Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Pac-10 gets its 12th team

The Pac-10 didn't take long to recover from its broken heart:
The Pac-10 invited Utah to become the 12th member of the conference Wednesday, two days after being turned down by Texas, Oklahoma and three other Big 12 schools.

Utah officials did not immediately say whether the invitation would be accepted. However, a source tells ESPN that Utah will join the Pac-10.

Obviously. I'm sure there'll be a lot of debate over where to stay in the Mountain West or head to the Pac-10. "Let's see, would you like to keep your $1.33 million in TV revenue or would you like $15 million, a shot at an automatic BCS bid and a huge boost in prominence?" Tough call. The only negative anyone has come up with is the split from BYU, but some minor scheduling adjustments should take care of that and keep The Holy War alive and well as a nonconference matchup.

From the Pac-10's standpoint, Utah is actually a pretty good addition. Good football team (at least middle of the pack in the Pac-10), good basketball team, good TV market (Salt Lake City is the 31st-largest in the country) ... nothing spectacular but nothing not to like. Getting more quality competition is never a bad thing.

Overall, though, the Pac-10 didn't really do anything to increase its national relevance. Nobody east of the Mississippi will be drawn to the impending Pac-10 Network to see Utah-Arizona or Colorado-Washington or just about any other combination outside of USC-Oregon. In other words, Utah and Colorado are both fine additions, but they represent expansion for expansion's sake. The important thing is that the new Pac-10 can split into two divisions, hold a championship game, start a network and bring in a little extra money via Denver and Salt Lake City. The lesson: If there's more money, everybody's happy.

The Denver Post reports that the new divisions will look like this:

South North
UCLA Stanford
Arizona Oregon
Arizona St. Oregon St.
Utah Washington
Colorado Washington St.

No surprises there. One of the big concerns with a divisional split was that the Washington, Oregon and Arizona schools wanted to keep their regular trips to California to help with recruiting. Separating Stanford and Cal from USC and UCLA makes that possible and still retains most geographic connections. The only quasi-rivalry that might be lost some years is USC-Cal; that's manageable.

I've seen a bunch of articles praising Larry Scott for his aggressive moves in expansion, and I'll give him credit for trying to do something EXTREMELY bold. But at the end of the day, the Pac-10 pretty much is what it was a week ago except with one more good team (one that'll finally get a chance to test itself against consistently strong competition) and one more mediocre team. And a championship game, of course.

And then there's the Mountain West. The poor, poor Mountain West. Just five days ago, the addition of Boise State seemed like the first step toward a guaranteed automatic BCS bid. With Utah, BYU, TCU and Boise State? That's a strong conference, probably even better than the Big East. I even said this at the time:
... even if the Big 12 stays intact, the Mountain West will be a lot stronger coming out of expansion than it was going in.
Errrr yeah. I obviously didn't foresee the current scenario. As it is, we're right back to square one. There's one excellent team (Boise taking Utah's place) and two consistently very good teams (BYU and TCU). Unless the MWC can steal another good program from a major conference (extremely doubtful), it's gonna be pretty hard to land that coveted auto-bid.

So close and yet so far ...


threefortywest said...

I'm not sure the Pac-10 really wants Utah after all -

Bunch of rednecks still living in the Gunslinger days.

Shorts said...

Hey, if you're gonna die, you might as well go out in a blaze of gunfire ...