Reports surfaced on Friday that the Pac-10 and Big 12 are considering an alliance that could include a combined television network and scheduling partnerships. While the two conferences would maintain distinct separate identities, this agreement could have them negotiating television contracts together.
This news adds another interesting wrinkle to what could be a dramatic overhaul of the college sports landscape. The Big Ten is currently front-and-center in the expansion race, looking eastward at schools like Syracuse, Rutgers, and UConn, while considering existing Big 12 schools like Missouri and Nebraska. Notre Dame is also in the mix. The purpose is to get the new Big Ten Network on more cable providers to generate added revenue for its member institutions.
The SEC would rather not expand, but if the Big Ten becomes a 16-team super-conference, they might also poach from the Big 12 and try to add Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, and possibly look to Miami or Florida State from the ACC.
In the meantime, the Pac-10 has also been considering its own network, and the smart money had them adding Colorado (from the Big 12) and Utah (from the Mountain West Conference), giving the conference a foothold in the Denver and Salt Lake City markets. Add those markets to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Phoenix, and the Pac-10 is in a pretty good spot.
With the Big 12 on the defensive, an alliance with the Pac-10 might represent their best hope for survival. If they lose Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Nebraksa, then the conference would basically morph into a slightly improved Mountain West or WAC. But an alliance could also be beneficial to the Pac-10 too, as a combined network would include several markets in Texas, as well as Kansas City, St. Louis, and Denver. It would also include programs with national followings like Kansas basketball and Nebraska football.
If there is an alliance, it could decrease the odds of Colorado switching conferences, even as the school's Chancellor is making happy noises about the Pac-10. It might also mean that the Pac-10 would add Utah and BYU, allowing there to be a football championship game and keeping the conference's perfect symmetry in place whereby each school has a clear in-state rival. Back in February, I looked at all of the potential options for Pac-10 expansion. Based on comments from Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, it seems as though he'd like to add two schools and start a conference championship game.
So what will happen? It sounds cliche, but it all comes down to money. I think Colorado would leave for the Pac-10 if invited. So then the question becomes... would a Pac-10 with Colorado, Utah, and its own TV network bring more money to its schools than a combined network a combined TV deal with the Big 12? I don't have enough information to answer these questions, but it sure makes for a fun conversation.
Regardless, I think the Pac-10 is in a pretty good spot, since none of its member institutions seem interested in leaving, but several schools would like to join them.