The landscape for expansion in the Pac 10 hasn't changed much since 1994. The two best candidates are still Colorado and Texas. If Larry Scott is serious about expanding Austin is the first direction he needs to explore. The timing may be right because the Longhorns seem to be interested in exploring a possible move from the Big 12.
The question is why would Texas consider leaving a conference it currently dominates from a financial and competitive position? One answer is that if the Big 10 expands to 16 teams it will forever change the landscape of college athletics. A sixteen member Big Ten has the very real potential to canabilize the Big 12 and Big East. It also would put pressure on the ACC, SEC, and Pac 10 to also expand.
The biggest roadblock for Texas in making any move would be the loss of traditional rivarlies such as other Texas schools (particularly Texas A&M) and Oklahoma. If Texas makes a move it will likely be in concert with other Southwestern schools.
Twelve team conferences guarantee the possibility of a lucrative championship game and a bigger slice of the televison pie and that is why the Big 10 is headed in that direction. You can drive about anywhere in the Big 10 in less than eight hours from Chicago. A centrally located championship game in a place such as Indianapolis would work fine for that conference.
The Pac 10 on the other hand isn't so sure that they need a championship game and 12 teams. The geography of the West is more spread out. It takes 18 hours to drive straight through from Seattle to Los Angeles for example so staging a chamionship game that would be well attended would be a problem at a neutral site.
Adding Denver and Salt Lake doesn't make the league more geographically compact. How many people will show up for a championship game at a neutral location with only a week or two of notice? Does the additional football revenue earned get cancelled out by the additional scheduling and travel costs required by the non revenue sports?
The addition of Colorado and Utah would add more TV sets but not enough to really increase the current revenues of the existing schools in the conference under the present structure according to a study the Pac 10 did a couple of years ago. So while adding Denver and Salt Lake City to the equation has some advantages the league could stand pat and survive nicely if the Big 10 is only interested in expanding to twelve teams.
The wildcard in all of this is the sixteen team super conference scenario. As Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury said last week if that happens all hell will break loose. The Pac 10 would have to answer in that type of scenario or risk getting eaten up or being placed at the bottom of the BCS revenue food chain.
Expansion is all about greed and maximizing revenues. It isn't about giving Utah a step up into the BCS world or giving Colorado entrance into a more geographically desireable location. A twelve team Pac 10 doesn't work very well for the existing members. It causes scheduling problems and it has the real potential of alienating the Northwest Pac 10 schools from the recruiting hot bed of Southern California.
A sixteen team Pac 10 on the other hand is probably a much better fit from all angles. It would expand the television market dramatically if done correctly. It would solve current and future scheduling problems. It would preserve regional rivarlies, It would allow a championship game. Most importantly it would protect the original members of the conference by allowing them to play a round robin schedule in all sports.
This is an example of what a sixteen team Pac 10 could look like in an ideal sports marketing scenario. It preserves the alliance of the eight traditional West coast schools. It allows seemless expansion into the Rocky Mountains, Texas, and Plains markets without breaking up traditional rivarlies that have existed for over a century for all teams.
Pac 10 Super Conference