Pac-10 announces plan for new divisions, revenue sharing
Washington, Washington State will be in North Division with Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and California. The Huskies and Cougars will play USC and UCLA in football every other season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Football schedulingThe teams will play each of their five division rivals and four of the six teams in the other division each year. The Bay Area and L.A. schools will play each other every season, even though they are in different divisions. The 2011 schedules will be released in 30 to 45 days, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said.
Conference championship gameLucrative conference championship football games will be played on campus sites, rather than at a neutral site. The first will be played in December 2011 at the home field of the division winner with the best record in its nine conference games. The first tiebreaker, if needed, would be head-to-head play.
Revenue sharingBeginning in the 2012-13 season, the first year of a new contract, media revenue will be shared equally. Sort of. If media revenue does not reach $170 million annually, USC and UCLA will each receive an extra $2 million. If the $170 million threshold is reached on an annual basis, the revenue will be divided equally among the 12 schools.
Other sportsNo other sports will have divisions, and Scott said the conference has a plan to handle scheduling. Beginning in 2011-12, men's and women's basketball teams will play home-and-home series with their traditional rivals, home-and-home series against six other teams and single games against the other four teams, on a rotating basis.
Impact on the Huskies and CougarsThe headline is that Washington and Washington State will play USC and UCLA every other year in football, and will make a trip to L.A. for football every other year. The good news — for everyone, but especially the Cougars — is that TV revenue is certainly going to grow, and beginning in 2012, will be shared equally, or close to it.
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SAN FRANCISCO — Elson Floyd, the Washington State president, called it "a very historic meeting."
Indeed, it seemed all of that, even as the CEOs of the Pacific-10 Conference did their work in a hotel meeting room Thursday without the pomp of coats and ties.
When they emerged from a morning gathering, they made changes to the very fabric of the Pac-10. Moments later, commissioner Larry Scott announced:
• The formation of the new Pac-12 into North and South divisions, with the Northwest schools joined to those in the Bay Area.
• Football scheduling that gives a nod to the history of the California schools, which will continue to meet every year, no matter the divisional alignment.
• A football championship game played on the home field of the division winner with the better record (or the victor in a tiebreaker).
• A revenue-sharing format, revolutionary for the conference, in which members will share equally in TV revenues when they reach a combined $170 million. Until then, USC and UCLA, traditional beneficiaries of the appearance-based model, will get a $2 million premium annually.
Said Scott, "We came up with a system we think is in the best long-term interest of this conference as an enterprise long-term."
The issue of division alignment drew significant interest since the league announced it was adding Colorado and Utah in June. Scott said half a dozen models were considered in "an extremely extensive and rigorous process."
Joining the two new schools to the Northwest seemed an imbalance, so the league settled on connecting California and Stanford to the Northwest. Scott produced a chart showing a competitive balance in the two divisions in games since 1997.
But it was clear from his comments and some of the presidents that a major issue was the possibility of breaking up rivalries between the California schools because of the alignment.
"The biggest conversation piece was the California schools, and what we do with the rivalries," Floyd said.
Or, as Scott put it, "Part of the DNA of the Pac-10 is the importance of traditional rivalries."
So those were preserved for the California schools, which means the Northwest schools will get only a game annually with one team from Los Angeles — and thus one trip every two years to an L.A. school.
"It wasn't that big a deal," said Washington athletic director Scott Woodward.
"It's fine with us," said Floyd, referring to WSU.
Scott, though, was asked how he would rationalize the arrangement to fans in Oregon, who were already questioning it.
"There's still a lot of frequency in inter-divisional play," he said.
The home-site championship game, Scott conceded, "may leave some revenue on the table, in terms of not playing in a 70,000-seat or 90,000-seat venue." But he stressed the positive of playing before a capacity crowd in a more energized campus atmosphere.
Revenue-sharing became a greater possibility with the addition of Colorado and Utah, as the sentiment of the L.A. schools to keep the status quo became less forceful.
Scott said the expected big revenue bump in the next TV negotiations — for contracts to begin in 2012-13 — would ease the angst of USC and UCLA, which will each get the $2 million annual premium "basically until we get to the point where they've doubled the revenues they've been getting."
In other developments:
• No other Pac-12 sports will have divisions.
• In basketball, the CEOs approved a format by which each school is guaranteed to play home-and-home with their traditional rival and will play six annual home-and-homes plus four single games for a total of 18.
• The league office is scrambling to readjust the conference football schedule for 2011, something Scott said should be in place in 30 to 45 days.
• Scott said simplicity won out over imagination for potential division names.
• The league also moved to a system of aggregate media rights — what Scott called a "more comprehensive, centralized approach." In the current arrangement, schools can make deals in their local markets after the conference schedules are set, which will now change.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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