Colorado and Others to Join Pac-10 Conference: Possible Division Alignments
Thursday morning, the University of Colorado Buffaloes announced they would be the 11th team to join the Pac-10 Conference, but the first since 1978.
Both Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott and the chief members of staff at Colorado agreed: the university and conference were perfect fits for each other "both academically and athletically."
However, the Buffaloes may not be the only Big 12 Conference team to be flocking towards the Pac-10.
Many sources, such as Yahoo! Sports, are reporting that quite a few other teams are also planning to announce their acceptance to the Pac-10 soon. The list of possibly-joining teams incorporates plenty of national powerhouses, including perhaps the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State.
This would create a massive West Coast conference, which may expand to up to 16 teams from Washington to Southern California to Oklahoma. It definitely would need a name change from the Pac-10...but, the matter is, who will this proposed mega-conference consist of?
Another major storyline that may play into this is the revealed fraud by the USC Trojans, which will force them to vacate all of their wins, a national championship, and a Heisman Trophy from December of 2004 through the end of the 2005 season, as well as a bowl game ban over the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
While the Pac-10 certainly doesn't want to be selfish and punish the Trojans just because they can't represent the conference in a bowl game, it does definitely raise a few questions. Most importantly, do they want to not only keep around a "cheating" university, but could they perhaps even ponder eliminating a season-to-season dynasty like USC from the conference?
Any move like that would certainly be controversial and shocking, but may end up opening the slot for another top-tier team and give the Pac-10 a relatively good reputation for doing what is right, despite the benefits they would have from non-action.
If the Pac-10 decides to keep USC, they would be left with a whopping 16 teams. Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State would be the newcomers, but they would certainly not be inexperienced, having combined for a 48-30 record in this past season, with all but Colorado qualifying for a bowl game.
Those six colleges would be joining the already-adjoined group of Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, California, USC, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State, of whom seven of which appeared in a bowl game last winter.
Those 16 teams could be split into two divisions of eight teams apiece in a number of ways, with each squad playing the seven other teams in its division as well as two from the other division and three non-conference universities.
The top two concepts to split the 16 teams into two separate clusters would be either by geographic region (East/West) or by where each team is coming from (original teams/newcomers).
Ironically, as it turns out, both arrangements would end up clustering pretty much the same group of universities together. If the conference were to organize themselves in this fashion, this is probably the way it would turn out:
East Division: Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Arizona, Arizona State
West Division: USC, UCLA, California, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State
Even if USC is swapped with another team such as Utah, Fresno State, Nevada, or New Mexico, that team could still take the same place that the Trojans hold for now.
On the contrary, though, were the Pac-10 to stunningly drop USC from the group without replacing them, it would create a conference of 15, which would call for a far different arrangement.
One possibility could be three divisions of five teams apiece, where each team would play the four other teams in its division twice, two teams from each of the other divisions, and then four non-conference teams of their choice. That complex scheduling, however, would still end up with the 12 required regular-season games for each team.
Despite its un-likeliness, here are my proposed ideas for how to arrange the 15 colleges into groups of five each:
Great Plains Division: Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech
Southwest Division: Texas A&M, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, California
Pacific Division: Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State
Unfortunately, as you can see, it appears arranging them like this would break up quite a few historical rivalries that just can't be eliminated. Perhaps if the conference arranged it so each division was balanced, just not by region, it would work better...
Division A: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Washington, Washington State
Division B: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado
Division C: Oregon, Oregon State, California, Stanford, UCLA
As you can see, that actually did work out a lot better in terms of keeping rivalries together and giving each division an equal chance. However, the geographic parity would increase travel costs significantly, which could be a major "con" to this reasoning.
However, any way they do it, it's pretty certain to many of us now that Colorado's move is just the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, it's not just the Pac-10 (soon to be Pac-16?) that is going to have to deal with realignment...almost every major BCS conference is going to have to move at least a few teams around before next fall.
For now, it's almost impossible for anyone to do anything other than throw out guesses at this point. In fact, we don't even know for sure that any of the Texas or Oklahoma schools are going to switch at all!
Yet, nevertheless, it's always better to start sooner rather than later. And, for the Pac-10 conference, they might have a lot of issues to deal with sooner and later...a head start on the planning may be crucial for everything to be wrapped up by game time!
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes as well as an avid follower of many other sports. In his 21 months so far with the site, he has written over 200 articles and received over 140,000 total reads.
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