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Blog Entry

Is the Pac-12 through expanding?

Posted on: June 10, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 1:41 pm
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- The architect of the latest round of conference realignment says the earthshaking hasn't stopped.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told that there could be more conference movement before 2020. Scott was named No. 1 Friday in's college football top 100 for 2011.

"I don't see anything major on the horizon -- short term, a few years," Scott said. "I'd be surprised if in the second half of this decade, we don't see another major round."

What, he was asked, would set it off?

"It could be TV deals," he said. "It could be other politics and dynamics within the NCAA. If I had to guess I would say it would be economic. That's why I believed it made sense [to expand] and continues to make sense."

A marketplace starving for content and a bunch of major conferences coming up for rights fees renewal caused the latest shifts. Conference affiliation has become more about your rightsholder than your league partners. The leagues that have the most schools desirable to the networks make the most money. That's why we came close last year to ushering in the era of superconferences. Texas was seriously considering joining the Pac-10 a year ago.

It was last June when Scott narrowly missed shaking college athletics to its foundations with a bold play to lure half the Big 12 to the Pac-10 to form the Pac-16. The deal was all but done but ESPN and Fox intervened at the last minute making financial promises that essentially convinced Texas to stay in the Big 12.

Having to "settle" for expansion with Utah and Colorado, the Pac-12 still landed a record rights deal in May with the same two outlets. Fox and ESPN joined as partners in the Pac-12 deal to pay the league $3 billion over 12 years. What would a Pac-16 have been worth?

"It's hard to know," Scott said.

Given that a 12-team league that didn't include Texas was worth $3 billion, a 16-team conference with the Longhorns would have been worth at least $4.8 billion. That's a conservative estimate of $25 million per school multiplied by 12 years.

Would the Pac-12 still be interested in Texas? Any league would be interested in Texas. The Longhorns are happy for now, starting their own network within the framework of the now 10-team Big 12. But clearly the geographical challenges of flying from Austin to the West Coast didn't matter when Scott made his play last year.

"There was a 48-hour period during that week where it was close," said Chris Bevilacqua, the Pac-12 TV consultant.

Bevilacqua may be the first industry insider to admit that it was ESPN and Fox that saved the Big 12 a year ago. Neither network could afford for the Big 12 to go away so they both made financial promises in order to keep it together. Had the Big 12 broken up, that would have eliminated one BCS conference that accounts for 16 percent of the households in the middle of the country. With the Pac-10 going out to bid this year, there was a possibility that both ESPN and Fox would have been shut out of two BCS leagues.

The Big 12 recently signed a long-term deal with Fox for its secondary rights for $90 million per year.

"They [ESPN, Fox] conspired, of course they did," to save the Big 12, Bevilacqua said. "That's a fact."

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Big 12, ESPN, Fox, Pac-12, Texas

Since: Apr 28, 2009
Posted on: June 20, 2011 6:40 pm

Is the Pac-12 through expanding?

The Pac-12 is the only conference that will try to get the ball rolling on the next round of expansion. However, they will have competition.  If Texas is thinking about going to the Pac-12, then the SEC will try to intervene.  Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor have to be packaged together. That is just how Texas politics works.  That means that the SEC or the Pac-12 could become the first superconference. However, it will probably force the hand of every other conference.  What happens after that is anyone's guess.  It could force seven 16-team conferences. Who knows what team will go where.  As always, this story is not over.

Since: Aug 25, 2010
Posted on: June 10, 2011 2:59 pm

Is the Pac-12 through expanding?

If you think about it the balance between the super powers will be as good and close as it can be drawn up if A&M goes SEC and Texas, Tech, OU and OSU go west.  Then you have the PAC-16 and SEC followed very closely by the Big Ten.  My prediction is it goes down exactly like this.   A&M and Texas will be in different conferences but will still play a huge ratings annual game that gets to showcase both conferences.  It will be like it is now with USC, UCLA and Cal, Stanford being in separate divisions in the Pac-12 but still playing eachother every year.  A&M would have done well in the PAC-16 but with them in the SEC it will preserve the balance of the conferences for the long haul.  With A&M also in the PAC-16, the advantage would have been to the PAC and remained so over the longer term.  But if they go SEC, the balance is ideal and when you have three amazing superconferences that are all very close and as balanced as possible and a 4th Big East/ACC combo as well it makes for every game being compelling and many decades of as compelling of a national product as possible.  That will be the best economics for the conferences and the networks, because the whole country will be as riveted by the competition and pageantry as ever.

Those 64 teams can be the top league and afford to give their players the full cost of attendance.  It will also be the perfect amount of teams and structure for a playoff.  Scott easily deserves to be the #1 person in college football right now.  My bet is there will be a good effort to get to superconferences starting in 2016 and I doubt it takes any longer than 2018.  When you have 16 teams you get to play all 7 other teams in your division and then 2 games against the other division which is an opportunity for fans to travel, and still get a few games against the rest of the country too.   It just gives each school an opportunity to see or play compelling games against more teams once every 4 years.  It also provides a heck of a conference championship game that would give a higher seed for a playoff or be a great route to the national championship, even though both teams in the case of the PAC-16, SEC and Big Ten would still get auto BCS or playoff bids.  They would just be seeded lower and have to play the best team in an opposing conference in the case of a playoff.

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