As predicted on this page many months ago, the Pac-10 will officially add Utah as its 12th school. Colorado could join Utah as early as 2011. While this addition isn't as sexy as Texas or Oklahoma, Utah provides a quality market to the conference and can be competitive with the other schools.
This is actually a great victory for the Utes, who could very well be the only university that moves up to a BCS conference. It's a real tribute to the great work of Utah's athletic program.
We've discussed how Utah's addition will lead to a new TV network and a conference championship game. We've also mentioned that the name of the conference will likely change to the "Pac-12," although I still like "Pac-West" better. But reports are coming out about the structure of the new conference which will have an impact on USC and UCLA.
According to reports, the "Pac-12" will split into a Northern and a Southern Division. Colorado was apparently promised a spot in the Southern Division, meaning it will join Utah, USC, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State. The remaining Northern California schools will join with the Oregons and Washingtons for the Northern Division.
This means USC and UCLA are not guaranteed the chance to play Stanford and Cal every year. For decades, the California schools forced Pac-10 schedules to ensure that all four in-state teams would play each other. This will have quite an effect on undergrads who travel on the annual "weekender" up north.
The divisional split could also adversely affect the Northern Division schools in recruiting. The Oregon and Washington schools have always been able to promise recruits that they will play one football game in Southern California annually. That can no longer be promised.
It remains to be seen whether "Pac-12" schools will continue playing nine conference games, or if they'll go down to eight like all other 12-team conferences that a have a championship game. With nine conference games, Northern Division teams would theoretically have a two in three chance of playing a game in Southern California each year. In the meantime, this realignment is great news for the Arizona schools, which nearly had to shift their recruiting efforts to Texas after decades of being strong players over here.
Regardless, Utah's addition will mean considerably more money for all "Pac-12" member institutions, and in these trying economic times with budget cuts and such, that will be music to athletic director's ears.