Building a little on the post below and our Wednesday story, here's what Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott had to say about tying the issue of expansion to the issue of broadcasting contracts -- which expire after the 2011-12 sports seasons.
“The logic is if the Pac-10 is going to think about expanding, now is our window. The reason being, if you’re going to consider a reconstruction of the conference, there’s a value proposition associated with that. 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.”
Scott did not name any schools that might be added to the conference, and he said no “serious discussions” have been held with any potential members. However, he said any schools invited in would have to be academically and culturally compatible with the current 10 universities:
“I know that’s of paramount importance to our presidents and chancellors. There are other economic and athletic considerations such as increased costs that would be involved, increased travel that would be involved, splitting the pie in more ways. You would look at how that is offset against potentially greater revenue, potentially greater exposure into new markets, possible recruiting opportunities, the impact on media negotiations generally.”
Schools such as Colorado of the Big 12 and Utah of the Mountain West have been speculated about as possible expansion targets. Texas and Texas A&M also were once considered close to joining the Pac-10 before pressure from the Texas Legislature sent them to the Big 12 instead.
The league’s last expansion came in 1978, when Arizona and Arizona State joined what was previously the Pac-8.
However, the Pac-10 is the smallest of what are generally considered the major conferences. The Big East has 16 members (although only eight play football). The SEC, ACC and Big 12 all have 12 members. The Big Ten added Penn State as its 11th member in 1990 and recently announced that it is investigating adding one more.
Scott said the Big Ten’s interest in expansion rekindled the attention of Pac-10 presidents and chancellors. But the issue also comes up now because negotiations are about to begin on Pac-10 media contracts, which expire after the 2011-12 athletic seasons.
Scott seemed to have that in mind this week when he hired Kevin Weiberg into the newly created position of deputy commissioner and chief operating officer.Weiberg had been involved in integrating Penn State into the Big Ten, and in planning and developing the Big Ten Network, a full-time network created in 1997. It broadcasts approximately 350 live Big Ten athletic events each season and is available in about 73 million homes including 19 of the 20 largest markets in the country.
This from Weiberg on deciding if the Pac-10 should renegotiate with existing broadcasters such as Fox and ESPN or form its own network:
“Clearly, for a network to be successful, you want it to be distributed as broadly as possible, not only in the region but hopefully to have distribution that is national in scope. One has to think carefully about how to achieve that. It’s fundamental to the economic success.”