One of the things I have been hearing from sources is that the Pac 10 is not as warm on expanding as they are working out a co-marketing agreement with the Big 12. The bottom line is that while Colorado would be a good a good fit they aren't sold that the Utah market will add enough to provide a significant boost come contract time.
Things haven't changed much since 1994. The Big 12 has three major markets that are worth adding...Texas, Colorado, and Missouri. The Big 12 is in serious danger of losing Missouri and Nebraska who are good fits for the Big Ten. If that happens you are looking at the Big 12 (minus 2).
Pac 10 Commisioner Larry Scott says that while the Pac Ten is interested in expansion they are only interested in expanding into major markets. Read between the lines because the only two feasible major markets out there are Texas and Colorado.
The experts out there say losing Missouri and Nebraska hurts but it is not a death knell for the Big 12. The only thing that sticks a permanent fork in the conference is the loss of Texas. They also say that the Big 12 could fill the void by inviting Arkansas, BYU, Utah, or TCU into the fold.
One theory floating around out there is that maybe contraction can be a good thing for the Big 12. Why add two new schools to the pot that don't add enough to significantly increase revenue for the other members. Maybe splitting the pot ten ways is more lucrative than splitting it twelve ways.
You still have the problem of staging a championship game and negotiating a set of TV contracts that rival the SEC and Big 10. That is where the Pac 10 comes in and that is why the two conferences met together last week in Phoenix. Combined currently the two conferences have a footprint which covers 33% of this countries viewers. That is a huge piece of the pie.
A union between the two conferences could command SEC/Big 10 money. It also has the potential of penetrating into homes East of the Mississippi. Some say the union could result in a network that could penetrate most of the homes in America via cable.
When I am talking union I am not specifically talking merger into a twenty team super conference. Both conferences would be run separately as they are today and just split the TV revenue generated. The Pac 10 wouldn't dictate how the Big 12 divides up money among it's members and vice versa. Not sure how much academic cooperation would be involved either but it could be another carrot for Texas.
Even though the conferences would be run separately they would have to qualify as a single league in football to have a championship game. So somehow they would have to get around that technicality with the NCAA which should be pretty doable with the right filings and administration.
The potential of a USC vs Texas conference championship game in early December is worth a lot of money. It sounds a lot better than USC vs Utah doesn't it? It would rival anything that the SEC and Big 10 could do. They could stage the game on alternating years in Pasadena and Dallas.
The Pac 10 gains a lucrative championship game but they also could lose the direct path of the conference champion to the Rose Bowl in this type of arrangement which is significant. The loser could be invited to another BCS Bowl if worthy or maybe there are no bowl affiliations tied into the championship game.
Lets talk about the Longhorns for a minute. They have the richest athletic department in the country and they control their own destiny. If they wanted membership in the Big Ten they could have it for the asking. Same thing with the SEC, and Pac 10.
There is a favorable split situation in the Big 12 which Texas benefits from. They earn the most TV revenue so they get a bigger split of the pie. They like that arrangement and that is just one of the many reasons they feel comfortable staying where they are. All they want is to be part of a bigger pie. If they can accomplish that by staying put all the better.
The Big Ten currently pays out $22 million to each member every year. The combined values of the Big Ten arrangements net $242 million currently. The new union of the Big 12 (minus 2) and the Pac 10 would have to put together a combined package worth $440 million per year to equal it on a per member basis.
In this scenario I am assuming that Missouri and Nebraska are out. I assume that because both schools have expressed interest in speaking with the Big Ten. I assume that because the AD's of Nebraska and Missouri were the only one's who were not at the meeting in Phoenix.
I think the number one objective of the Pac 10 should be to establish a market in Texas by either expansion or by a working agreement with what is left of the Big 12. The Pac 10 can't afford to lose the Texas market to the SEC. The Pac 10 needs to keep communications open with Texas while they throw a life line out to the rest of the Big 12 in an attempt to keep all their members in check.
We all have heard of the sixteen team super conference model that the Big Ten is considering putting together. Sixteen seems to be the magic number. Two eight team divisions make scheduling a breeze. Would a twenty team confederation mean too many slices of pie and less flexibility? That is what the two leagues need to figure out between now and early 2011.