Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott addressed the league's basketball writers this morning at what seems to be the start of a profoundly important year for the conference.
Scott said that the league is beginning to look toward renegotiation of its broadcast packages, which expire at the end of the 2012 seasons. And that makes the next six to 12 months a key time for two massively important decisions: Should the league create its own broadcast network, as the Big 10 has done? And since the footprint of the league is important to any broadcast package, should the league expand?
I'll have more on both topics here later, and then in tomorrow's newspaper. However, it seems to be no coincidence that the league's newly named deputy commissioner has experience with the creation of the Big 10 Network.
Regarding expansion, Scott said he doesn't know if Pac-10 presidents and chancellors are any more open to the idea than they traditionally have been, but that the discussion of further Big 10 expansion has gotten their attention. In any case, he clearly hasn't been told that it's off the table.
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"If the Pac-10 is going to think about expanding, now is our window," Scott said in the conference call. "The reason being if you're going to consider a reconstruction of the conference, there should be a value proposition associated with that and given that we're about to have negotiations regarding our media rights, it makes sense that if you're going to do it, to do it when you can monetize it and get value from it commercially, in terms of greater exposure for your conference. If we're going to consider this in the foreseeable future, it really is in the next 12 months."
Scott said there have been no discussions with any potential new schools who might be interesting in joining. However, he said the schools must be academically and culturally compatible with the existing 10 schools. (While Scott named no names, what I have traditionally heard most from around the league is that Colorado and Utah might be the top choices, and that Brigham Young has no chance.)
Scott also said that the league might be willing to alter its traditional Thursday-Saturday basketball schedule to increase the league's broadcast profile, but that it would have to be done in a way that doesn't interfere significantly with the academic needs of the student-athletes.
He also said the Pac-10 basketball tournament will continue, even if Fox -- which owns the rights to the tournament through 2012 -- doesn't retain those rights.