Intrepid San Jose Mercury News reporter Jon Wilner -- who's been a guest on both the CougCenter Podcast and on 18 And Life -- caught up with Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott today, and he had some interesting comments that I think Pac-10 fans really ought to pay attention to.
The conference hired Kevin Weiberg as its chief operating officer (translated: second in command) today, and here's what he had to say to Wilner about it:
"He has a very diverse and successful track record. In particular, in his experience as the Big 12 commissioner and an executive with the Big Ten Network, he has dealt with some of the most complicated issues — from expansion to TV networks to media rights in general."
Whoa, whoa, whoa ... expansion?
"We’re looking at it very seriously. It wasn’t something identified for me by the presidents when I took the job. But it’s very natural as you look at the value of the conference from a media standpoint. If we were ever going to look at expansion, this would be the logical time."
There are a lot of reasons why the conference would look at expansion right now, but there are really two overrideing factors:
- Adding two more teams would give the conference added leverage as it attempts to negotiate better television contracts (the current deals expire at the end of 2011-12).
- With the Big Ten actively seeking to expand, the domino effect and upheaval that comes from them raiding another conference would probably make it more likely for a school to leave its current conference affiliation for the Pac-10.
I don't know enough about the ins and outs of any potential 12-team revenue structure to know just how much it would add to the conference. But I'm smart enough to know that the conference would have to exponentially increase its total revenue to make adding two more schools worth it, since dividing the pool by 12 makes the shares smaller than if dividing by 10. (Like I said -- smrt!)
Count me among those fundamentally opposed to expansion, mostly for this reason: The only benefit gained by adding two more schools to the conference is to increase football revenue. I understand football drives the money-making bus in the world of college athletics, through both television contracts and bowl games, but such a move does nothing to enhance the conference in any other meaningful way. Without getting into the long, drawn-out, self-righteous, moralistic reasons for my opposition, I'll just leave it at this: It would undeniably detract from just about everything I love about the set-up of our conference, both in football and in every other sport.
Essentially, you'd be selling your soul to appease a football system that might not be around in 10 years, anyway. And I think that's pretty dumb, especially when I'm not convinced that adding two teams is going to increase the value of the product enough to offset the loss of what makes the Pac-10 unique.
I'd like to hope that there would be another way to significantly increase conference revenue without going this route. However, I fear it's inevitable. Time marches on, and sentimentality won't stand in the way of money.
Just ask the NCAA and its 96-team basketball tournament.