The big news on Wednesday was that Texas A&M was extended an invitation by the SEC to join the conference starting in 2012. Obviously, some of the Big-12 teams such as Baylor who fear being left standing once the music stops. But assuming the move gets approved, more than likely the Big-12 as we know it would get dissolved. Back in 2010, the original plan was to form the Pac-16 with Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and likely Texas Tech. The Big-10 currently doesn’t have any huge expansion plans, but you got to believe one superconference can easily set off the dominos. The most popular scenario mentioned has the Pac-16 forming with the two Oklahoma schools, and then Texas and Texas Tech but other possibilities exist as well. The large jewel is obviously Texas out of that bunch, but what are some steps Larry Scott and the Pac-12 do to make themselves more attractive in the meantime?
1) Cater to Texas, but don’t put them on a pedestal - The main reason for Texas A&M wanting to leave, was they were tired of the Horns calling all the shots and wanted to get out of their shadow. Obviously, Texas brings in huge resources and a large passionate alumni base, but too much into their demands such as high school games on the Longhorn Network would be a definitely turn-off for the other big prize, Oklahoma. Oklahoma has said it could see itself giving up the Red River Rivalry for a more secure home in the future. Texas would likely have to give up the unequal revenue sharing they had in the Big-12 or maybe agree to similar concessions given to USC and UCLA for joining the Pac-12. As an armchair quarterback, I would suggest doing just that, allowing them to keep their own Network without high school games, and maybe compensate with bonuses for appearances on ESPN/ABC if the total revenue generated for the conference is above a certain threshold.
2) If you can’t beat them, join them – What the current Pac-12 teams could actually do is simply win on the field and score huge wins against the Big-12 in the coming weeks. Between Arizona’s game against Oklahoma State, Arizona State’s game against Missouri, and UCLA’s rematch against Texas, winning 2 out of 3 would be a huge statement. The Pac-12 needs to give the perception that the mercenary schools from the Big-12 will be joining a reputable and respected conference and conference isn’t just poaching good teams and riding their backs. As I mentioned in a previous post , the Pac-10 had a winning record against all conferences except the Big-12 during the BCS era (32-33), but unfortunately we live in a “what have you done for me lately” world and I’m sure the horrible week 1 by the Pac-12 is on lot of people’s minds.
3) Figure out a more attractive bowl system – With a Pac-16, more than likely Larry Scott will move to get 2 BCS bids. If the Big East with 8 teams could have an automatic bid, I don’t see why the Pac-16 couldn’t have two given both hypothetical divisions would be stronger than the current Big East or 9-teams Big East with TCU. The issue is that in the proposed “West” division, there hasn’t been a non-USC team win the Rose Bowl since Washington in 2001. If you take out USC and UW, the last “West” team to win was UCLA all the way back in 1986! (ASU won in 1987 but would be in the “East” division). Yes there has been some funky circumstances (Oregon State 2001 Fiesta Bowl, Oregon 2002 Fiesta Bowl, Cal 2004 snubbing, Stanford 2010 Orange Bowl), but Texas writer Tim Cowlishaw believes the “West” doesn’t deserve an auto-bid. I would suggest an auto-bid to the Rose Bowl for the Pac-16 winner, and then maybe a conditional auto-bid/at-large bid if the second place team from the Pac-16 is in the top 8 of the final BCS standings. If the system ends up moving towards 4 “Super-Conferences” with 2 auto-bids each, the Non-AQs can fight for 1 of the last 2 spots and then maybe the 10th spot can be a free-for-all.
The current #2 and #3 team from the Pac-12 is scheduled to play #3 and #5 from the Big-12, then the Sun Bowl against the ACC #5, followed by a bunch of match-ups against Mountain West and WAC teams. Even if the Pac-16 inherits the Cotton and Insight Bowls, there’s obviously going to need to be replacements for the tie-’ins to the Holiday and Alamo Bowl which aren’t Non-AQ schools.
4) Resolution to the location of the Pac-16 Championship Game – Likely the solution to this will be whatever puts more butts in stadium seats and eyeballs on television screens than whatever else is deemed more “fair.” I wrote in a previous article on how the Big-12 North wasn’t too happy about Dallas hosting the Big-12 Championship Game two years in a row, but once the new stadium in Los Angeles (Farmer’s Field), a odd-even rotation between Dallas and Los Angeles would seem logical, simple, and fair to me.
5) Coordinate plans on how to mingle in the Olympic sports – Minor issue, but a formation of the Pac-16 will probably generate enough money from football to cover the expenses of all the Olympic sports. But obviously travel between Corvallis and Pullman to places such as Lubbock and Stillwater will be an issue for some of the smaller sports. Maybe there can be arrangements made to play back-t0-back games or have meets with 4 to 8 teams at a larger metropolitan location when inter-division games are to be played.