PULLMAN – The Pac-10 Conference announced Wednesday it has invited the University of Utah to join, bringing to a close a week that saw the University of Colorado accept an invitation and five other Big 12 schools reject theirs.
The inclusion of Utah, which is expected to be finalized today when the school’s board of trustees meet and announced at a subsequent press conference, would bring the Pac-10 to 12 members by 2012 at the latest.
How the new-look conference would be configured is a point of concern to Washington State athletic director Bill Moos.
If the Pac-10 had been able to expand to 16 teams, which looked like a distinct possibility heading into the week, Moos was on board with a divisional setup that kept the old Pac-8 teams together while the new members and the Arizona schools would have formed an eastern division.
But the recalcitrant University of Texas submarined that scenario earlier this week, and Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott turned to Utah to build a 12-team conference, the minimum needed under NCAA rules for a football championship game.
Now comes the hard work: ironing out the details.
“We’ll have discussions,” said Moos, after applauding Scott and the conference’s presidents for moving aggressively toward expansion. “I’m still trying to get a handle on our new commissioner and how he manages, but he’s been given a lot of authority in regards to this expansion by the presidents and chancellors.
“But I would guess he and his staff are going to listen closely to the athletic directors when we start to discuss what’s the best setup. We’ll sit at a table and discuss the format and how we will structure the conference.”
Moos believes those discussions will begin at the athletic directors’ next meetings scheduled for the end of July.
If Moos has his way, he would put the four Northwest schools – WSU, Washington, Oregon and Oregon State – in a division with Cal and Stanford. That would leave the two new members, Utah and Colorado, in a division with USC, UCLA, ASU and Arizona.
In football, there would be five games against divisional foes and four – two home, two away – against the other division.
“That’s in the best interest of Washington State and, I think, the conference,” Moos said, citing the ability to continue traditional rivalries but maintaining a scheduling presence in California.
That presence is important to basketball coach Ken Bone as well.
“Definitely, and I don’t think that will ever change,” Bone said. “We’re not too far from California and the conference has been in existence for a long time. For us to be able to recruit, to compete, I think we need to be able to get down to California and play games down there.”
Whatever the divisions, Moos doesn’t see a huge uptick in costs associated with expansion, though the revenue projections seem to still be enormous.
“It’s all speculation, of course,” Moos said. “But the conference and our consultants have been working almost round the clock in crunching the numbers.
“You look at the Big Ten model and all those schools are getting an equal amount of revenue from their television partnerships, between $20 and $22 million. What I’m hearing in my discussions with people who are fairly knowledgeable, we might be able to realize $15-$17 million a year per institution.”
The Pac-10’s current revenue formula is not equal, with WSU receiving less than $7 million in total from the conference ($3.6 million of that is from television) this year with USC, on the other end, earning more than $11 million.
There is another area in which the conference’s expansion will pay dividends, according to WSU football coach Paul Wulff.
“It really puts us into more of an elite status with the national scene,” Wulff said of the new look. “The game isn’t going to change. It’s still football. Your opponents may change a little bit and, if anything, your exposure becomes more national.”
The football history between Utah and WSU could not be more even. In 10 games, the last of which was a 38-21 Cougars victory in 2000, each school has won five times. More than that, each has scored 273 points.
The schools played often in basketball through the 1950s, but have met only four times since 1971. The Utes own a 13-2 lead in the series.