SAN FRANCISCO - The soon-to-be Pac-12 Conference unanimously approved equal revenue sharing and North-South football divisions Thursday, two landmark decisions that stand to benefit the Arizona Wildcats for years to come.
The Wildcats will be placed in a South football division along with ASU, UCLA, USC and new entrants Colorado and Utah starting next season, and the division winners will meet in an annual championship game at the home site of the team with the best overall conference record.
Meanwhile, 11 of the 12 schools will equally divvy up a conference media pot expected to be worth $170 million to $190 million when the conference's new package is in place beginning in 2012-13. As per its entrance agreement, Utah will not get a full share until 2014-15.
"This is truly a historic day for the Pac-10 Conference," commissioner Larry Scott. "We've achieved some monumental goals in a relatively short period of time that position us very well for the future."
The decisions mean the Wildcats will keep recruiting and fan advantages in Southern California, while making about $1 million more per year than they do under the conference's current appearance-based formula. Overall, Arizona is expected to receive $14million to $15.5million from the conference starting in 2012-13, nearly double what it received in 2009-10.
The Los Angeles schools, which benefit the most from the appearance-based formula and have generations-old rivalries with the Bay Area schools, were granted two major concessions: They will each receive an extra $2 million if the conference's media package does not reach $170 million, and they will play each Bay Area team annually even though they are in separate divisions.
In basketball, the conference adopted an 18-game schedule that requires each team to play its geographic rival along with a rotating set of six teams twice annually, while playing four others just once a season. The Pac-10 tournament, scheduled for Los Angeles through 2012, is being studied for possible changes in format or site.
"I think what you saw here was a sense by all parties that the conference as a whole is the most important entity we all have," UA president Robert Shelton said. "Once that is set in place, then we can each make our local adjustments as needed. We all put on the table what's best for us, and then we can collectively come to a conclusion of what's best for the conference. And what's best for the conference is good for all of us."
Shelton and ASU president Michael Crow said they were pleased with how the decision affected their schools.
"This is a fantastic outcome for ASU," said Crow, who heads the Pac-10's CEO Group. "We like the Southern Division very much. We have a lot of affinity with Utah and Colorado, a lot of people moving back and forth between Arizona and Utah and Colorado, and we've still got Southern California."
The potential downsides for Arizona in football are that it will have to play nine potentially rugged conference games, face traditional power USC every year and will play the four Pacific Northwest schools more often than the Bay Area schools - a disadvantage if the Northwest schools are stronger than Cal and Stanford. That's because the conference's scheduling model guarantees annual games between the California teams but makes them consequently less available for other cross-divisional contests.
UA football coach Mike Stoops said in a statement that "as with any major change, there are going to be pros and cons to all the schools and teams involved" but was unavailable for further comment.
Scott said the schedule plan balances all the interests of the conference, which has held the intra-California games for generations. Shelton and Crow also supported renewing all California rivalries annually.
"I felt absolutely that we had these 80-, 100-year-old rivalries, and these are the most important games we play," Crow said. "We had to maintain these rivalries. The game between UCLA and Cal is an important game. The game between USC and Stanford is viewed by both of those schools as a very important game."
The conference's athletic directors didn't agree as much on a division plan. According to USC athletic director Pat Haden, conference athletic directors voted only 7-5 in favor of the 5-2-2 North and South Divisions model (see chart). The opposition came in part from those who were not in favor of the California schools playing each other every season.
Yet the division proposal passed 12-0 on Thursday, thanks to what Crow said was a different perspective from the CEOs.
The ADs are "highly competitive, competing on a team basis between each other, and we're not concentrated on that," Crow said. "We're concentrated on what makes a great college athletic conference: How does it work, how might it move forward for the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years. These are 40-year changes that are being looked at right now."
Still, even at the CEO level, USC president Max Nikias was faced with adopting a revenue-sharing formula that could take $4 million out of the school's pocket. According to an estimate by Navigate Marketing of Chicago, USC might receive $20 million annually with a new media rights deal and the current appearance-based formula but only about $14million to $15.5million with a new media deal and equal revenue sharing.
Nikias declined to comment after the meeting, but he voted for revenue sharing, and Scott and Crow indicated there was no major issue from the Los Angeles schools.
"We think the new model will outperform any previous model financially," Crow said. "(With) the model we're in, every one benefits."
On StarNet: Follow the Wildcats as the season approaches on Bruce Pascoe's blog at go.azstarnet.com/pascoe
'TRULY A HISTORIC DAY': PAC-10 VOTE SETS DIVISIONS, ADDRESSES NEW SCHEDULING
The Pac-10 voted in three major constitutional changes during its CEO meetings Thursday in San Francisco:
• Splitting into two divisions for football only, with Arizona and ASU in a South Division along with USC, UCLA, Colorado and Utah.
• Adopting an equal revenue sharing distribution model starting with a new media rights package in 2012-13.
• Placing a football championship game at the home site of the division winner with the best overall conference record.
Here are the details of the scheduling dynamics the expansion will require.
In football, the league approved a "5-2-2" model with North and South Divisions. The 5-2-2 refers to the fact that the Bay Area and Los Angeles schools will play each other annually despite being in different divisions. This makes each California school less available to other schools in the opposite division.
Under the 5-2-2, the Arizona Wildcats would face each Bay Area team twice over a four-year period but face the four Northwest schools three times each during that four-year span.
Here's how Arizona's cross-divisional schedule could look under the 5-2-2:
• Year 1: Cal, Oregon, OSU, Washington
• Year 2: Stanford, Oregon, OSU, WSU
• Year 3: Cal, OSU, Washington, WSU
• Year 4: Stanford, Oregon, Washington, WSU
In other sports affected by expansion, here are the schedule changes:
• Basketball (men's and women's - 12 teams each): The league will keep its 18-game schedule but drop its double-round-robin with 12 teams. In the new 18-game schedule, each team would play its geographic rival plus six other rotating teams twice annually. Over the course of a 10-year cycle, each team except the rival would be played 16 times; the rival would be played 20 times.
• Gymnastics (seven teams): Three home and three away meets instead of two and two.
• Soccer (women's - 12 teams): Single round-robin of 11 games instead of nine.
• Softball (nine teams): Single round robin of 24 games instead of 21
• Tennis (women's - 11 teams): Single round robin of 10 matches instead of eight
• Tennis (men's - eight teams): Single round robin of seven instead of six
• Volleyball (12 teams): Double round robin of 22 games instead of 18.
• Baseball: Not affected because Utah will take California's place; Cal dropped the sport, and Colorado does not offer it.
Ryan Finley contributed to this report