SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A relative newcomer with a background in tennis, not football, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott doesn’t feel comfortable characterizing this week’s athletic directors meetings as the most important in conference history. He’ll leave that to someone who’s been around a little longer.
But don’t confuse reticence for naivete. Scott understands the potential landscape-altering significance Wednesday and Thursday in San Francisco—and the meeting of presidents and chancellors later in the month—will have on the future of what will become the Pac-12 next year.
“This is an inflection point with the conference moving to 12 teams,” Scott said. “This conference is about to scale to new heights in terms of the popularity that we had and the types of media agreements we’re about to strike next year. How we move to a 12-team conference when we haven’t expanded since 1978 has obviously kicked up some pretty weighty issues.”
The heavy lifting will be a three-headed monster: creating divisions and a schedule that don’t foul up existing rivalries, divvying up the revenue and deciding on a format—and possibly a site—for a football championship game.
Revenue sharing will likely be the top priority.
The Pac-10’s current model is based on TV appearances; get on TV more, get more money.
With the conference’s current TV deals set to expire, the Pac-10 could be on the verge of a massive financial windfall, particularly if it’s able to create its own network similar to the Big Ten’s.
With so much money potentially on the table, there will likely be a push to divide it up more equally. Figure on USC and UCLA voting against a share-the-wealth model, though, since those schools traditionally make more TV appearances.
Another potentially divisive issue is figuring out how to divide the schools now that Colorado and Utah are joining the conference.
The conference is looking at numerous models, including north/south or coastal/inland splits, even breaking schools into pods.
There’s also been discussion of a “zipper” model that would split geographical rivals down the middle and have them play in the regular season finale, which would allow each team to play in Los Angeles every year while still getting a shot at their biggest rival.
The Southern California trips are big for schools around the conference because of the rich recruiting grounds and, at least under the current deals, the extra TV money.
Whatever is decided, expect the revenue-sharing plan to be a big influence.
“Between those two issues, I think there is some interrelation,” Scott said. “Traditionally, our conference has shared football TV revenue on the basis of how often you’re on TV and folks correlate division structure with how often you’re playing certain teams, particularly LA teams, and some get on TV more often than others.
“Until we are able to agree on our new revenue-sharing plan, we will have to decide those things in concept.”
One decision appears to be an all-but-done deal: a football championship game.
The question will be where to play it.
One proposal is to have it at a neutral site, with Las Vegas, San Diego or NFL stadiums in Phoenix and the Bay Area as top contenders. The conference also is looking into the NFL playoff model, giving the higher-ranked team home-field advantage.
The neutral-site option appears to be most likely, since the logistics of planning a championship game in less than a week would be a nightmare and three of the conference’s stadiums hold less than 50,000 fans, which would result in a huge loss in revenue for the conference.
The conference’s athletic directors have already been discussing all three issues, but don’t expect any decisions to come out of the meetings. It’ll be more like a list of pros and cons that the presidents and chancellors will have to hash out at their meeting on Oct. 21.
“I don’t think these are the kinds of issues where you have unanimous positions or recommendations,” Scott said. “I expect we’re going to be narrowing and framing options, but ultimately the decisions will be coming out of our board meeting.”
Whatever the board decides, the new Pac-12 isn’t likely to look anything like the current Pac-10.
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