PAC-10 EXPANSION: How divisional alignment should work

Now that the dust has settled a bit, let's talk about how a 12 team Pacific 10 - er, I mean Pacific 12 - might look. [Side note: UW might want to dig out the receipt for that new Pac-10 logo they had painted on their basketball floor].

A Denver television station has reported, and many others have speculated, that the Pac-12 would be split into North and South divisions. I have my doubts about the TV station report's validity, considering Utah hasn't even officially joined yet. Most likely it was nothing more than an idea tossed out by someone close to the school or the conference as a whole. Nevertheless, this alignment makes sense to outsiders of the conference, and it makes sense when you look at the conference on a map. Northwest and Southwest. Boom. Done deal.

However, it does not make sense to four schools: Oregon, Washington, Oregon State and Washington State. These schools (all of the schools in the conference, really) rely heavily on the recruitment of California-based players, and need to be able to tell recruits they have the opportunity to play close to home at least once a year. This is why the Pac-16 was so exciting to Northwest fans: The Pac-8 would've returned in division form, and the Northwest schools wouldn't have lost out on any action with USC or UCLA.

The more realistic idea - in at least and my eyes and the eyes of one Vince Grippi - is the "zipper" solution. Here's how it works, if you're new to this. Each "rival" school is split up into a different division. So, something like this:

Pacific Division

Washington
Oregon
Stanford
USC
Utah
Arizona

State Division

Washington State
Oregon State
California
UCLA
Colorado
Arizona State

It doesn't really matter how you divide it up (or what you name it) as long as all the geographical rivals are split up. You can make tweaks: for example, putting secondary rivals together in the same conference like Oregon and Washington, or putting all the schools with 'state' in them in one division. Or keeping the two private schools in the same division. These things aren't that important. What is important is that on top of your five divisional games, you're still guaranteed a game every year against your rival. 

The other two games? One home and one away versus random teams from the other division. I've always been in favor of an eight team conference slate, because it means more cupcake games. And more cupcakes lead to more bowl appearances for the conference. And more home games against Directional State University mean more money in each school's pocket.

I laugh at the Big XII for going to the round robin; which will cost them the number of Bowl eligible teams, as well as decrease the number of teams that make the NCAA tournament every year (no way 7 or 8 routinely get in in a 10 team conference - win/loss record still means way too much in college basketball).

Now, on to basketball. I'm going to suggest something unusual, but I think it's a perfect fit: three divisions.

Northwest Division

Washington
Washington State
Oregon
Oregon State

California Division

UCLA
USC
Stanford
California

Mountain Division

Arizona
Arizona State
Utah
Colorado

Why three divisions? For one, it ensures your school can have a home-and-home every year against the schools it truly hates, like how we feel about Oregon and Washington. Unlike football, these divisions are more about cultivating rivalries and letting your school have the opportunity to earn some bragging rights. You don't think you'd be happy to look up in the rafters in Beasley and see two Northwest Division championships for the Cougars from 2007 and 2008? I know I'd be pretty excited. And, remember, four team divisions work. Ask the NFL.

As for the rest of the slate, you would have home-and-homes against four other teams in the conference, and a home- or away-only game against the other four. Those games would rotate from year to year to ensure the most balanced schedule possible. Sure, it doesn't guarantee balance like our current round-robin, but the regular season in basketball is more about resumes than it is determining a true conference regular season champion. There's also the Pac-10 tournament to sort out the league's automatic bid. 

In the end you'd have 18 conference games, and six of them guaranteed against your most bitter rivals. It makes sense, because unlike football you'll be playing at least two games in California every year under this plan. So recruiting - which isn't as California-centric in basketball anyway - doesn't become a major factor in divisional alignment. 

Now it's back to you, Coug Nation. Thoughts? What would you do if you were Larry Scott (other than secretly destroying the Big XII and making the Pac-16 happen anyway)?

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