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Analyzing Pac 12 Realignment

At first glance it looks like Washington gave up more than any other program in the conference under the realignment plan that was announced yesterday in San Francisco.

The biggest winners seem to be Colorado, Utah, California, Stanford, Arizona, and Arizona State. They get home and home scheduling with the LA schools every year plus an estimated $10 million more dollars per year under the next television contract that takes effect in 2012.

Under the new agreement the four Northwest schools will play in LA every other year and in the Bay Area every year. That means the Huskies will be playing Colorado and Utah more than they will be playing USC and UCLA starting next season.

USC, UCLA, and Washington who are traditionally the biggest earners of TV dollars under the old revenue sharing model now have to split money equally with all the conference members. The Trojans and Bruins were appeased in the short term by earning an extra $2 million per year share until TV revenues reach $170 million per year. (Utah will not receive a full share until 2014.)

You could make the case that all the Northwest schools lose under the arrangement to a certain degree but the potential money to be earned under the new contract is literally a game changer for WSU and Oregon State. The extra money will also come in handy at Oregon whose athletic department has been running at a deficit in recent years despite the success of the football program.

The Huskies could also use the money even though they are one of the few athletic departments in the country that still makes a profit every season and operates without a subsidy. The extra money earned will help reduce the debt load involved with the rebuilding Husky Stadium which is scheduled to begin after next season.

So taken at face value Washington gives up playing in LA every year and a historically bigger piece of the conference TV revenue pie. In exchange UW gets membership in a stronger overall conference whose goal is to compete on an equal footing with the Big 10 and SEC going forward.

I think the key thing to remember in all this is that the make up of the divisions is a temporary arrangement. There will be a Pac 16 before the end of the decade. When that happens the original members of the conference will be reunited in an eight team division. This first round of expansion positions the conference extremely well going forward despite the concessions being made in the Northwest (scheduling) and LA (revenue sharing).

Key Bullet Points

The conference will play a nine-game league schedule in football, and an 18-game conference schedule in men’s and women’s basketball.

Only football will be split into divisions.

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

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

A football championship game to be played at the home of the division winner with the best conference record.

The league will begin to build its own cable network that is scheduled to launch in time for the 2012 season.

USC and UCLA will play five games in their own division and four crossover games against the North. Two of those games, though, will always be against Cal and Stanford. USC and UCLA will play other North teams once every other year.