For decades, the Pacific-10 Conference was major college sports' Last of the Mohicans.
It didn't add a new member for 32 years. It played most of its football games on Saturday, most of its conference basketball games on Thursday and Saturday.
The Pac-10 schools even stuck with a regional sports television partner, Fox Sports Net, in part because it could continue playing on the dates and times it wanted, not when ESPN or somebody else told them to.
How nice. How quaint.
Under aggressive first-year commissioner Larry Scott, the Pac-10 added Colorado on Thursday and it is now expected to bloat into a 16-team, three-time-zone Western superconference scheduled to begin in 2012.
The 16 teams would make the expanded Pac-10 the largest football conference in Division I.
"This is the dawning of a new day for the Pac-10," Scott said after adding Colorado. "There's a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about our prospects going forward, including with the addition of new members."
Nebraska regents voted Friday to move forward with an application to the Big Ten, potentially opening the door for the Pac-10 to pluck up to five other targets from the suddenly vulnerable Big 12 Conference.
The Pac-10 is pursuing Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. And while Texas A&M is still considering a move instead to the Southeastern Conference, the Pac-10 could easily fill its spot with Kansas or Utah.
The dust could start clearing quickly after the University of Texas regents meet Tuesday, since four of the other Big 12 targets are expected to follow Texas.
Here's how and why it could all play out:
• If Texas formally approves a move to the Pac-10, look for Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to quickly line up behind the Longhorns.
The Longhorns do not appear interested in either the SEC or the Big Ten. And the Big 12, without Nebraska's football presence, probably can't match the potential revenue and exposure offered by a 16-team Western superconference that also features USC and several other strong coastal football programs.
Now working under a television contract worth just $43 million annually, the Pac-10 could command up to $256 million a year with a 16-team alignment that includes the Longhorns and their passionate fans, according to USA Today. The Pac-10 would likely have its own television network as part of the plan, as the Big Ten does now.
That would put the Pac-10 firmly among college sports' big dogs. The Big Ten currently generates a reported $165 million annually in television revenue, the ACC takes in $155 while the SEC recently struck a $205 million deal.
"As we know television has a tremendous impact on what takes place with your contracts right now and that's an important revenue source for every league out there," Arizona AD Greg Byrne said. "You've seen what's taken place in the Big Ten and their network and Southeastern Conference and their television agreement and the same thing with the ACC."
With bowl and NCAA basketball tournament revenues, a new Pac-10 could distribute a total of $20 million back to each member every year. Arizona had a total revenue stream of $51.8 million from all sources in 2008-09 while Texas had $138.5 million, according to U.S. Department of Education figures.
• Assuming Texas jumps in, the next domino then becomes Texas A&M. If the Aggies - whose athletic director just happens to be Byrne's father - opt for the SEC, the Pac-10 could turn instead to Kansas or possibly Utah to fill out its 16-team plan.
• Kansas? While Utah fits the Pac-10 better geographically, and Kansas' proud basketball tradition counts for little in the football-driven conference reshuffling, the Jayhawks do have a few things in their favor.
Kansas is a member of the Association of American Universities, a prestigious group of research institutions that also includes Arizona, while Utah is not. The Jayhawks also draw from three Top 150 television markets: Kansas City (32), Wichita (69) and Topeka (136) and they're no farther (1,500 miles or less) from any other existing Pac-10 team than some other Big 12 targets. They also won a 2008 BCS football bowl game.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, upset at the beginning of last week, became so positive at the end of the week that he told the Kansas City Star that the Jayhawks would land in a BCS conference no matter what.
"We may land with somebody that opens up recruiting doors in areas that we never really tested before," Self said.
• Utah? The Utes' best hope is probably that the Big 12 somehow remains intact (or if Kansas opts to join another BCS conference), meaning Texas and its neighbors are not available. In that case, the Pac-10 would at least need Utah to cap its new league at 12 teams and create the potential for divisions and a football championship game. A television network could still be created and possibly shared with the Big 12 as long as feelings aren't too sore between the two leagues.
However, Scott said during Colorado's introductory news conference Friday that the Pac-10 may go no further.
"If it stops here, we're thrilled," Scott said.
• What about BYU, Baylor, or even Missouri? With nine current state schools and two private schools, USC and Stanford, the Pac-10 does not appear to be interested in adding BYU or Baylor in part because of their religious ties. Moreover, BYU does not allow its teams to play on Sunday, throwing a scheduling wrench into any new television deal. Missouri appears to be a potential orphan, seen as too far and with too little to offer for either the Big Ten, the SEC or the Pac-10.
The shape of Pac-10 (or whatever) to come
The next week's moves will determine what the Pac-10 will look like and operate starting in 2012-13 (or possibly even 2011-12, commissioner Larry Scott indicated).
Here's how it could look in a 16-team scenario with Texas:
• The Pac-10 would likely break into divisions in football, thus creating the potential for a football championship game that could bring another $12 million to $15 million annually.
An eastern division could include Arizona, ASU and the new acquisitions, while the original "Pac-8" teams (the league that existed from 1968 to 1978) would stay in a coastal division.
But it is not certain that every football team would have to play every other one in the division every year - i.e. that Arizona might have to beat Oklahoma and Texas in its division, then knock off USC in a championship game just to reach the Rose Bowl.
Scott says the conference will look at creative scheduling and differing divisions in order to minimize travel and missed class time. The Pac-10 may also find a way to allow coaches to schedule more games in their preferred regions.
On a side note, a Pac-10 superconference could help funnel teams into a football playoff system that could replace the controversial BCS system, though Scott said that "hasn't entered our thinking in any way."
• In football, the Pac-10 could just schedule each team for a rivalry game every year and maybe three other division games, plus a few from the other division.
It's also possible that the divisions could be made up of two four-team quadrants, as the mid-1990s Western Athletic Conference was, allowing a four-team core to stay together while creating new eight-team divisions every season.
In other sports, divisions could be altered or even eliminated to best suit each one. In basketball, the conference might not even need divisions, since it could just schedule one game against every team for a total of 15 conference games and then host a four-day conference tournament.
In non-revenue sports, it's also possible that not every team would play every other one every season, so as to save on travel costs. Some non-revenue sports, such as Arizona's indoor track teams and Colorado's ski teams, already compete in circuits outside the Pac-10 that would not likely change.
• Scott says he wants a name that will "reflect the membership," and if the other conference leaders agree, that means both the "Pac" and the "10" will go.
With 16 teams, the Pac-10 could take on a new overall name, such as the Great West, with division titles such as "Pacific" and "Southwest" that would honor the heritage of the Pac-10 and the old Southwest Conference that Texas used to head up.
But whatever happens, the Pac-10 will never be the same in name, structure or culture.
And maybe that's exactly what it wants.
"Any time you have change there is going to be resistance to it," Byrne said. "I've always said on my tombstone I want it to say, 'People are always open to change as long as it doesn't inconvenience them.' I think just like anything else people will adapt. To … go through life without any change would be a very boring life."
ON THE FENCE