New Pac-12: Alignment or Misalignment

Terry LyttleContributor IOctober 27, 2010

For college football fans, its all about the sport.  The excitement of the game, the feeling we get when our tailback runs 50 yards for a touchdown or watching our quarterback zip a frozen rope pass to a wide receiver, who makes a spectacular catch.  However, for league commissioners, chancellors and presidents, its about the almighty dollar.  Therefore, the athletic department revenue cuts we have seen at great institutions, such as Washington and California, will continue to occur.  This is what the Pac-12 alignment is all about getting more money to each university.

On October 21, 2010, chancellors and presidents representing the 12 member institutions met with league Commissioner Larry Scott in San Francisco, to vote on issues pertaining to the 12 team alignment.  Following the meeting, Commissioner Scott said, “Our key objective was to transform the Pac-10 to a modern 12-team conference that has long-term strength, increased value, competitive balance and is fan-friendly and we have done that with these monumental decisions today.”  After exploring the pros and cons of a Zipper and Pod System, a two division conference with a championship game was settled upon.

North Division:  California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington and Washington State.

South Division: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, UCLA, USC and Utah.           

The twelve game scheduling for each team will be 3 non-conference, 5 divisional and 4 cross-divisional games.  There is an exception for two teams.  This new scheduling format locks in annual inter-divisional games between California and Stanford with USC and UCLA giving them privileged exposure in that recruiting market something not afforded to the Northwest teams who will visit the L.A. schools every other year.  There appears to be a divisional equality and fairness issue here.  The two new members Colorado and Utah will also benefit by being placed in the South Division getting to play the L.A. teams every year.  Commissioner Larry Scott said this North South Division alignment was based upon both competitive balance and geography.

Noting the historical significance of rivalry games such as Washington’s Apple Cup and Oregon’s Civil War, the committee voted to keep these traditions intact.

In December 2011, the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game will be played between the North and South Division winners.  There was an effort to get these games played at a neutral site, so that no team has a competitive edge, but, as stated at the beginning of this article, the bottom line is ‘money’.  Commissioner Scott doesn’t think filling a neutral stadium would be possible, so the championship game will be a home game awarded to the team with the best record.  In the case of a tie, it will be the team with the best BCS ranking.

The new Pac-12 will move to equal league revenue sharing beginning in 2012.  The lone exception is Utah.  They will get a 50% share in 2012, a 75% share in 2013-14 and a full share in 2014-15.  The reason for this is an agreement made prior to their move from the Mountain West Conference.  The Pac-12 team that will benefit the most from this is Washington State, since they have the lowest athletic budget.

Here is something to keep an eye on.  Larry Scott, using the wiles of a used car salesman, may have sold USC and UCLA a real lemon.  To get them to agree, he promised each school a $2 million payoff on the condition that the television contract comes in below $170 million per year, knowing very well a contract of this magnitude should exceed this figure. 

There will be no divisions in men’s and women’s basketball.  The schedule calls for teams to play their rivals twice, have home-and-home games with 6 other teams and one game against 4 other teams.

So, what do you think?  Is the 2 North South Division alignment the correct way to go?  Are California and Stanford receiving special treatment?  Is it fair that the two new members Colorado and Utah were selected to get yearly exposure to the L.A. recruiting market?  Do you think home field advantage is the right way to go for a Pac-12 Championship Game?  And how about revenue sharing itself?  Should universities with tremendous earning power have to share equally with institutions that earn far less?