The Pac-12′s Simple, Perfect Idea
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 21, 2011
A month of frenzied expansion — or talk of expansion, it turned out — was ended with the simplest term possible: no. That’s all it took for Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott to pull potential offers to Texas and Oklahoma off the table, and it wasn’t even a true no; it was more like a gentle reminder that things are working out pretty well here, thank you, and let’s not rock the boat by changing for change’s sake. The reminder came from the Pac-12 presidents, who informed Scott via a conference call Tuesday afternoon that a 12-team league suited the conference’s established revenue sharing model, not to mention that the current divisional setup worked well in terms of numbers, rivalries and geographic location.
A simple nudge, really, based on the simplest of reasons: don’t mess with success. The logic behind the presidents’ consensus is so simple, in fact, that I wonder why the decision wasn’t reached sooner — like a month ago, before this latest expansion go-round even kicked off.
What we have works, said the Pac-12. We have a revenue sharing model that works tremendously well with 12 schools. Would Texas and Oklahoma bring more money to the table? Perhaps. But equal revenue sharing works like this: you have a pie, and the more slices the smaller the portions.
Not only would Texas and Oklahoma have agreed to step in line with the Pac-12′s equal revenue contract — the operative word being equal – but each would have needed to bring a significant amount of money to the relationship for each of the current Pac-12 schools to receive the same amount they’re currently getting.
Perhaps it took the Pac-12 some time to crunch the numbers, which would explain why the conference’s prolonged dalliance with the two Big 12 powers — and Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, which would have presumably come along for the ride. This idea that the conference is happy with the current divisional setup, on the other hand, should have been reason enough for the Pac-12 to retain the status quo long before conversations with O.U. and Texas got this far.
The league has 12 teams, six teams in each division, and the new layout — christened only earlier this month, we should remember — is a perfect fit for what the Pac-12 wants to accomplish. The rivalries are intact. In terms of geography, everything fits; maybe Colorado is a bit lost in the South, but I think we can live with that.
The Pac-12 wants to play nine conference games. The current setup allows each team to play its five divisional brethren and four teams from across the league: in 2011, Stanford plays California, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State from the North and Colorado, U.C.L.A., Arizona and U.S.C. from the South. You see your divisional foes and are still able to retain the sense of rivalry; Stanford gets Oregon and also U.S.C., playing the Trojans despite the divisional split.
Larry Scott has hit home run after home run since taking over a year ago, and the Pac-12 in its current formation is his greatest feat. It’s a perfect league, one that has talent, rivalries and geographic meaning — the hallmark of any great conference — while encapsulating an entire region of the country. It’s perfect.
Which begs the question: why even consider tinkering with such a perfect league? Because of money, of course, but it’s my perception that once the Pac-12 presidents crunched the numbers, got down to brass tacks and really considered the financial benefits and drawbacks of adding four teams from the Big 12, the league’s administration decided that the addition might end up being a subtraction.
That was a wise move. And the ramifications of the Pac-12′s decision will be felt from coast to coast — and all in a positive way, in my mind.
The Big 12 will survive, albeit without commissioner Dan Beebe. That’s addition by subtraction. Oklahoma will need a few additional assurances, most notably from Texas and its network’s broadcast rights, but the league will soon see eye-to-eye. The Big 12 will add a 10th team to get back to a more normal layout, with B.Y.U. the leading option.
The Big East will survive, though Pittsburgh, Syracuse and potentially one or two others will depart for the A.C.C., to be replaced by lesser programs. The Big East needs to survive, as the A.C.C. will never have the Northeast footprint it desires even if the conference adds Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Connecticut. The Big East will move forward with West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida, with U.C.F., Houston, Navy and Florida International added to replenish the ranks.
The SEC will survive, of course.
The weaker leagues will suffer, but not to the degree that most believed possible should super conferences sprout up on both coasts. The Sun Belt might lose a burgeoning power like F.I.U., but the Sun Belt won’t really go anywhere: the league isn’t strong now, wasn’t strong in the past and won’t ever be truly strong, as any program that takes a step forward will always become fodder for a B.C.S. league.
College football as we currently know it will survive, in essence. Few thought that was a possibility given the turmoil of the last month, not to mention the last year. And you know what? The status quo is good; the status quo is safe; there’s nothing wrong with the status quo. College football isn’t broken, even if I admit that there are some issues that need to be addressed.
Some leagues need to be rejiggered. It’s clear that the Big 12 needed to reevaluate its priorities: it can’t just be Texas and then the rest, but rather a league with a democratic mindset — the idea that there are no haves, no have-nots, but rather equality.
The Big East needs to make moves, but the league survives. The A.C.C. might add another four teams, but I don’t think that taking four teams from the Big East is going to drastically alter the power structure in college football, and doing so won’t lead other conferences to jump right back into additional expansion.
I think we can breathe deep, exhale, relax and return to football. You know: football. What happens on Saturday, on Thursday nights, Friday nights, sometimes on Tuesdays. That’s why we watch, after all, and it’s why we care so much when expansion rears its ugly head. Let’s get back to football. I think we can relax.
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