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Originally published Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 10:02 PM

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Bud Withers

Pac-10 continues to wrestle with football realignment, revenue-sharing questions

Pac-10 and athletic directors will talk Wednesday about how to align new football conference, and how to share the money.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

Wednesday marks another stage in the Pac-10's intriguing game of realignment roundabout, in which school officials jockey for position, consider lane changes and mull the advisability of yielding.

The league's brass has a conference call with its athletic directors to resume taking up the knotty issue of how to align the Pac-10's six-team divisions with the annexation of Colorado and Utah.

Inevitably intertwined is the matter of television revenue-sharing. What will come of all this, as early as a year from now, will be a new format for football scheduling, as well as a new TV contract to take effect after 2012.

The directors and the league met in Pasadena on July 30, and the turf war began. Lots of it has to do with Los Angeles — both the need to play there for recruiting's sake, and to hook up with L.A.'s greater capacity for TV revenue.

Bill Moos, the Washington State AD, argued then that it didn't make sense to align divisions until the revenue-sharing question plays out.

The back story there is that the Pac-10 has a dramatically uneven split in parceling out its TV revenue, while the Big Ten, ACC and Big East share it equally, and the SEC comes close.

In the Pac-10, if Oregon plays California on TV, the schools get 32 percent of the cash each, and the eight other schools each get 4.5 percent.

Because the networks favor the big TV markets in scheduling games, it's inherently unfair to set up divisions in which, say, somebody plays fewer games against the L.A. schools.

Moos has argued loudly for equal revenue-sharing, as have Bob DeCarolis of Oregon State and Scott Woodward of Washington. (Rob Mullens, the new Oregon AD, just took over in mid-August.)

Woodward is part of a six-person revenue-sharing subcommittee exploring various models. Meanwhile, the L.A. schools are trying to build a case for protecting their revenue. UCLA AD Dan Guerrero has lobbied for the status quo on the basis that both L.A. schools have to pay stadium rental and that the cost of living is higher in L.A.

Predictably, those arguments have met a lot of deaf ears, because just about everybody else has different problems, like less cash. And the L.A. schools need two allies to foil the 75 percent voting threshold that would bring about any new formula.

Mike Garrett, the former USC athletic director, always held out the implied threat that the Trojans could bail on the Pac-10 if it implemented equally shared revenue. Could that happen?

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USC athletic director Pat Haden told me Tuesday he'd have to weigh that possibility. But it doesn't seem likely. Scheduling as an independent is a very tough proposition, particularly for a Western school, and a break by USC would distance it from old rival UCLA.

As for revenue-sharing, Haden said, "The way I look at it, if you win, you're on TV more. Had USC or UCLA not been as successful, the disparity in revenue wouldn't have been as great. Like it or not, we've got the eyeballs (TV audience)."

That's precisely the point. L.A. has the eyeballs, and that attracts TV. Given a choice between a 5-1 Oregon State team or a 5-1 USC team, TV picks USC.

On the alignment issue, The San Jose Mercury News reported there's a "lean" toward matching the four California schools with the Arizonas. But I was told by a source in the league familiar with the dialogue that "emphatically, no way" will it shake out that way.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is not believed to be a fan of that format, because it overloads the big TV markets in one division. Do that, and why not just call the Northwest schools, plus Colorado and Utah, the Outpost Division? Or maybe the Trail Mix Six?

But that alignment is a consideration, especially if there's a move toward more equitable revenue-sharing that would mollify the Northwest. So is the so-called "zipper," splitting the traditional rivals into opposite divisions with the assurance they would play each other annually.

Then there's the "modified zippers," and don't be shocked if something like that emerges. You might see the Northwest schools aligned with one each from the Bay Area and LA.

Here's a different slant, though one not likely to get much audience with the Northwest schools. Last week, I had a conversation with Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder in Stillwater. He comes at it from the standpoint of a school that's found it exceedingly difficult dealing with the riches of Texas in its division.

"If I'm those schools," he said of the Northwest members, "I'd approach it with the idea that it's good to separate from Los Angeles."

A nine-game conference schedule appears likely, especially because it increases each school's potential visibility in L.A. By my math, everybody could play in L.A. four times in every five years, and five in every seven.

While all this is taking place, so is Colorado's joust with the Big 12 on its exit fee. The Pac-10 wants to have the Buffs in place for the 2011 football season, but that depends on when they can extricate themselves financially from their old league.

October has been targeted for a resolution date on the new divisions, and as well, the revenue-sharing question. So many battles, so little time.

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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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