Colorado joins the Pac-10

As predicted on this site several months back, Colorado is officially becoming a member of the Pac-10. The move gives the Pac-10 a place in the Denver market, which will help with starting a new network.

The real question though is whether the Pac-10 will add Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. I have reason to believe that those invitations have been issued. Tomorrow, Nebraska will likely announce that it's joining the Big Ten. It's possible Missouri could join them soon thereafter. At that point, Texas will have to decide whether it's in their interests to join the Pac-10 as part of a super-conference, stay in a reconstituted Big-12, or move to the SEC or Big Ten.

Right now, there's major confusion in the Lone Star State as everyone from state legislators to T. Boone Pickens to Baylor President Kenneth Starr (yes, that Ken Starr) is wheeling and dealing. I've heard all kinds of rumors as the Big-12 fights for survival. It's possible that Texas legislators won't let any of their schools leave without Baylor coming along too. It's possible that Texas A&M will sneak away to the SEC. It's also possible that Kansas will join the Big East or SEC.

But the hot topic right now is the proposed "Pac-16" so let's discuss that. (Personally, I think the Pac-West would be a better name, with a "Pacific" and "Western" division, but that's a column for a different day.) A Pac-16 would put Arizona and Arizona State in an "Eastern Division" with the Texas and Oklahoma schools, while the old Pac-8 would constitute a "Western Division."

In football, it's likely that a school would play the 7 other teams in its division, plus one additional game outside the division for 8 conference games. Right now, Pac-10 teams plays 9 conference games, so this would actually make USC's and UCLA's schedule slightly easier. It also would not dramatically alter their football schedule either.

One report claimed that the new Pac-16 would request to have two BCS bids, and then not play a football championship game. In that case, this expansion is basically creating two conferences under one umbrella. If there is a championship game, then it would likely rotate between Arizona, Dallas, a new stadium in Santa Clara, or a new NFL stadium in LA/Industry. Seattle could even get thrown in the mix.

Most of the past decade, that game would have been between USC and either Texas or Oklahoma, with a trip to the Rose Bowl and/or BCS Title game on the line. Last year, that game would have theoretically been between Oregon and Texas, and don't ask me who would have been in the Rose Bowl had Oregon lost.

Most of this sounds relatively fine to current Pac-10 fans, unless you live in Arizona. The Arizona schools have made a living off recruiting in Southern California, and could always guarantee their players an LA trip every year. Now both Arizona schools could potentially go a full decade without playing a game in the state of California. Arizona and Arizona State would likely have to shift their recruiting base to Texas, where they currently have few ties. If I was an Arizona fan, then I wouldn't be thrilled about this idea.

It remains to be seen how this will impact basketball and other sports. Western and Eastern division teams would probably play some games against each other, but there would likely be an emphasis on inter-division games. Again, that's a major disadvantage for the Arizona schools from a recruiting standpoint. It could also create some logistical issues, as the Texas schools and Pacific Northwest schools will have to deal with long commutes.

Right now Pac-10 schools make around $8-10 million a year in TV revenue. A Pac-16 could provide each school well over $20 million. At a time when public universities are facing serious budget cuts, that money would be welcome.

I'm not completely convinced that the Texas and Oklahoma schools all want to move west though. I still think it's possible that the Pac-10 adds Utah, becomes the Pac-12, and then aligns with the remaining Big-12 schools on a TV network. But the Pac-10 would love to add Texas, and it will take Texas' neighbors and rivals to make the move more palatable for them. The Texas and Oklahoma schools are panicked enough with Colorado and Nebraska committed to leaving (and Missouri possible too) that they could up and leave for the West. It will be fascinating to see how this turns out.

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