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Originally published Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Bud Withers

Pac-10 will meet to talk about cutting costs

Also on the agenda will be a discussion about returning to eight conference football games.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

Among the watchwords at the Pac-10 summer meetings starting today will be these: Scrimp. Save. Snip. Slash.

It's all about the budgets these days — dwindling revenue and climbing costs — and those concerns will dominate the four-day conference event, taking place at a Super 8 in Susanville, Calif.

Well, not quite. The meetings are actually at the august and upscale Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. A league spokesman explains that the booking was made before the hard times hit, and word is the headquarter crib won't be coming cheaply.

That makes these the do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do meetings. Athletic directors meet today, the 30-member Pac-10 council (three from each school) takes action on topics Friday and Saturday, and the presidents pretty much rubber-stamp those measures Sunday morning. They'll attempt to clear their heads from a going-away party the night before for retiring commissioner Tom Hansen.

"The right-hand man of the president, Rahm Emanuel, said, 'Never let a good crisis pass you by; take advantage of it,' " Hansen told me this week. "That's what a lot of people in college athletics are doing."

Here's what will happen in San Francisco:

The league likely will forward four cost-cutting proposals for fast-track approval by the NCAA, so they can be in force for 2009-10.

Three of those four are high-profile issues: The league is pushing elimination of all printed media and recruiting guides; all foreign tours (unless already in the works); and the hot-button practice of football teams staying in hotels the night before home games.

The Pac-10 also will have Hansen, and his successor, Larry Scott, flesh out two other proposals with fellow commissioners nationally: shortening of playing seasons in all but football, basketball and women's volleyball; and doing away with costly "regional" track meets, largely a superfluous step between conference and national meets.

Then there are measures that can be taken within the conference, prominent among them travel-squad limits. Hansen says there was widespread league sentiment to trim football travel squads from 64 to 60, "but then in the coaches' meetings, they wanted to go to 66."

That will invite a turf-protecting joust from basketball coaches, who don't want to see travel squads dropped from 15 to 13.

Here's an idea: Drop football's ceiling to 60, and basketball's to 12. When's the last time you recall a basketball team getting a big contribution from its 13th player?

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Outside the budget matters — but entwined, in a peripheral way — is a discussion on whether to revert to the old format of eight-game league football schedules, in which each team would "miss" an opponent annually. Recently, the Pac-10 has struggled to fulfill its bowl alliances, while the ACC, for instance, whose teams play eight league games, landed 10 in the 2008 postseason.

"I think it'd be smart to go back to eight," says Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood. "Do I think that's going to happen? No."

Mike Bellotti of Oregon, moving from coach to athletic director, is against the eight-game revision, pointing out the inequities involved, and the difficulties in lining up four nonleague opponents.

As Hansen says, "There just aren't very many people to play out here [in the West]. And when that happens, the price goes up dramatically."

Once they're finished bean-counting, the league will stage a 260-person dinner for Hansen, with enough heavyweights to tilt the room: Tom Jernstedt, executive vice president of the NCAA, and ex-athletic directors like Mike Lude (Washington), Bill Byrne and Bill Moos (Oregon), Mike McGee (USC), Cedric Dempsey (Arizona), Pete Dalis (UCLA) and Sam Jankovich and Dick Young (WSU).

When they're done with the cake, it's back to bread and water.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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About Bud Withers

Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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