And you thought conference expansion was dead.
Oh sure, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany will try and tell you that today's announced "collaboration" between their two conferences isn't expansion, or even a step toward it. But that's a bunch of bunk.
Scott has said from the very beginning that he feels like colleges leave billions of dollars of television revenue on the table each year because the biggest conferences fail to fully leverage their product, something they simply can't do if they're only negotiating their own conference's rights. It's akin to each division in the NFL negotiating their own TV rights. If that seems absurd to you, imagine how absurd it must seem to Scott that these conferences, who also all have the same end goal, have historically worked against each other.
So it is that Scott and Delany have taken the first step towards multiple conferences leveraging their product together. No, it's not a complete merger, or even a full partnership, but this certainly sets up for the two leagues to wring even more money out of their television partners, as well as provide excellent content for each others' fledgling networks.
Ted Miller has the relevant details here, but here's the one you'll be most interested in:
Starting in 2017, there will be a full slate of home-and-home series between the conferences. Yes, that means Ohio State will play in Pullman and Michigan will go to Corvallis. And vice versa. This isn't just about matching the big stadium teams and the smaller stadium teams.
Sounds great! But wait -- they're not going to send the Buckeyes to Pullman for no good reason, since the idea behind this was to create "high-quality content" for television (read: buzzworthy matchups). To that end, Delany said "competitive equity" will play a part in determining the matchups.
So yeah, if WSU gets real good under Mike Leach in the next half decade, maybe they'll make Michigan or Ohio State or Penn State come to Pullman. Playing them in Seattle is certainly a possibility, too, but I've got to imagine that Bill Moos would much rather bring them to Martin Stadium, especially after the upgrades are finished. But either way, it's likely going to be dependent on the quality of the team.
I don't want to make it sound like I'm sour grapes on this thing -- I'm not at all. This is great, especially since this agreement is across all sports. That means a Big Ten opponent will be coming to Pullman every other year in basketball, which is even harder to make happen than football. But you can just put me in the "I'll believe it when I see it" camp when it comes to the very best football schools visiting Martin Stadium.
And yes, I know Wisconsin is coming in 2014. But we had to play a 2-for-1 to get that, starting with going to Madison back in 2007. However, if you were worried about Wisconsin eventually buying itself out of the final two games (we make one more trip there in 2015), I'd wager that this agreement actually makes it more likely that these two games come to fruition.
But after that? I'll be looking forward to an epic Indiana/WSU matchup in 2017.