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How to Fix the Pac-10
Written by OpenToClose   
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 20:20

The Pac-10 is broken. It has been for a long time. Some conferences have sold their souls to "modernize" like the Big East and ACC. They look like modern day conglomerates with no identity, brand or geographic footprint. They are simply a loose confederation of schools that are driven by the football money machine rather than tradition.

The Pac-10 suffers the opposite syndrome. We appear to be the grumpy 70-year old guy taking advantage of early bird specials around town and mumbling about the teenagers today and their crazy conference championship games and television networks.


Well, we've reached a breaking point. No longer can we afford to be that odd entity that plays their football games at 10 o'clock at night. We need to become relevant again and that requires more deftly bridging the gap between tradition and modernization. Want an example? The SEC signed a 15 year/2 BILLION dollar TV deal with ESPN External link. Then they turned around and signed a 15 year/825 million dollar deal with CBS External link.  That works out to $188 million dollars a year for the conference and just over $15.6 million dollars a year for EACH school before a single ticket is sold.

The Pac-10 football arrangement External linkis currently with ABC and Fox for a total of $322 million over ten years. That works out to $32 million a year for the conference and about $3.7 million per year for each school. If you add in the basketball contract it works out to another $500K annually for each school. Pretty pathetic. What do you think WSU could do if they had an additional $11.9 million dollars annually in TV revenue? Heck, we could have just saved that additional money for three years and built the stadium upgrade without a single donor dollar.

Obviously, it would be a long time before we get that sort of money (if ever) because of things like media market size. However, the disparity should not be so egregious between the two conferences. Frankly, it's amazing that we've remained as competitive as we have being that short-funded.


I think the Pac-10's new Commissioner gets it External linkand we are going to see a heck of a lot of change over the next 24 months. So, hold on to your hats as he lines up tactics to negotiate the new television contracts you are going to see everything from 100 different versions of expansion plans to all sorts of network scenarios.

Here are our suggestions for The Commish as he starts to figure out how to bring the Pac-10 back to it's rightful place as the greatest conference ever created in the history of humankind. Or something like that.



Expand the League: Now, there are all sorts of considerations and this is a complex one. It boils down to this. Any school can't just be a football school. It needs to bring a media market, academic quality, and cultural fit. We present three options that loosely fit these criteria. You are hearing so much about this right now because negotiations will start on a new TV contract next year and any major conference move actually has to be announced a year in advance. So, this all points to having the media contracts and new members announced by Summer of next year. It's going to be an interesting 18 months folks.

Here are the scenarios that seem to make sense:


Option #1: Utah and Colorado. Makes sense in many ways. Both schools fit academically, culturally, and they bring reasonable media footprints because they would pull the Salt Lake and Denver markets. When you add up both (Denver is #18 and Salt Lake is #36 nationally) and they would add about 2.02% of US TV households to the Pac-10 mix External link. That’s essentially like adding a San Antonio and Miami to the mix.  Utah would jump at this tomorrow. The complicating factor is Colorado and whether we would be able to pull them away from the Big XII. All that would be left is the haggling among the 12 as to how you'd split the divisions.


Option #2: Utah and UNLV. Easier to execute as both schools would jump in a heartbeat to the Pac-10. Here's another reason why I'm throwing this out there. Grabbing both of these schools would eventually destroy the Mountain West. In case you haven't noticed, that conference has become a viable competitor for the Pac-10 out West and that's not good for us. They are actually better in football and men's basketball this season as a conference. If we want to continue as the undisputed champ of the West then we need to close out our competition. The other factor is that the BCS will be evaluating following the 2011 season whether or not they should be included among the BCS conferences. If we pulled two of the spokes it would essentially assure that they don't make the BCS as a guarantee. Everyone seems to be hyper-focused on gaining share by adding markets but if you kill your nearest competitor it's also a great way to gain share. The complicating factor is that the media markets for these two teams are not nearly as exciting. They would be like adding a San Antonio and a Buffalo. Also, UNLV might not be an academic or cultural fit for the tastes of Pac-10 Presidents.


Option #3: Utah, Colorado, San Diego State, University of New Mexico. This is ambitious. Add four teams to make a 14 team conference with the intention of eventually moving to 16. You move closer to Texas and essentially take over every major media market in the West. You crush the Mountain West. All of the schools are actually pretty close to academic, cultural, and media fits. You essentially win Denver, San Diego, Salt Lake and Albuquerque. That's like acquiring Miami, Charlotte, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. The Pac-10 then gains about 3.62% more of the US media market with those four cities. So, on some basic levels it does actually work. On the negative side, it creates unequal divisions. The travel goes insane and the Pac-10 really does risk losing it's identity.


I would personally go for option #1 but either of the three are actually viable scenarios. Not saying I love them but probably the most reasonable candidates for expansion if you look at fit, media, and ability to acquire them. 



Start a TV Network with the ACC:The Pac-10 needs to move off of it's Fox contract after 2012. They need to at least double if not triple their take rate from media contracts. Is there a network out there that might be able to do that for us since CBS and ESPN are locked up? Probably not. The way to go is to create a Big 10 like channel. The objective of a Pac-10 channel External link would be to increase exposure and ramp media dollars. The best way to achieve that is partnering with another conference. I would normally say first option should be the Big XII but we might be trying to steal a couple of their schools. They also might collapse if the Big Ten and Pac Ten pick apart their teams. An east coast/west coast partnership could be great. No crossover with time slots and you would have a great deal more programming and you'd also have a MASSIVE media footprint that would essentially cover all of the West Coast and the East Coast from Maryland to Florida. It would allow for higher budget production and talk show and highlight shows just focused on our teams. You could also develop some tremendous competitions across many sports. Every sport could have an ACC/Pac-10 challenge.

The downside is splitting money across 26 teams. It's tough to tell if they would be able to make the math work. From a programming and market size perspective it would be an ideal relationship. 


Attack NBC for football coverage: NBC pays Notre Dame $9 million a year for football. They take up one time slot a Saturday. There is plenty of room in their programming schedule to accommodate another West Coast primetime game. This would mostly be about exposure for the Pac-10. If they pay $24 million a year they could choose a primetime match-up each week from the Pac-10 slate. Their call on which game each week and the rest would revert to the Pac-10 channel or you negotiate a second deal for a second game with Fox Sports like the SEC has done with ESPN and CBS.

Again, it won't result in a windfall but having a primetime game on NBC every week would be huge for coverage of the conference and recruiting. We could do the same for basketball. 


Create a Conference Championship: This is a no-brainer if you expand. Create the championship game the first week of December and rotate locations. Easy source of additional money and a fun way to close out the conference season.


Re-define the basketball scheduling system: We need to move off of our current Thursday-Saturday system. The framework should stay. However, they should rotate across two windows to increase our national coverage and exposure for each game. Move to a Thursday/Saturday and Friday/Sunday format. If you wanted to skip Sundays then move them to a Thursday/Saturday and Wednesday/Friday scenario. Especially during Pac-10 season this would allow each game to be televised and there would be Pac-10 basketball four nights a week. This needs to happen soon. Imagine if we negotiated that Monday spot with ESPN and took it away from Gonzaga.


Expand pay for officials: This is a subjective statement because the Pac-10 and no league for that matter publishes their officials performance but I truly believe that we have the worst officiating of any BCS conference in the country across football and men's basketball. There is little objective on the subject out there today. Is it pay? Is it poor management? This San Jose newspaper seems to think that it's inept management of it's officials and that there is hope for basketball External linkbut almost none for football External linkat the moment. Regardless, it's time to hit the reset button from top to bottom. Eradicate the highest level of coordinators and directors of officiating for the conference and start over. Increase the pay package for refs and actively manage them out if they are underperformers. Have the willingness to side with the group that is RIGHT about a call or situation rather than backing just the officials. Accountability and pay will solve many of the issues we see today.


So, there you have it. My Six Step Plan to solve the Pac-10 issues that we are facing today. We need forward thinking and a willingness to push forward over the next five years. Now is the time to re-invent our TV model, conference alignment, and sports schedules. Let's hope Mr. Scott is more of a visionary than his predecessor.

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Comments (1)
Pac-10 needs a reboot
1 Thursday, 11 February 2010 16:13
Great post. Other options might be sweeping the states of Colorado and Utah by taking Colorado, Colorado St., Utah, and BYU. Although, I like the idea of including San Diego market if adding four teams is feasible... still, probably option #1 is the best balance between upside and realistic possibility. It would be come the "Pacific Mountain" conference. They must do something with the TV deal and the officials. Both have been an embarrassment for what seems like a decade or more. I would prioritize both of those issues higher than expansion if there is any way to accomplish only some of this plan.

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