Alright, the speculation is about over . It appears that the Pac-10 that was about to be the Pac-16 is actually going to wind up being the 12 Pac. This thing has been changing hourly so who knows if the scenario will be different tomorrow but it does appear that the die has been cast. The other schools are going to continue to allow disproportionate revenue for the large market programs (Texas and Oklahoma….and Texas A&M to a certain extent) and Texas will be allowed to start their own TV network. Both were non-starters for the Pac-10 and Larry Scott.
Good for Mr. Scott. Marginalizing the league in favor of one programs demands would have assured that the Pac-16 had the look of Major League Baseball rather than the NFL. Given that we are probably Pittsburgh in that simile, I would much rather have the chance to be the Pittsburgh Steelers than the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's also assured a little competitive balance for every other sport played beyond football between the schools. Rest assured, college sports aren't really balanced but it goes without saying that the USC and UCLA's don't need any more advantages than they already have.
So, what are the key questions for this Pac-12 arrangement if we are to believe that Utah is about to be the 12th program invited to the party? At a very cursory level it's a pretty nice deal in terms of competition among the two Universities coming into the fold. Both spend similar amounts on athletics to the bottom three in the Pac-10. In fact, Utah spends less than us currently. We won't go in facing the addition of two USC type programs to begin with and when all the AD's or President's get together at various conferences to decide things like revenue sharing we are more than likely to have allies with these two schools than we would have with Texas, Texas A&M, or Oklahoma.
More than anything else, in this topsy turvy world of college athletics and conference alignment, the Pac-10 has added two Universities that badly wanted to be a part of the Pac-10. Just read this incredible article on the University of Colorado and how they received the Pac-10 leadership team and you'll understand that it's more likely that we'll be able to hold these 12 teams together when things will inevitably get tougher with money or when some other conference comes knocking to try and peel away a few schools. We are more likely to see a Pac-12 with these schools still together in a decade than a Pac-16 with several schools only coming on board because of money. It doesn't assure continuity but this might be a true blessing in disguise when we look back on it a decade from now.
Let's take a look at the key things to focus on in the coming weeks as we settle into our new arrangement with our friends in Utah and Colorado:
What is the TV arrangement going to be?
There is no question that all member schools are in line for a significant raise. As this Forbes article illustrates , there is a lot of upside to be gained just by valuing our current markets properly in negotiations with Fox. Apparently, that was something our previous set of leadership was incapable of doing. The question is how much will that raise be? We have expanded our TV market footprint by about 7-10% and most have suggested that is not a big enough leap to justify the additional mouths to feed. However, in combination with some basic negotiation skills I would expect we will see a massive leap in our TV deal.
I am anxious to see what this mystery TV bidder was all about with the Big XII. Does their situation along with SEC and ACC set the market for us? If so, at WSU we could probably expect to see at least a doubling of our TV take from 6.3M to somewhere around 12M. Keep an eye on where we end up as that will happen this year.
Do we have the juice to start a Pac-10 Network?
The other variable is whether or not we will now have enough market power to start up a Pac-10 network. That was unquestionably the central goal for the Pac-10 when they courted half of the Big XII. Will owning every major TV market west of Texas get us enough to start our own network? It will be interesting to see what happens on that front in the coming months.
Is there a conference championship game now?
One would assume that 12 teams is all about breaking into two divisions and holding a conference championship game. If so, that probably means an additional 1-2 million a year for each school. It makes it just a little harder for a school like WSU to get to the Rose Bowl but the idea of being in a championship game one of these days is awful exciting as well.
How will the conference break into group and how will the schedule play out?
A lot of people are talking about the disaster this could be if it closes off California for the Washington schools. I would reserve judgement until I see how the schedules will play out. Obviously, every Northwest school is going to have the same concern about Southern California and it will be interesting to see how Larry Scott handles that. There is a flip side to that coin. The "other than California and Arizona division" is probably going to be a little bit more like the Big XII North was at times. A lot easier to win that side of the bracket and get yourself to a championship game.
How will revenue sharing work in the new conference and with the new TV contract?
Larry Scott would not bend on Texas demands to have an outsize share of the pot. What will the arrangement look like among the new 12 pack? Obviously, anything that gets the conference closer to revenue parity on the TV front is good for WSU. They are likely to pick-up allies in Utah and Colorado with that as well. By the way, Mike Bohn who is Colorado's AD has Palouse connections having served as AD at Idaho for several years. I'm sure that he is quite familiar with Mr. Moos already.
When do we get started??
Does this new thing start in 2012 or 2011? Colorado had indicated that it was a 2012 thing but Nebraska is starting in the Big Ten in 2011. When do we get to kick this thing off?
So, there you have it. This idea of a 12 Pac is not a terrible fall back plan and in many ways it could be a great balance between added revenue, competitive balance, and likelihood to stay together over the long term.