As part of his conference's ongoing expansion study, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has explored the possibility of staging a conference football championship game with the current membership of 10.
Scott told CBSSports.com that he has spoken to the commissioners of the Big Ten and Big East about the feasibility of a Pac-10 championship game with less than the NCAA-mandated 12 members. The Big Ten has 11 members. The Big East has eight.
|New Pac-10 leader Larry Scott is looking into a championship game. (US Presswire)|
Scott added there could be a "logic gap" in such a move. Among BCS conferences only the Big East and Pac-10 play a true round-robin conference schedule.
Jim Delany's Big Ten is seen as the big dog that could have a far-reaching effect on conference structure if it decides to expand. That expansion could have a significant impact on John Marinatto's Big East. The Pac-10 could be untouched by such expansion but is being proactive in its region. The schools most frequently mentioned for Pac-10 membership are Colorado, Utah and BYU. The league is trying to maximize its television dollars. For years the league was thought to be undervalued in the market.
NCAA bylaw 22.214.171.124 (c) states that a conference must have at least 12 members to stage a championship game. NCAA legislation would be needed to change that bylaw. Supposedly, such a change would be non-controversial.
The SEC opened the door to divisional play in the early 1990s by taking advantage of the then-little-known bylaw that allowed a championship game. Five of the 11 Division I-A conferences currently stage a conference championship game.
As expansion talk heats up, some college sources have said they have had a hard time finding value for the Pac-10 to expand by the two teams it would currently take to add a championship game. The far-flung league would have to divide revenue 12 ways instead of 10. A Big Ten championship game was estimated to be worth a total $12-$15 million to the conference. It's not clear what such a Pac-10 game would be worth.
The Pac-10 is still in the preliminary stages of addressing expansion but is at the point where it is ready to hire a TV consultant in the next 30-60 days, Scott said. Candidates met with Pac-10 presidents earlier this month in Los Angeles.
Unlike the Big Ten, the Pac-10 does not have a financial stake in its own network that would spur expansion. Whether the league expands or not, the possibility further exists that the Pac-10 could enter into a partnership with the Big 12 and/or ACC to form a network. Scott has spoken with Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and ACC commissioner John Swofford in the past.
"I don't see expansion tied to a championship [game] and a network," Scott said. "I do think our conference is very well laid out for the possibility of a network. While we don't have as many states or the population, let's say, of the Big Ten, there's logic to the way our conference is laid out."
Early in the process, a lot of possibilities are on the table. The league could play a championship game at a team's home stadium, Scott said, to address attendance concerns. Officials at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Rose Bowl and Qwest Field in Seattle have expressed an interest in hosting a Pac-10 championship game, CBSSports.com has learned.
Scott was hired last year to replace Tom Hansen largely because of his television expertise as chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association. He recently hired former Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg as deputy commissioner and chief operating officer. Weiberg was with the Big Ten from 1989-1998, before becoming Big 12 commissioner. In 2007, he became the Big Ten Network's vice president of university planning and development.
Scott announced in mid-December that the conference would take a look at expansion. Membership has not changed since 1978 when Arizona and Arizona State were added. The Pac-10's television agreements expire after the 2011-12 academic year. Discussions on new TV deals should begin in less than a year.