Nebraska stands to benefit greatly from the Big Ten/Pac-12 television partnership deal announced last year.
Under the deal, Nebraska would get extra exposure and a guaranteed non-conference game against a recognized opponent. NU would benefit from the home gate in alternate years, and in the other years would get a recruiting presence on the west coast, an area where Nebraska can use all the recruiting advantages it can get.
Unfortunately, according to ESPN, that scheduling partnership may have hit a snag.
Under terms of the deal, the two conferences would be coordinating schedules, culminating in 2017 when every team in the conference would play a cross-conference team each season.
Of course, the Big Ten and the Pac-12 have been allies in college athletics for years. That allegiance is most tangibly seen in the Rose Bowl, where officials of both conferences have jealously guarded the tradition of the two conferences meeting and playing each other on New Year’s Day. That tradition, one of college football’s oldest and most storied, has caused problems for proponents of a college football playoff, resulting in some pretty peculiar proposals for a means to determine a champion.
But the scheduling agreement between the two long-time allies was announced during a time of incredible upheaval in college sports.
The Big XII seemed to be falling apart at the seams, with Missouri and Texas A&M leaving to join the SEC. In response, the Big XII protected itself by raiding the Big East, poaching first TCU then West Virginia. The ACC, prior to all of the Big XII drama, announced the acquisition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East. Not to be left unprotected, the Big East opened its nets wide, adding in Boise State, San Diego State and Navy for football only and Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU and Temple in all sports.
The Mountain West and Conference USA, desperately trying to stay relevant, have flirted with the idea of merging conferences or schedules. And hovering over all of this upheaval was the ratings giant Notre Dame, watching as changes in the landscape unfolded and providing the possibility for the biggest addition of all to a conference.
So the Big Ten and Pac-12, which started the most recent round of realignment with Nebraska’s addition to the Big Ten and Colorado and Utah joining the Pac-12, were left in a position where a response may have been needed to keep up with the rest of college football. Rather than expand themselves, the conferences decided to strengthen their allegiance and begin scheduling each other in football on a regular basis.
But, apparently, some members of the Pac-12 have been balking. The Pac-12 plays a nine-game conference schedule, leaving only three non-conference games. Some Pac-12 schools have high-value non-conference games they play each year (such as USC and Standford playing Notre Dame). Adding in a Big Ten team each year would leave those schools with only one paycheck game to pad the win-loss record before the start of conference play.
According to reports from both conferences, the deal is still on track. And ultimately, it would be surprising if the deal doesn’t go through.
Both conferences stand to do very well financially from the agreement. And if, as it seems almost certain, a playoff structure of some kind replaces the BCS in 2014, then the win-loss issue becomes less relevant. If, as many hope, a BCS conference championship is a requirement to participate in the four-team playoff, then teams will have less fear of a non-conference loss and more incentive to increase their non-conference strength of schedule.
In many ways, the Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling agreement may end up being a huge boost for the standings of both conferences come time to decide the playoff participants.
So, while it seems there may be kinks to work out, Nebraska fans should be able to rest assured that they are likely to see regular series against high-profile Pac-12 teams such as USC, Oregon and Colorado.
(Colorado? How did that get in there?)
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