LOS ANGELES – The Pac-10 Conference athletic directors, joined by their counterparts from soon-to-be-conference members Utah and Colorado, took some of the first steps toward defining the conference Friday.
The group, meeting at a Beverly Hills hotel, discussed the future of the conference when it expands to 12 teams, which could happen next year but by 2012 at the latest.
Progress was made, Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said, but the issue of revenue sharing took center stage.
“It’s something we’re going to have to clarify before we take the next step,” Moos said. “It will be a determining factor in regard to that insistence of getting into that L.A. market, especially for the Northwest schools.”
Under the current conference bylaws, television revenue isn’t split evenly, as is the case in the Big Ten and some other major conferences. Instead, the game’s participants receive 55 percent of the game’s revenue, with the rest divided among the other conference members. Schools that appear on television more often earn more money.
With the conference’s television contracts with Fox Sports Net and ESPN expiring in 2011, the revenue from a new agreement – negotiations are set to begin in January – is expected to increase markedly.
With a new television deal and other changes, including a football championship game, estimates of as much as $40 million to $50 million more for the conference have been floated.
Which is why WSU, which typically receives less money from television than any other conference school, sees a 50-50 split as paramount.
“I would love to see a more equitable revenue-sharing formula,” Moos said of the school’s priorities. “That’s first and foremost.
“Secondly, I would like to see the Northwest schools continue to play each year and secure those rivalries.
“And thirdly, try to have a presence in L.A. as often as possible, which probably would mean going to nine conference games, for the recruiting benefit.”
The main thrust of Friday’s meeting was expected to revolve around the issue of dividing the conference’s 12 teams into two divisions for football. The split is not only necessary for scheduling but to allow a Pac-12 championship game.
The two main proposals were a geographic split, with Washington State, Washington, Oregon State and Oregon joining new members Utah and Colorado in a northern division while California, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Arizona State and Arizona comprise the south.
But that would limit the Pacific Northwest schools’ exposure in California, crucial for revenue under the current formula and key in recruiting the state’s fertile grounds.
The other option would be to split each rival into opposite divisions, as if with a zipper. One reported plan had Washington, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona State and Utah in one division and WSU, Oregon, Cal, USC, Arizona and Colorado in the other. Each school would play its rival every year, though if the game were kept at the end of the season as currently scheduled, there could be a rematch a week later in the title game.
The thought of moving the rivalry games to the middle of the season didn’t have much traction, Moos said, making the zipper plan less attractive. A revenue split would also ease the pain for the Northwest schools losing their guaranteed yearly trips to California.
“There are different agendas,” Moos said, “but none of those could be discussed at any great lengths until we hammer out what the revenue sharing is going to be.”
Conference commissioner Larry Scott has said repeatedly he wants to have a proposal to present when the presidents and chancellors meet in San Francisco on Oct. 21.
Moos said the athletic directors will participate in a conference call in the near future, with the goal of reaching agreement on the issues. From there, a proposal should be submitted to the Pac-10 Council, made up of athletic directors, senior women’s administrators and faculty representatives, prior to its meeting Oct. 6.
With a budget of about $30 million, the smallest in the Pac-10, Moos knows what WSU’s priority is.
“The revenue sharing, for Washington State, is the biggest item in all of this,” he said, “especially as we are going into television negotiations here next year.”