02.Jun.2010 Round Table Discussion: Pac-10 Expansion

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I’ve been mulling over this topic for a few weeks. There’s a lot of information, and it was hard to synthesize it all. But here I am, finally ready to have an opinion! What I’ve concluded:

1. First off, I am for expansion, but only the addition of two specific teams–Colorado and Texas A&M. Discussion of any other teams, and I turn adamant for keeping the current setup and changing the bylaw to allow a (10 team) title game. If the higher powers do decide to expand…

2. Don’t like Utah as a candidate. Actually, I detest Utah. Not only do I dread driving through those red, cavernous canyonlands, but ever since the phantom PI call on Laybourn I’m extremely anti-Ute. But putting my bias aside, they aren’t exactly a good match. Basically, their TV market seems too small (31st nationally) to split revenue an 11th way, and they suffer from the same political (i.e. religious) affiliations that make BYU a poor fit. And looking at it from their side, you’d think they’d want to stay in the Mountain West since the conference is working to get an automatic BCS bid. I see Utah as a “close-but-no-cigar” match.

3. Colorado and Texas A&M are the two logical additions. The Buffs, 13th overall in wins, have a (split) national title, the Boulder/Denver TV market, and solid academics. That is something to get behind. Texas would be interesting, but there’s a snowball’s chance in hell they’d join, so A&M becomes the next best thing. That’s a good choice, actually. Another research/ag school with good tradition (in several sports), a pipeline to Texas recruiting for the entire conference, and solid academics. The drawback is location–College Station is in the eastern part of the state, even further east than Austin (University of Texas).

4. The conference should pursue their current agenda of a title game, with or without expansion. As an Oregon State fan, you want to see a Pac-10 North for two reasons: revenue and odds. A 1/5, or 20% chance of reaching a title game (with a subsequent 50% chance of winning it) gives every team more to play for than a 1/10 or 10% chance of winning the conference outright. On the other hand, if you are a fan of Oregon State you might not want to see the Pac-10 North for the following reasons:

  • The Pac-10 South, by having USC, will be the premier of the two divisions, meaning expect to lose even more recruiting battles with the Cal and Arizona schools. Add the possibly of no annual trips to LA.
  • For the reasons stated (i.e. no national contender), expect the North to receive national disrespect and the perennial “weaker Pac-10 division” label.
  • Expect the Arizona schools to benefit the most from this arrangement. Currently, a recruit snubbed but USC can go anywhere in the conference and get a crack at beating them for the conference title. While this would still be true, said recruit would likely prefer to knock USC off their pedestal in-division, thus go to UCLA or an Arizona school, with the latter being the biggest beneficiary since UCLA currently recruits head to head with USC.

5. Say the new TV contract is worth 100 million dollars (this seems reasonable given the ACC recently inked a 130 million dollar deal). That’s 10 million per team before any profits from a title game. Does Colorado or Texas (i.e. Austin/Houston) market add more than 20 million combined (probably closer to 25 million after aforementioned title game revenues) to make it worthwhile to the teams currently in the conference? I think that’s the…er… million dollar question. Denver is the 16th biggest market in the country. What does that mean for the Pac-10? It means games are not only on in Denver (and possibly Texas) but also relevant. Oregon State relevant in Texas? Hmm. Needless to say, this opens fantastic recruiting pipelines and national exposure.  Houston is the 10th largest TV market, and Austin is the 48th–I imagine the games out of College Station are broadcast in both cities, and that expansion into these regions would be a good thing.

6. Colorado and Texas A&M, were they to join the conference, would have to give up 50% of the next two years’ conference earnings back to the Big 12 for early withdrawal. My feeling is that this would be worth it long-term and the found revenue of a new TV deal could help ease the blow.

7. The conference needs to get more games on TV. Gone must be the days of regional broadcasts, no TV, and 3:30 kickoffs. East coast viewers need a noon game. Drink your coffee, gents.

8. Finally, let’s not expand simply to expand. The status quo is fine. A conference title game would create excitement and revenue, so it is a logical step. Conference expansion (with a title game) is the biggest risk. It requires the most forethought and should not be done simply to keep up with other leagues. The overall well-being of all 10 universities currently in the conference should be Larry Scott’s first priority. Given Scott’s thoughtfulness to this point tells me he’s going to make the right decision.

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  • Jim S says:
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    To me the only school that makes fiscal sense is BYU. They have a significant fan following throughout the west, a good size stadium, and some national cachet. Adding Utah would maintain the paired rivalry and sew up the Wasatch Front (same pop. as the Willamette Valley and the biggest remaining market west of the Rockies I believe). Sounds like some Pac presidents would veto BYU though.

    From what I have read, the Texas schools are not going to split up, and the chances Texas would come to the Pac seems almost zilch. The only possibility would be TCU, IMO.

    Colorado? You hear them alot, and in the 90s sure. But what have they done in the last decade? Maybe in other sports, but you don’t get TV revenue from other sports. I question how much following there really is in the Denver market anyways. Go Broncos.

    So if no expansion, what about a 10 team championship game? My question is, what would happen to the round robin? Keep it, and that means the number two Pac 10 would have an extra loss. That drops the chances of a second Pac team in a BCS game to zero (though it seems almost zero right now). And BCS money seems almost as big as championship money (not sure though). Drop the round robin and the teams could guarantee an extra win with a cupcake. But Pac fans are fickle, and I would think fan revenue would be less than from a conference game.

    So in my opinion, keep the current setup, and hope the Big 10 and SEC do not become giant conferences too big to fail.

    • angrybeaver says:
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      “To me the only school that makes fiscal sense is BYU. They have a significant fan following throughout the west, a good size stadium, and some national cachet”

      I think there is zero chance of BYU–the Pac-10 doesn’t want religious affiliations. Otherwise, sure, it would have been a great choice.

      “Keep it, and that means the number two Pac 10 would have an extra loss.”

      Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get two BCS teams. It almost happened this year with a 3 loss (at the time) OSU team and USC. or even Oregon and USC. Honestly, I don’t see the point of a round robin other than determining the conference champ, so if you play a championship game why keep the round robin? If you’re OSU schedule two cupcakes (say Montana, Wyoming, PSU, etc) and one respectable OOC game (say…Boise State) every year…stay local. In conference play your division and alternate every other year between the southern schools to play 2 or 3 per year (wasn’t it in 2005 OSU didn’t play USC? You can do things like that).

      • Jim S says:
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        If the schools replace a conference game with a cupcake, then you have 5 fewer conference games- which I think would generally mean 5 games with fewer fans in the stadiums and fewer TV pickups. All for the sake of one championship game. Not sure that’s a net positive.

        In my opinion, from the increased revenue driven perspective (which is how the conference big wigs are looking at it, I’ve read), you would have to keep the round robin and add the championship game. In which case, you butt up against the decreasing likelihood of 2 BCS games.

        Sounds like this is why they hired a consultant, to figure all these scenarios out.

  • Jim S says:
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    One last addition- hook up with the Big 12 for a TV deal, and schedule some quality inter-conference games between the two.

  • JackBeav says:
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    Hmmm…. so much to talk about here. Let’s start with the potential additions.

    Boise State and the Mountain West: They’re on the verge of becoming a BCS conference. The Big East is almost certain to be decimated by all this, and the evaluation period ends in two years. If BSU joins the MWC (along with maybe Fresno and Nevada?), they’re almost sure to replace the Big East as a BCS conference. If that happens, there exists a motive for all the MWC schools to stay put. That doesn’t mean they will, but they all have a better shot at a BCS berth if they remain in their own conference.

  • JackBeav says:
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    Hawai’i and Colorado:

    There’s not much difference here. Distance is a factor for both. Both are excellent research universities. Both have very good non-revenue sports programs. Colorado holds the edge on football, general athletic facilities and distance. Hawai’i holds the edge on everything else.

    Denver’s media market would be the winner in this one from the short view. Media market analysis can account for the 2.3 million versus 1.3 million population bases for each market. But they largely ignore 8+ million annual transient population which occurs during the non-summer months in Hawai’i. These are people who spend money and adhere fond memories to their time in Hawai’i. The international aspect of this population is one virtually untouched by the NCAA.

    And before I hear someone trot out the old pooh-pooh about ‘we already control that market’… no we don’t. When I lived in Colorado, CU was the big dog, but Nebraska and the Pac 10 were also huge draws. This is probably due to the fact that Colorado’s population growth comes mostly from the West Coast and the near Plains region. When I lived in Hawai’i, the draw was UH sports and playing on the beach. Even if I could find a Pac 10 broadcast (which was rare) I couldn’t get off work to see the game anyway (time difference). Living in Hawai’i really contributed greatly to my apathy toward Pac 10 sports in the mid 90’s. I can remember who Fresno State’s back-up QB was in 1996, but I’m not sure who the Beavs’ starter was (Shanklin?).

  • JackBeav says:
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    UC Davis:

    This name always pops up in Pac 10 expansion talk. Sacramento is the #20 TV market. I think there’s an argument for already owning this market. But Davis has been slowly creeping toward D-I high major status. Their academics are outstanding, but their football program needs to be upgraded to at least Pac 10 bottom feeder levels. I would argue that it would happen almost overnight. I would point to the success at UConn in the last decade when they just threw themselves in the mix. Davis would have no problem drawing recruits, and the nation might take a look at the Pac 10 if they were to do as well as UConn has in the Big East.

  • Beavker Beavker says:
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    Check out this wild ass scenario!

    http://texas.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1090747

    • JackBeav says:
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      That’s too funny. I was thinking this exact scenario last night after initially reading Angry’s post–except I had Nebraska instead of TTech in the mix. I discarded the notion when I thought about the continuous cloud of investigation that follows Oklahoma everywhere. The academics in the two Okie schools would dispel any notion that the Pac 10 was concerned with that aspect.

      If true, Larry Scott has taken the conference in a totally different direction. Good for money… we’ll see on the rest.

    • angrybeaver says:
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      That would be horrible for OSU. Good luck ever winning a conference title again…

      • JackBeav says:
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        I agree. But that’s the case when talking expansion. Do we sacrifice the possibility of winning a conference title in football for revenue? I actually love the move from a hoops standpoint, but boy would football suffer in the win/loss column.

      • angrybeaver says:
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        I guess it would depend who was in the “north”…hopefully the bad teams of that bunch! 1/8 > 1/10. The new goal would be just reaching the conference title game instead of the Rose Bowl.

      • JackBeav says:
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        It would be the Pac 8 in one division and the new Big 12 six and the Az schools in the other.

  • CastorNation says:
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    I imagine you are right that the choice would involve dollars first and foremost. As a secondary choice I would vote on a new rivalry. I don’t see pulling Colorado out of their conference. But what about Air Force and Colorado St. They have an existing rivalry, maybe mediocre teams, but it would encompass several metropolitan areas in CO. What I mostly hear of is BSU and Utah. (Not much there ) My thought is more to BCS than the actual expansion team. I really want to see a playoff system to determine NC. How many times recently have you heard of USC ” this is the best team to take the field since football was invented ” then go on to be beat by OSU. Some teams will always fair better than others in the current system. I think expansion talks should be in a context of a playoff. AND REQUIRE NOTRE DAME TO JOIN A CONFERENCE.

    • JackBeav says:
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      Air Force can’t really travel. Their budget only allows a couple trips outside their region, and they have commitments to the other service academies.

      CSU is the red-headed stepchild in Colorado. They’re not much of a step up from Denver, Colorado College or Northern Colorado.

  • gobeavs12 gobeavs12 says:
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    Interesting rumors flying around today…

    http://gazetteonline.com/blogs/docs-office/2010/06/03/six-big-12-schools-to-the-pac-10

  • JackBeav says:
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    The rest of the Big XII:

    For monetary purposes, Texas is the obvious choice. UT is just sitting back and waiting for the offers to come in. In true UT fashion, they will demand the lion’s share of their contribution to the conference as a whole. And they will overstate their contribution because everything is bigger in Texas. It killed the SWC, it’s what’s killing the Big XII, and it’s going to kill their next conference as well.

    Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, K State, Mizzou, Ok State and TTech don’t have enough in the history/academics/media market departments as a whole to overcome their geography as they pertain to the Pac 10.

    Oklahoma… no.

    Nebraska is a great opportunity to add a championship caliber athletics program and a solid fan base. Their media market is a misperception because they carry a national audience. Their academics would place them well down in the bottom of the Pac 10, but they still come in front of our outliers–UO and Wazzu. But they have such a commitment to their student-athletes that they graduate them at excellent rates. That has to be respected everywhere. If we were going to add NU, we would have to strike before the Big Televen, because I’m pretty sure NU is on their radar.

    ATM is an interesting choice. Bryan/College Station is an hour and a half north of Houston and a lot of Aggies live in the city… including my roommate when I lived there. They are so steeped in tradition that they have little patience for anyone who would even light-heartedly poke fun at said traditions. They had a huge problem with the MOB, so I can only imagine what they might think of the LSJUMB. If they came to the Pac 10, at least I could bring out my eATMe flag on gamedays. With all the talk of conference restructuring, I’ve heard most often that they would end up in the SEC.

  • JackBeav says:
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    British Columbia:

    Thinking completely outside the box on this one. UBC desperately wants to be a part of the NCAA, and the NCAA has recently ruled that international schools can participate in D-II. UBC easily has the academic chops, and they bring a brand new market into play. If UC Davis and UBC were to be allowed participation in the non-revenue sports, the Pac 10 could foster their football programs until such a time that further expansion is feasible.

  • JackBeav says:
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    In the end, I’m going to say that money trumps everything. I’ve read the rumors, and I wonder if they’re true. I dismissed the very same idea because of the ideas stated above, but I also didn’t think the Pac 10 was bold enough to make such a play.

    Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

    It would make sense from a business standpoint though. My worry is that the size of the subdivisions in the new formation would give one or the other ideas of breaking off on their own after another 15 or so years.

    It also gives everyone a 1/16 shot at a BCS bowl instead of a 1/10 shot. Sure, it gives everyone a 1/8 shot if the stars align, but when will that happen? Can you imagine what would happen the first time Texas marches into Autzen or Reser expecting a W only to limp away with a loss? I can already hear Mack Brown pleading with Pac 16 coaches to rank Texas in the top five while moving some SEC or Big Televen school to 115.

  • JackBeav says:
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    If I’m the Mountain West Conference, I’m listening to the Pac 10 rumor and discussing an immediate move to bring Nebraska and Kansas into the fold along with Boise State. Two bring huge recognition in football, and the other brings hoops.

    And they fit the geography of the conference well.

  • angrybeaver says:
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    Would BSU do that and accept they’re going to lose 3 or 4 games a year? Their entire reputation is based on playing the system. I’m curious to see what Boise does and how it effects their record/stature. More like anxious…they need to be put in their place.

  • angrybeaver says:
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    This is pretty cool:

    “The six teams from the Big 12 would be in an eight-team division with Arizona and Arizona State. The other eight-team division would consist of USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.”

    All the charter members and the early additions in one division. I like that idea. Good for travel, too.

    Really worried about what happens to OSU. 16 seems too large. They’d get lost in the mix. They’d be like Mississippi State in the SEC.

  • JackBeav says:
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    Back to your post…
    I read last night about the ATM AD (Bill Byrne, formerly of whiny UO) whining about having to travel to the West Coast for games under the current Pac 10/Big 12 agreement. He claims it’s because of money, but ATM has such an entitled and parochial persona that I think they really want to fit into the culture that is the SEC.

    If Byrne is worried about travel costs, maybe he shouldn’t let his track and field team come to Track Town USA. That would save ATM some cash.

  • angrybeaver says:
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    The more I read about this 16 team super conference the more I want things to stay the way they are…expansion would line OSU’s pockets but kill their opportunity for athletic achievement. I have a feeling this blog would turn into “well, hopefully the 10 million dollar renovation attracts some recruits away from ….TEXAS” ugh

  • OS_Beaver says:
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    Nope. ALL ABOUT THE BIG PAC-16!! Scott has this about perfect. Shoot for the 16 schools that 4 conferences are likley to have soon enough. Have a PAC-8 western division and the Arizona schools join the 6 Big-12 invites. Works prefectly and sets up traditional play and still atleast a game with the other division. Then you have a championship game that alternates between the Rose Bowl/Memorial Coliseum and Cowboy Stadium. What also works out so great is that there are solid backups in Nebraska, Kansas, K State, Baylor, TCU or Utah if a team or two is uncertain. Revenues will increase to 20 million per team and we can become the richest conference!

    • angrybeaver says:
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      How do you see it playing out for OSU?

  • CastorNation says:
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    I think with a PAC 10 or Western 16 OSU faces the same problems. In the PAC 10 it is usually Trojan and the nine dwarfs. Oregon thinks they are on the verge of perennial greatness, but once things get worked out at USC they will again take the cream off the top. In a 16 team conference it would be Trojan and the 7 dwarfs. Same thing. OSU needs to be able to stay with USC to be able to take it to the next level. Oregon fans crow about how they always get more fans out to the games. I have looked at Google Earth and their parking lot is at least three to four times the size of OSU. I would be much more inclined to get off the couch and go to a game if I thought there was someplace I could stick my car. Corvallis is a nice quaint town. OSU needs to stop thinking small town. Try going after some big time recruits and take them away from the big guys. Think about bringing Oregonians to the games instead of relying on Alums. Make some kind of provision for parking. 10 teams or 16 teams OSU can’t be business as usual if they want to survive, let alone succeed.

  • angrybeaver says:
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    In light of the new developments today, my post is pretty much embarrassing and obsolete after only a few hours. I stand by some of the ideas, but it looks like the Pac-10 is going in a completely different direction. Or at least trying to. I have mixed feelings on the 16 team idea. Need to let it sit in for a while. I thought 12 would be acceptable. This seems like overkill. I’m just going to sit back and listen to your ideas/input and digest it all.

    Also, I’m psyched about baseball and don’t want to think about this right now.

    • JackBeav says:
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      I think expansion is a horrible idea from an athletic/competitive standpoint. I can’t think of a single conference which did expand (in the modern era) and made their product better. What they have done is give the big name schools more power.

      In fact, There are three conferences in which the overall product has become better. The Pac 10 has marginally increased in quality over the years. The Mountain West seems to have come out of nowhere, but their quality has solidified more than it has simply appeared. And the Big East schools who were left for dead added a CUSA hoops team and two teams (UConn and USF) who just played their 10th year of D-I football in 2009.

      The SEC has turned into Florida versus Alabama with a chance for rain every fourth year or so. The Big Televen has only slowly lost its quality of life since others have been there to step in for Michigan. The C*USA is like the WAC… only their best would be mediocre in the WAC. And then there’s the WAC istelf, with their quadrant forming 16 team something or other. I would add that the WAC has managed to better its product, but it was coming from a deep dark hole. So there was only one direction it could go.

      So I don’t want to hear anything about competition and quality being anything remotely close to a reason for expansion. It’s all about money and nothing else.

      But I’m not going to argue against the super conference idea (the ACC/Big East have discussed this a little as well). So long as there are 8-10 teams in each subdivision, the scheduling should work out quite a bit more like a tournament than the NCAA wants it to be. There could eventually be 5 or 6 super conferences with 8-10 teams in each subdivision. That’s 100 teams in 10 subdivisions pared down to five conference champions after a championship game.

      And why would USC give up what is certainly a lock on their glory for a little more money? Well, it was reported that tomorrow (today?) is the day we find out how many times the NCAA can say ‘please’ to USC after they give them a stern warning to not do THAT again.

      It’s just so convoluted that it’s starting to make my head hurt.

      You’re right… baseball and USC sanctions in the morning. Here’s hoping that we have a good Friday.

  • JackBeav says:
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    The reports out are that USC didn’t receive any notice of any NCAA announcement for today, so I doubt that toothless celebration of nothingness will happen today.

  • angrybeaver says:
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    http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=5257088

    this article makes it sound like the Big-12 south will join the PAC-10 if Missouri and Nebraska bolt for the Big-10.

    “The most widely discussed scenario has Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado joining the Pac-10. There was some indication Sunday that Baylor could replace Colorado under pressure from the Texas Legislature.”

    This sucks. I’d much rather have Colorado than Baylor. Not only better school/athletics, but also an untapped market. Would the conference really gain anything by having a fourth team in Texas?? I don’t think you can give “Texas Legislature” that much clout.

  • […] The good news is that the conference is better off without the Big-12 south. Did anyone else have the feeling it was a mismatch we were trying to force for the wrong reasons? I feel relief it’s over, and I’m content with the outcome, since I was only for expansion if he could land two specific teams. […]

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