The Pac-10 Is Dividing Up Divisions North And South, And Looking At A Unique Pod System For Scheduling

Even though Utah is off to the Pac-12 next year, there is some relevant news regarding the divisional split plus the fate of the BYU vs. Utah game.  The divisional set up has been a hot topic which ranged from using a traditional north and south lineup, the zipper model or an ACC like lineup which has no geographical boundaries. Today, many people are reporting that the divisional lineup will be a north and south line up that will look like this:

North

Washington
Washington State
Oregon
Oregon State
Utah
Colorado

South

Cal
Stanford
Arizona
Arizona State
UCLA
USC


This is what lineup some were reporting from the beginning when the Pac-10 expanded.

However, there is a twist to the division lineup; the new Pac-12 is going to be using a complicated pod system for scheduling.  This is how the pod system will be set up:

Pod One Pod Two Pod Three
Oregon State
Colorado Cal
Oregon Utah Stanford
Washington Arizona USC
Washington State Arizona State UCLA



In addition to the pod system, the Pac-12 will be playing a nine game conference schedule. This will affect the BYU-Utah game, but we will get to that later.  The way the pod system works is that each year teams will play the other teams within their pod, then the pods will rotate to play another pod and finally two games will be played in the third pod.  The new Pac-12 is not making things easy with their scheduling.  There are some glaring flaws in this system with the biggest one being that teams may not play all of their teams in their north or south division and that there is a good chance of a repeat matchup in the title game.

Here is a sample schedule for Utah for the 2011 season where they would play pod one and the 2012 season where they would play pod three. The bold teams are divisional games:

2011

Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Cal, and USC

This year it works out fine that Utah and Colorado play all of their divisional mates, but in 2012 there is a difference.

2012

Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington State

That year Colorado and Utah would not face two of there divisional members.  This could lead to a bizarre tie breaker situation if teams finish with the same record atop the North division and the two teams did not play each other.  This setup makes me wonder if Commissioner Larry Scott made some promises to certain teams to allow a game a year in California or more specifically against USC or UCLA.

This pod system would work well in basketball where there is not going to be divisions for seeding, but rather the overall record would decide the conference tournament seeding.

To play the opposite side of the pod system, it does allow all teams to play USC and UCLA every other year with teams from different pods. Plus, if the schedule makers want to make everyone happy they would have teams play their a northern California team and a southern California team when they are not playing against the California pod that year. So, teams would be playing against a southern California team every single year with a game in that area at worst every other year, but most likely it would be more often then that.  

Perhaps this scheduling is not all that crazy in terms of teams being able to have a presence in southern California every year and it would help boost ticket sales when USC comes to town every three years (that is if my math is correct).

My opinion is to favor the zipper model which would have put rivals in opposite divisions, and it would have put USC and UCLA in opposite divisions guaranteeing games against those schools every year while still playing against one's entire division.  Here is what the model would look like:

Arizona State, UCLA, Cal, Oregon, Washington and Utah in one division.

Arizona, USC, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington State and Colorado in the other.

That set up would have permanent rivals in the opposite division that would play each year, and still allow teams to play against a southern California team each year.  This plan is more logical, because it solves the southern California problem and all teams in their division would play each other.  If the current pod system is implemented there are years a full round of division play would not happen.

The tie breaking scenario will not be pretty in the year when there are two teams tied at the top of their own division but they did not end up playing because of the pod system. Does Larry Scott not recall the controversy over the Big XII South tie-breaker back in 2008 when Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech were tied; those three teams actually played each other.  What happens when two teams are tied in one division when they do not play each other due to the schools being in a different pod? 

This could happen, because what happens if Utah and Oregon are tied for first in the division but did not play.  Head-to-head play is out, as should divisional record because Utah could have been scheduled against the California pod and played Oregon State and Washington State.  Winning percentage might be the next step, or using records against common division opponents.  Either way there will be a mess one of these years that will have the new Pac-12 scrambling.

With the nine game schedule almost a certainty, it is looking more and more like the Holy War will not have a 2011 matchup.  The only game for Utah that has a possibility of being moved is the Iowa State game, which is a home game, but that is a home game and BYU has said they do not want to play in Salt Lake two years in a row.

Utah could counter by saying they will play at BYU for two years, but the lost money and the possibility of playing seven road games will be tough on the wallet; especially with the Utes not getting a full Pac-12 share until a few years in the league.

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