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