Pac-12 Alignment, Revenue Sharing Details Emerge

On Thursday at 11:30 a.m., Larry Scott will announce the details of the new Pac-12 conference. Athletic directors from the 12 conference schools have been meeting since July in an effort to hammer out the major details of the conference ahead of Utah and Colorado joining the conference in 2011. The timing of the press conference -- immediately after the commissioners convene for a final vote -- suggests this is all a done deal.

Last week, divisional alignment took center-stage. ESPN's Ted Miller reported the conference athletic directors voted 7-5 in favor of a geographic alignment -- with Stanford and California joining the Northwest schools in the north. Conference commissioner Larry Scott needed to get a consensus and likely had to do some bargaining to gain support for his original plan -- a north/south split.

Haden obviously wants to preserve an annual game with Stanford and California. His 5-2-2 model, though, limits the number of visits to the rich recruiting grounds of Southern California for the Northwest schools. So you'd expect the Northwest presidents to counter with, "Fine, but equal revenue sharing then starts in 2012 with the new TV contracts."

If the split was going to be geographic, the Northwest schools wanted this alignment. Since none of the six teams in the north get a piece of LA, equal revenue sharing seemed like an obvious compromise. At the same time, all four California schools wanted to maintain their rivalries and play in the same division. You can see how this all turned into a headache.

Yesterday, we got word of how revenue sharing will work and what concessions were made in the negotiations. Read on for the details.

The Seattle Times' Bud Withers did an excellent job tracking down sources and nailing down the details of the revenue sharing plan that will be passed on Thursday morning. The big story is UCLA and USC will get a payoff -- to the tune of $2 million per year. The LA schools bring the most revenue into the conference, so it's logical they'd want a bigger piece of the pie. The rub, however, is that the payoff goes away as soon as the television contract hits a pre-determined threshold.

Sources familiar with the Pac-10's recent discussions over the expansion issues say the presidents will vote on a proposed $2 million-per-year payout apiece for USC and UCLA above the other 10 members of the new Pac-12 until the year that combined broadcast revenues reach a certain threshold. Then the 12 members would share equally.

What does it all mean? Nothing, in fact. In 2011, USC and UCLA will get their $2 million payoff while the rest of the conference shares revenue equally. In 2012, when the new TV contract goes into effect, the entire conference will share revenue equally. Larry Scott set the threshold for equal revenue sharing knowing full-well that he could hit the number in contract negotiations.

What we have is a one-year stop-gap to appease USC and UCLA. The members at the bottom of the pile -- specifically WSU -- will see a decent bump in 2011, before seeing a huge increase in revenue with the new TV contract and equal sharing in 2012. This, my friends, is a huge win.

Larry Scott, once again, showed his leadership in the months of negotiations. Orchestrating a payoff for the Southern California schools is almost purely symbolic on his part. It costs the rest of the conference schools about $400,000 in 2011, while also giving them an immediate increase that comes with splitting the pie equally right away -- outside of the payoff.

The other issue on the table is scheduling, which also appears to be finalized. The Northwest schools take a bit of a hit here in an effort to secure equal revenue sharing. I can't wrap my head around how it will work, but according to Miller, the California schools will have guaranteed games with each other every year.

It's also likely Bay Area schools, which wanted to be in the South division, will get guaranteed annual games with the L.A. schools. The popular perception is not having an annual game in Southern California will hurt the Northwest schools' recruiting.

The Northwest schools end up losing a guaranteed game against the Southern California schools each year asa  result. Does it matter much? Personally, I don't feel it does. With equal revenue sharing being the other shoe, the Northwest schools get a bigger payday, allowing them to increase the bottom line in their athletic departments. Additionally, a new TV deal means wide-spread coverage throughout the conference footprint in the form of a conference network and better TV deal. The exposure will be there, even if in-person games are not.

It's a good day to be WSU -- and there's no question about it. A perennial bottom-feeder in the conference's archaic revenue sharing structure, the Cougars will now be on equal footing with the other 11 schools. Currently, the gap between USC -- the top revenue team -- and WSU is $8 million. In 2012, that all disappears with a modernized revenue sharing plan and a new TV contract.

Between a divisional alignment that works, a revenue sharing plan that is fair and a new TV contract, the WSU athletic department is in line for a huge payday. Bill Moos should be doing backflips.

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