch their beloved team. Of course, the conference would probably figure out a way around this impending hurdle.
On the other hand, by the Pac-10 being able to start games a bit earlier, they would get more national exposure on the east coast. This could provide a boost in east coast recruiting.
So where does this proposal stand? Right not it is just preliminary and the six Big 12 teams have not accepted and the Pac-10 hasn’t officially proposed the offer.
Still, if this indeed goes down, it changes the landscape of college sports. The west coast might finally get the national publicity it has been searching for all these years. On top of that the 16 teams would bank in a boatload of extra cash.
Even though the conference gains the most out of this potential alliance, it could be the fans that benefit the most. They would be receiving matchups they could have only dreamt. Now they could be a realistic possibility.