The plans for the Pac-12 were announced today in a press conference held by Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott in L.A. Scott announced this was “truly a historic day for the Pac-12 conference,” laid out the Pac-12 divisions, revenue sharing and detailed plans for the new conference championship game. The goal for Scott was “building not just a national, but a global brand” for the Pac-12.
The decisions laid out by Scott were all voted on unanimously by the board of CEOs. The chancellors and presidents came to a clear consensus in shaping the future of the conference and unanimity was vital when making such important decisions.
The Pac-12 will be aligned in geographic divisions, with Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California and Stanford in the North and USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah in the South. Scott said the decisions were made based on four major factors. “The importance of rivalry games, competitive balance, geographic and fan experience” were all vital in the decision-making process.
“We did an analysis of wins.” Scott said, “From a competitive standpoint in football, there’s incredible balance.” The conference commissioners looked at conference wins and felt the geographic alignment was fairly balanced and would be the most balanced proposal in terms of wins.
Scott also announce the Pac-12 “will have equal revenue sharing going forward” saying, “From 2012 on, all media revenue will be shared equally.” The equal sharing will take affect with the new TV contract in 2012. In 2011, the conference will maintain the current appearance-based revenue sharing structure. If the television rights are $170 million or less, USC and UCLA will receive a $2 million payout to ensure they continue to grow at the rate they have.
Scott placed a heavy emphasis on the fan experience and the maintenance of traditional rivalries. As such, the four California schools will be guaranteed games against each other each year. Teams will play five intra-divisional games and four inter-division games each year.
“For the Northern California and Southern California schools, two of those games are locked.” Scott said while explaining the scheduling, “Then we will have a rotation to fill the other two games.” For fans of the Oregon and Washington schools, Scott said “If you are a Northwest school, you will play in LA every other year. You will play each of USC and UCLA every year.” So the Northwest schools will play one Southern California school each year, but are not guaranteed a game in LA.
Fans have been worried about being shut out of Southern California, but one Oregon coach — one can assume it was Chip Kelly — spoke to Scott and said, “No problem, we plan on making the championship game every year.”
For those who can’t wait to see the schedule, Scott said, “The exact schedule will take about 30 days to come out. Thirty to 45 days from now the schools will publish the exact 2011 schedule.”
The conference championship game will be played at the school with the best record that season. “Hosting is something you will earn by having the best overall conference record,” Scott said, noting that there will be tiebreakers in place if teams have equal records. They came to the decision based on the logistics needed for fans to book arrangements to get to a neutral site on short notice. The Pac-12 followed the model of the NFL, making the championship game merit-based.
While the weather in December isn’t delightful in the Northwest, Arizona State’s Michael Crow didn’t seem worried, saying, “This is football. Weather is a part of it.”
Scott expects the Pac-12 media deal to top $170 million a year and is focused on both money and other non-financial considerations. A Pac-12 network is on the way and will be discussed in the upcoming media negotiations.
It was clear Scott and the leadership of the conference took the fan experience and the tradition of the conference’s institutions into account when making all decisions. Many times, Scott mentioned the fans, the history of the rivalries and how much importance was placed on giving the fans a worthy product while maintaining the pieces that made the Pac-10 so great.
Finally, Scott addressed whether this was a permanent move or simply a step toward further expansion.
“You can plan on us being the Pac-12 for the foreseeable future.” he said, “I suspect the media deals will be quite long-term. All of our planning is around being the Pac-12.”
If the conferences do continue to expand, Scott feels the Pac-12 “will be in an extremely good position going forward.”