Pac-10 "very seriously" looking at expansion
New Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday that the conference is examining possible expansion as the Big Ten is courting new members. But which schools make the most sense to add?
Seattle Times colleges reporter
In a recent conversation with the San Jose Mercury News, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott weighed in on the subject of expanding the conference.
"We're looking at it very seriously," he said.
A lot more seriously, apparently, than even last summer, when Scott had a 90-minute sit-down with several West Coast writers in Los Angeles. His response to the question that day was mild enough that I didn't even mention it in the next day's piece.
However you want to frame the possibility of league expansion, there's no doubt the heat is being turned up on the topic. Scott said Tuesday on a conference call with Pac-10 writers that the discourse will become heavy in "the next 6 to 12 months."
The league's TV contracts with ABC, Fox and ESPN run through 2012. But new deals will be formulated in the next 18 months or so, and as Scott said in his best marketing-whiz jargon, "There's a value proposition associated with (expansion). It makes sense that if you're going to do it, do it when you can monetize it."
In other words, you tell the networks you now have the Denver market as well as the West Coast.
Two other factors that have the Pac-10 taking a long look at expansion: The Big Ten is on the make, having announced it is soliciting new members — possibly beyond a total of 12. And Scott just hired as his right-hand man Kevin Weiberg, ex-Big 12 commissioner and a former deputy to Big Ten commish Jim Delany.
I asked Weiberg on Tuesday if he expects the Big Ten to expand, which some see as the first domino in a considerable sequence.
"I do know Jim (Delany) well enough to know that when he takes a serious look at something," Weiberg said, "there's a good probability some action will come from it."
It's unknown how far the Pac-10 may already be down the expansion road.
The Pac-10 as we know it is 32 years old, one of the oldest leagues in the nation, partly because its presidents have been unbending on academic standards regarding expansion. So now, an intriguing dynamic will be how that might mesh with Scott's acumen and aggressiveness in marketing.
This isn't the stuff of fan message boards — you know, let's add Fresno State and Boise State because they have good football programs. It's complicated, with academic, geographic, demographic, philosophical and emotional issues figuring in.
Forget adding California state schools or Boise State. If the Pac-10 presidents stay consistent, they don't believe those are an academic match. Brigham Young? Historically, the presidents haven't wanted the religious linkage.
The two obvious choices are Colorado and Utah. But back about the time Colorado hooked up with the Big 12 in the mid '90s, a dance between Colorado and the Pac-10 ended with a terse statement that the school was happy staying put.
That may have changed. But is it more profitable for Colorado to be in the Big 12 or the Pac-10, which hasn't put a second football team into a BCS bowl since 2002?
A well-placed source on the college landscape says that a bit before Scott came to the Pac-10, the league had an analysis done of expansion possibilities and concluded that a Colorado-Utah addition didn't really do all that much. And that realistically, nothing short of Texas would.
The Longhorns, you may recall, were one of the Pac-10 quarries (unsuccessfully) a couple of decades ago, when conference expansion was rampant. If Delany, 61, constructs his Heartland super-conference as his legacy to the Big Ten, Texas — however improbable as an addition to the Pac-10 — might be Scott's only explosive reply available.
There are other pregnant considerations. Twelve teams means a championship football game, which means divisions, which always makes Northwest schools blanch. Anything that would distance them from Los Angeles is troublesome. But can't you have geographic divisions without mandating that each school has to play everybody in its division?
This is Larry Scott's new world. The Southeastern Conference is the envy of college athletics with its $3 billion hookup with CBS and ESPN, and the Big Ten is building empires. Clearly, the new guy, and his new guy, have a lot to think about.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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