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Pac-10 Looking At Expansion And Utah Is In The Mix

This is the football off season and the big E word (expansion) gets tossed around from the Mountain West looking to add Boise and others, the Big 10 looking to add a twelfth team for some extra scratch, and now the Pac-10 is possibly acting upon their expansion thoughts from this past summer to form the Pac-12.

New Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott mentioned during this past summer that they would take a 12 to 18 month approach look into expansion and directly mentioned Utah and Colorado. That is a huge improvement over former league commissioner Tom Hansen who had this to say about adding Utah and BYU to the league in an exit interview he did with the Los Angeles Times back in June:

"Q: The Pac-10 has been the Pac-10 since 1978. What about expansion?

A: You expand a conference to extend your television imprint in football, to get greater football TV rights, and there just aren't any members close by that would do that for us. There are not enough TV homes in Utah and any institution within our footprint would only be a negative because you'd be dividing up the same money more ways."

That view has either been disproved or that now since the Big 10 is making a push to add a twelfth team in about a year. The big reason Pac-10 expansion is getting big news is because of the recent hire the league made with Kevin Weiberg as its chief operating officer who will be second in command behind Commissioner Scott.

However the significance of this hire is explained in an interview that Larry Scott had with the San Jose Mercury News:

"He [Kevin Weiberg] has a very diverse and successful track record. In particular, in his experience as the Big 12 commissioner and an executive with the Big Ten Network, he has dealt with some of the most complicated issues — from expansion to TV networks to media rights in general."

If the Pac-10 is looking for a guy to run their tv deal this is guy. Especially since the Pac-10 received $43 million from their combined television deal with Fox, Versus, and ABC/ESPN. While the Big 10 received $66 million from the Big Ten Network alone in the same year.

Expansion to the Pac-10? The only logical choices are Utah and Colorado, especially if the Pac-10 wants to be a stickler with inviting research schools. BYU may be a better fight geography wise, but they are not considered a top research school and the Pac-10 plays games on Sunday which is something that BYU does not do.

Here is more from the San Jose Mercury News:

"We’re looking at it very seriously. It wasn’t something identified for me [Larry Scott] by the presidents when I took the job. But it’s very natural as you look at the value of the conference from a media standpoint. If we were ever going to look at expansion, this would be the logical time."

The timing is correct, because the current Pac-10 television deal expires during the 2011-2012 academic year which would lead negotiations to begin sometime this year. So, this summer could be the start of the league sending out those glossy invites to two schools. Utah most likely would make the move since nothing is guaranteed that the league will get an auto-BCS bid even if they invite Boise State (even though most say they would, including myself). The Pac-10 would want to have their teams up front to present to the the television folks to maximize the dollar.

However, I doubt the Pac-10 will add just one team and getting Colorado could be tough because the Big XII is the leader in revenue, and even though Colorado was 43rd on the list of all FBS schools they would fair less in the Pac-10 depending on what a new Pac-10 television deal could bring in. The Buffs do have more in common with the Pac-10 in location and academics, plus travel would be less which is important for the minor sports.

Sports Illustrated brings up some of the same points as mentioned above:

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott says that if the conference is going to expand, a decision will likely be made in the next year.
Scott said it made sense to have a decision about expansion before starting to negotiate new television deals that expire following the 2011-12 academic year.

Scott says "serious evaluation" of the topic will go on in the next six to 12 months. He said the primary factor in the decision will be finding schools that fit into the conference culturally and academically and determining whether the benefits of adding extra teams outweigh the costs.

That could mean an invite could come this summer where Utah and team b join the Pac-10 for the 2011 season, but that would mean that the current deal would be split 12 ways and bring in less money for all the schools. So, an invite may not come until the new teams would join in 2012 at the start of the new television deal.

That timing could mean a few things, first Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson better invite Boise State this summer to ensure that the Mountain West gets an auto bid. However, Utah would still most likely make the jump if invited because say the Pac-10 invites Utah in the summer of 2011 which would be when Boise officially joins the league for the upcoming football season the MWC will still not know if they are going to receive an auto-bid and still make the jump.

Gotta love these off season topics/rumors about expansion as this is similar to the false rumor that Pitt was heading to the Big 10 just short time after the Big 10 announced their plans to expand.

Then the best mention about the expansion rumors came out of local Salt Lake television station ABC 4:

The University of Utah to the PAC 10? BYU to the Big 12? It could happen.

This is all speculation...but sources are telling ABC 4 Sports that Utah will be invited to join the PAC 10 conference, but not BYU. The Cougars could wind up in the Big 12...or staying put in the MWC.

Several dominoes have to fall first, but here's how it could all play out...

Huh? Gotta love those unnamed sources that say this may or may not happen. Especially the line that BYU could be in the Big XII or stay in the Mountain West, Wow! what a revelation that BYU may stay put. ABC 4 is basing a potential move to the Big XII by BYU to replace Colorado who would be the logical choice to partner up with Utah.

As memes or rumors go this one seems to have some legs and is not the fly by night Pitt to Big 10 rumors. Either way this decision may not happen until the summer of 2011 where there could be a major shift between the haves and have nots with the Big 10 and Pac-10 leading the way with expansion.

Believe me when I say this if Utah gets an invite to join the Pac-10 they will take it in a second, but the only way that does not happen is if the Mountain West has an automatic BCS bid in hand.