Greg Hansen: Growth in TV deal, not by expansion, would help Pac-10

2010-06-01T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Growth in TV deal, not by expansion, would help Pac-10Greg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 01, 2010 12:00 am  • 

The Pac-10 will soon debut a new logo and it's 10-to-1 that you're not going to like it.

It is too thin, too busy and too unfamiliar. It is, however, a sign of progress in a old guy's league that has gathered dust for three decades.

The Pac-10's new brand serves as a trigger to the Summer of Change in college sports, a period of potential revolution that begins today in Kansas City, Mo. Big 12 leaders will be the first to gather in an attempt to get a fix on who's in and who's out. Will Nebraska bolt for the Big Ten? Missouri, too? And if so, what becomes of the Big 12?

Pac-10 presidents, athletic directors and those that commissioner Larry Scott defines as "key stakeholder groups" will rendezvous in San Francisco on Thursday.

They will blow the dust off the league that has been driving in the middle lane of traffic, 55 mph, since John Wooden retired.

"We haven't been progressive or risk-takers," Scott told a booster group in Portland, Ore., last week. "It's fair to say we have fallen behind in certain areas."

The first change you'll notice is that Scott has chartered a plane to New York City, and on July 25 UA football coach Mike Stoops and his Pac-10 colleagues will begin an unprecedented three-day media tour of the Northeast and especially ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

The return destination is Pasadena, Calif.

Pac-10 media day will no longer be an intimate session lost on a Wednesday afternoon in an airport hotel. It will now be a two-day event at the most sacred piece of ground in Pac-10 sports: the Rose Bowl.

The Pac-10 has a lot to celebrate. For once, it is making a concerted effort to push the SEC and Big Ten off the sports pages and say, "Hey, look at us! We're really good."

This is "really good": In the last two weeks, eight Pac-10 teams reached the NCAA baseball tournament; seven of its eight softball-playing members reached the NCAA playoffs; four of its women's golf teams finished in the top six nationally; eight men's golf teams are in the NCAA finals.

It's like this every year.

The Pac-10 is already a Super Conference, one that doesn't need to expand to get more attention or to make more money.

When the high-powered minds come together in San Francisco this week it's almost certain they will absorb two things: (1) expansion to Utah and Colorado can't improve their financial lot; (2) the most significant predictor of future financial success isn't expansion but rather the ACC's recent deal with ESPN.

Two weeks ago, the ACC and ESPN agreed to a $155 million-a-year deal that more than doubles its old arrangement of $67 million annually.

The ACC more than doubled its media value without expanding. That's what appeals to the Pac-10.

That contract sets the tenor for the Pac-10's TV negotiations that will conclude at this time next year. The theme: double your money and more. The Pac-10's current TV contract, with a second-level carrier, Fox Sports Net, is worth $43 million annually.

True, the ACC has better basketball, but the Pac-10 has considerably more football leverage plus the Los Angeles and San Francisco TV markets.

So, given the ACC/ESPN precedent, the Pac-10 has reason to be optimistic that it can squeeze $100 million out of a TV partner, and then maybe another $30 million or so from Scott's new forays in marketing, branding, bowl alignments and, possibly, a media-rights partnership with what remains of the Big 12.

One thing to like about Scott is that he isn't waiting on the Big Ten to push over the first domino. He's serving while others are checking out the best-looking girls in the stands.

And here's the key, expansion-related comment Scott made in Oregon: "What's going to add value are schools that can deliver major audiences in key markets that have strength in football and basketball."

That's not Utah or Salt Lake City. The big unknown is how much Scott and the Pac-10 presidents value the Denver TV market. Is it enough to give Colorado, which is not a national power in any sport, an equal share of future TV booty?

It doesn't seem likely.

When the Pac-10 football and basketball coaches gathered in Phoenix last month, Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters, "What we got right now is a good thing. It's set up really well."

Bingo. Beyond the revenue-producers in football and basketball, the Pac-10 has evolved into a conference with superb, almost matchless tennis, swimming, golf, baseball, softball, track and field, volleyball and soccer programs. Scheduling works in perfect symmetry. A generation of fans has become familiar with rivals and league history. Travel costs aren't ridiculous.

Moreover, the league's collective academic reputation sets it apart from most other BCS conferences.

In the 21st century, the Pac-10 needs to adapt to financial challenges. But it doesn't need new neighbors.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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