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Despite Critics, Pac-10 Moves a Win

Category: Editorial, Featured News, Pac-12 Expansion & Realignment

Now that conference realignment has taken a break, you’ve seen a number of different media outlets give out their basic grades of all the moves, including this site.

Joe Schad and Rod Gilmore did a segment on ESPN in which they gave out all their “grades” via a “winner” and “loser” column (click for video). In their eyes, virtually everyone was a “winner” with the exception of the Pac-10, Boise St. and the Mountain West conference.

And there was Johnette Howard of ESPN who believes that the Pac-10 messed up and that their timing was wrong.

When you look at the actual moves made, it’s hard to find any “losers”. 

The Pac-10 made a bold move by getting as far as they did in their courtship of Texas. Remember, the Pac-10 ideally wanted Texas and Colorado to expand to twelve schools. That combination would do more than just make the conference eligible for a revenue producing conference championship game. They’d be adding the Denver market as well as most of the state of Texas, a huge boost to the potential for starting their own television network.

But in order to get Texas, it meant the Pac-10 would have to make concessions. They’d have to include Texas A&M;, which would still be appealing to the Pac-10 as the school is a reputable academic institution in the AAU. But that would be enough to get Texas. The Pac-10 needed to invite three other schools of Texas’ choosing: Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St.

This is not to say that the Pac-10 would not be thrilled to have added all three Texas schools along with Oklahoma and Oklahoma St., giving the conference that states markets as well.

But it was a long shot by the Pac-10 and the boldest move we’ve ever seen by a conference.

So when “Texas & Friends” ultimately passed on the Pac-10 to remain in the Big 12…no matter how thrilling the developments were for the Big 12 to remain together…it should not have ultimately come as a shock to anybody. The choice to remain in the Big 12 was simply a financial decision by Texas to reap the biggest reward (revenue).

So when the Pac-10 bold attempts to completely change the landscape of college sports fell short, they went with Plan B.

But Plan B was always the most realistic option: raid the Big 12 for Colorado, and add Utah from the Mountain West.

When a conference is able to get a school to leave it’s own conference, where it is generating more revenue, and leave for what is a lower valued conference….that clearly makes the move a “win” for the new conference. And that’s what happened. Colorado left the Big 12, where is was part of a much larger television contract, for the Pac-10. The hopes of the Pac-10 in creating a television network and adding the Denver market, was the carrot that enticed Colorado to make the move.

Utah joining the Pac-10 was a “gimme”. Any school in a non-BCS conference would jump at a chance for an automatic BCS bid. But Utah also gives the Pac-10 access into the growing Utah markets including Salt Lake City. And now the Pac-10 has a gigantic presence in the western markets of Los Angeles (#2), San Francisco (#6), Phoenix (#12), Seattle (#13), Denver (#16), Portland (#22) and Salt Lake City (#31) for ten of it’s schools. Tucson (#65) and Spokane (#75) for the final two schools.

Clearly, adding Denver along with Salt Lake City will have a positive effect on the Pac-10. Sure, it’s not Texas. But even the Big Ten was shut out of the Texas sweepstakes, despite their $20 million per-school payouts.

Joe Schad of ESPN has done a heck of a job covering all the realignment moves, perhaps better than anyone in the media. But his opinion on the Pac-10 moves seems based solely on the conferences’ failure to change the landscape by expanding to 16 schools with Texas. Had that option never reached the table, I’m sure he’d look at the Pac-10 raid on the Big 12 by luring Colorado as a bold move.

As for Howard’s article, it seems like a case of someone too wrapped up in what almost was, and not focusing on what was attainable and actually completed.

Luckily, upon completing this article, I came across another writer who had a more simplistic view of the Pac-10 moves. In his piece, Ted Miller laid it out there: sure, the Pac-16 would have been great (in volume of change/impact to the conference)…but Colorado and Utah made sense.

Remember folks, this wasn’t the Pac-10 adding WAC members San Jose St. and New Mexico St. What happened was that the Pac-10 added Colorado and Utah…and that makes them one of the many winners in this round of conference realignment.

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  • Chris,

    Thanks for the post. I think the numbers you have in mind might be a bit off from the actual numbers the Pac-10 is looking at.

    We do know one thing to be certain: The Pac-10 was not going to expand to 12 with Colorado and Utah unless it meant MORE revenue would be generated per the existing 10 schools.

    The opinion you posted was one that I had a month ago as well. But then I got some information from sources in the Pac-10. Prior to that, my opinion was pretty direct (and available on this site): 1) expand with Texas in any scenario, 2) No expansion, 3) expand with CU and Utah.

    Options 2 and 3 were switched this past month when the Pac-10 learned it WOULD indeed generate more money per school with Colorado and Utah.

    Some basic numbers:

    Current payout per Pac-10 school: $5.8 million
    New TV contract estimate per school at 10 schools: $11 million
    New TV contract estimate per school with CU and Utah: $14-$16 million

    Here's another take on the economics with some estimates:

  • The reason why most commentators are pronouncing the Pac-10's moves as an overall loss is that adding Colorado and Utah do not increase the overall revenue of the conference by more than 20% (even WITH a new championship game). The overall pie got bigger, but with 12 slices as opposed to 10, the individual slices got smaller.

    Texas by itself would have vastly increased the size of the pie, making each slice bigger, even split 16 ways. Colorado and Utah, even with their markets, simply do not bring in the revenue that makes this move worth Washington St.'s while. Overall loss for the Pac-10.

    -Chris from College Park, MD


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