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Who is the last school invited to the Pac-16?
Written by EC Rules   
Sunday, 13 June 2010 12:25

 We've reached the point where it's become clear that the Pac-10 wants to expand to 16 teams. If you believe the various reports around the country it looks like Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are all leaning West. Texas A&M is leaning East. Things can still get crazy because the real power brokers here are Texas and Oklahoma. They could decide at the last minute to try and build out the Big XII again with a couple new schools, head to another conference (Big Ten, SEC, etc.) or they could close the deal with the Pac-10 and head west and wait for the last spot to be filled in the Pac-16 if Texas A&M heads to the SEC.


You can bet that Larry Scott has run all sorts of contingencies for how to fill out the checkerboard that is the expansion of six schools. He locked down his first player early with the University of Colorado. That was a no-brainer. Geographic fit, TV market fit, academic fit, and cultural fit. It made sense to offer early and remove one layer of complexity.


Now Mr. Scott appears focused on pitching the business plan to the remaining players in the Big XII that he wants. Before he extends the invitation to join he needs to know that they will accept. If you are to believe the interwebs, the Pac-10 leadership team is on a plane right now External linkregistered to Pat Kilkenney (prominent Oregon booster and former Duck AD) and today they just finished up meeting with Texas A&M and are now flying directly to Lubbock to meet with Texas Tech officials this afternoon. Yesterday, they were in Oklahoma City presumably to meet with Ok State and Univ. Oklahoma in the same city. I would be willing to bet you'll start to see press leaks tonight and tomorrow from various newspapers in Oklahoma and Texas around how those meetings went. The Board of Regents for Oklahoma and Texas meet the middle of this week so it promises to be the most consequential week of expansion talk in decades. It's conceivable that the Sooners and Longhorns could have new conferences by the end of this week. It's also worth noting that Larry Scott is headed to A&M to meet with Texas A&M officials. It seems that A&M is leaning SEC but will that change after learning of the Pac-10 plans in detail?


Read on for our thoughts on who has the inside track for the final spot in the Pac-16:


It seems that Oklahoma State and Texas Tech would immediately accept the Pac-10 invitation when offered. But the delicate dance for Larry Scott is that he won't want to offer until he knows Texas and Oklahoma are coming as well. Neither Tech nor OK State are natural standalone entries like Colorado. They are partners with the other state school that would come with them.


For the sake of clarity, let's assume this plays out like things are trending currently. Texas and Oklahoma decide that a Pac-16 conference and an eight team midwest conference alignment like currently proposed essentially works out to be very similar to the Big XII (add the Arizona's and subtract the Kansas schools…what's not to like about that?) but with it's own TV network and double the TV money. Larry Scott invites Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and they immediately accept.


So, now you've got 5 of the 6 teams locked up and you've essentially locked in a conference that doubles it's TV footprint and will double it's TV money in 2012 for all member institutions.  You've pre-empted the Big Ten expansion plans and caught the SEC flatfooted as well. If you accept the trend of super conferences as an inevitability (which I do) then you've just assured a position of power for the conference that was farthest west on the map and perceived as a "one marquee school" conference. Just an incredible coup for Larry Scott.


As a WSU fan, you should be ecstatic on this point alone. If the Pac-10 stood by idly with ten teams as the rest of the country moves to super conferences then the program most vulnerable would have been WSU followed closely by Oregon State. We could easily have been Iowa State in this equation.

Ok, so that leaves us the question of the final school to be invited to the Pac-16. Who would you prefer? I believe the four contingent schools that the Pac-10 leadership team has identified are Texas A&M, University of Kansas, University of Utah, and University of Missouri.


I did a little legwork on the size of those athletic departments and you can do the same here External link. Let's take a look at the options:


Texas A&M: I think that the Pac-10 clearly prefers Texas A&M as a first choice. It preserves the natural rivalry with Texas and probably mitigates potential Longhorn movement down the road if the conference shuffle starts up again. Also, they are easily the second largest following in the State of Texas as as far as college football and basketball are concerned. It would truly lock in the huge Dallas and Houston TV markets for the Pac-16. As of 2008, they run a MAMMOTH athletic department. They pull in 72.8M dollars a year and spend 69.9M a year. That would put them above UW in revenue and spending by about 10 million dollars. They spend a shocking amount on football alone. It's a 16M dollar expense at Texas A&M. For the sake of comparison….WSU? Yeah, we spend about 8.9M dollars a year. This is also why A&M is looking hard at the SEC. There is a cultural fit on what is appropriate to invest in football and they think they can compete with the big boys in the South since they are already spending that way. If A&M decides to go West, the Pac-10 would take them immediately.


University of Utah: They would actually be the WSU of that Eastern Conference in the Pac-16. They spend about 4M less than WSU on athletics and bring in 6.5 million fewer dollars.  They would bring a close to Top 30 TV market (Salt Lake), natural rivalry with Colorado, academic alignment, and a geographic fit that would be better than Missouri or Kansas.  I have to believe this is the #2 option and they would accept immediately if offered. If that happens, consider them the luckiest of the any of the schools coming out of these expansion talks.


University of Kansas: If Utah would be the luckiest, would that make Kansas the school that gets the biggest shaft job? They bring a solid academic profile and one of the most prestigious basketball programs in the country and a close to Top 30 TV market (Kansas City) and that still might not be good enough to put them in a conference that fits them. It could be as bad as the Mountain West for them or their ceiling is probably the Big East. Not real great. BUT, if they get the lifeline to head to the Pac-16 it would be a huge turn of luck for them. Their athletic department is bigger than UW's at 71M in revenue. They have the resources to compete with anyone. Interestingly, they are the only school I looked at that brings in nearly as much money from basketball as they do football. If Kansas was smart they would be working to position themselves above University of Utah with Larry Scott. If Texas A&M declines then it probably becomes a two-horse race between Utah and Kansas for that last Pac-16 slot. Would you rather travel to Lawrence to watch the Cougs play a basketball game or the convenience and higher likelihood of a win in Salt Lake?


University of Missouri: This might be the school that played this whole expansion thing the worst. They openly flirted with the Big Ten and questioned the Big XII. They did this without leverage to actually be invited to the Big Ten and their "frank talk" was really the opening salvo that started the destruction of the Big XII. There are two things that make Mizzou really attractive to the Pac-16. One is academics, a clear cut above Utah and Kansas , as they would be close to on par with Cal and UW in terms of quality. Two is TV Market, as they would bring St. Louis which is just outside of the Top 20. The problem is the issue of travel for the entire western portion of the new conference along with the absence of a natural rivalry. They would be an awkward fit from the start in the new conference. Nevertheless, they bring some really nice academic and TV market benefits. Judging from how they've handled things so far, it's hard for me to believe that they would be able to get it together to push above Utah or Kansas.


So, there you have it. This is all very exciting stuff. Later this week, we'll analyze the many dimensions and implications a Pac-16 would mean for WSU. It's more than just money that will impact our program.

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