Greg Hansen: Big Pac-10 event won't be staged on field

On tap at AD meeting: divisions, scheduling, revenue distribution Conference ADs likely will decide scheduling, divisions, revenue-sharing
2010-09-28T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Big Pac-10 event won't be staged on fieldGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 28, 2010 12:00 am  • 

In the Pac-10, the year's most lip-smacking, can't-breathe-all-week, life-altering showdown has nothing to do with Saturday's Oregon-Stanford game, the Apple Cup, the Civil War or further mayhem in the Zona Zoo.

ESPN won't send a blimp, a field-cam or a sideline reporter to this momentous affair, and the principals will wear suits, not uniforms.

Next Wednesday, the league's athletic directors will gather at San Francisco's Westin airport hotel, and by the time they scatter a day or two later, they expect to forward to Pac-10 presidents details of many of the most critical decisions in league history.

This contentious and sensitive encounter has two simple parts:

Who will play whom in the Pac-12 and how often?

How should they divvy the TV money?

Here's the main story line: Everybody wants a piece of Los Angeles, both in finances and exposure, but there's not enough pieces to suit everybody, or maybe anybody. And to make the process more intriguing, USC and UCLA don't want to fully share their TV money.

If you think Stanford-Cal is a Big Game, imagine the suspense at the Westin when the USC/UCLA bloc attempts to find two friendly votes in an attempt to avoid equitable revenue-sharing.

Arizona and ASU will surely vote to establish equal distribution of TV money. From 2007 to 2009, the Pac-10 delivered a combined $40.9 million to USC and UCLA compared to $32.1 million to Arizona and ASU. Financially challenged Utah, Colorado, Washington State, Cal and Oregon State are also likely to be share-the-wealth voters.

It would take a 9-3 vote to change the league's revenue-sharing plan.

On Monday, UA director of athletics Greg Byrne confirmed that matters of revenue-distribution, divisional alignment and scheduling are expected to decided next week; those recommendations would be forwarded to league presidents for a final vote Oct. 21. Only then will it be made public.

That's when the real chatter - who got ripped off? - will begin.

Some of the we-can't-live-without-L.A. stuff is overstated. Oregon has been a better draw than UCLA for a decade, and Washington used to be. It is almost always in flux.

Arizona didn't play football games in Los Angeles in 1980, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1998, 2001 and 2002. It didn't seem to matter much. Arizona had the league's second-best winning percentage of the 1990s and produced nine consecutive non-losing seasons from 1981 to 1989.

Sometimes it's better to get a chance to beat up on Utah and Colorado and keep the customers smiling than to get whacked 38-15 by the Trojans.

The league's new administration isn't able to cut USC or UCLA a special dispensation. USC's sense of entitlement began more than 50 years ago when it said it would not play football in Pullman, Wash. And so it didn't.

The Trojans didn't play in Pullman from 1958 to 1984. Over 27 years, USC played a total of four road games against the Cougars, but all were in Spokane and Seattle. What's more, in the '70s, USC was somehow able to limit its appearances in Corvallis, Ore., playing at Oregon State only in 1972, 1977 and 1979.

The league's caste system has been eliminated. Sharper minds have taken control.

The L.A. difference isn't on the field as much as it is in the budget.

When Arizona and Oregon State play on the Versus network, as they did last year, they will split 64percent of whatever modest TV money is available. The league's other teams will get a 4.5 percent cut. The same formula applies for all TV games.

But when the schools with all the eyeballs, UCLA and USC play on ABC, their 64 percent cut is far more generous than the Versus split. It's a rich-get-richer system that tends to keep Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona and Cal in the low-rent district.

That's why USC and UCLA will have difficulty getting two outside votes.

In this century, Arizona has played 13 national games against USC/UCLA on ABC, Fox Sports or TBS. Against Oregon State and Wazzu, it has played four.

Thus, the revenue-distribution vote will be more significant than divisional alignments.

If, say, Arizona is put in a four-team scheduling pod with Colorado, ASU and Utah - which makes as much sense than anything else - the Wildcats would play those three every football season, and six games among the remaining eight schools, rotating year to year.

The inevitable scheduling "misses" aren't likely to be much more than a fleeting story.

UCLA went to the 1982 Rose Bowl with a 5-1-1 record. It did not play 5-2 Arizona State. There was no public outcry. Teams that played just seven conference games went to the Rose Bowl in 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1986 and 1989. The majority of teams played eight conference games in that era.

Yet it all seemed to work without lingering bitterness.

You say the Wildcats might not be able to play the Trojans in 2012 and could instead be sent to play at Utah in late November?

It could be worse. A few months ago, Arizona's 2012 schedule might have included an early-December Pac-16 game against division rivals at Lubbock, Texas, or Stillwater, Okla.

This is better, no matter what the ADs decide next week.

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

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