Correction: In an earlier version of this story, The Daily incorrectly reported that Missouri joined the Big Ten conference. In fact, Nebraska joined the conference from the Big 12.
After the original consideration of expanding the Pac-10 to 16 teams, the conference will officially expand to 12 with the addition of Utah and Colorado.
The original expansion was rumored to include Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado; however, with the realignment of Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-10, the remaining 10 schools will stay with the Big 12, at least for this year.
Senior Athletic Assistant Director Jim Young said the University “fully supports the inclusion of Colorado and Utah into the Pac-10 Conference,” citing the move’s strengthening of the conference.
On June 10, Colorado accepted the Pac-10’s invitation, becoming the first team since 1978 to join the organization.
Larry Scott, the Pac-10 commissioner, commented on the decision to invite Colorado during a media teleconference.
“We have been looking at Colorado for quite some time,” he said. “We have been through a pretty exhaustive and deliberate process and it was clear to us that in any scenario we were going to consider for expansion Colorado was a great fit.”
On June 17, Utah became the 12th and final member to join the conference. Utah joins the Pac-10 from the Mountain West Conference.
The most pressing matter for finalizing the Pac-10 expansion, and perhaps its main motivation, involved media contracts. In 2011, new media contracts will be drawn between the conference and its various entertainment networks.
“Almost all conference expansion is driven by television and media in general and the ability to turn those alignments into dollars for the member institutions,” said Bob Bowlsby, Stanford’s director of athletics. “And so I’d say that this one was driven as much by that as any other factor.”
According to Bowlsby, the Pac-10 has two options in regards to media contracts: They can sell their rights to networks such as ESPN, or the Pac-10 can create a conference network. Both are viable options, which are projected to increase funding by about two- or three-fold, according to Bowlsby.
For Stanford, the significantly increased funding should create budget relief and offset concern that the endowment support to the athletics department would drop and affect scholarships.
“Most of our endowment is dedicated endowment, that is, was put in place specifically for a football scholarship or a field hockey scholarship or a women’s basketball scholarship, and so those proceeds are going to continue to come in,” Bowlsby said.
“I think it’s a fair question to ask whether or not people will look at that as a good place to put their money, but our fans and alumni are terrific supporters and I think they’re going to help in any way they can,” he continued.
The next item on the conference’s agenda is to decide on the scheduling and division of the Pac-12. The division of the 12 schools has yet to be determined. Some have speculated about a north-south split with Stanford, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State forming the “Pac-12 North” and USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado forming the “Pac-12 South.”
As of now, officials say they have not determined the specifics of the division. The alignment of the split, however, could entirely change the nature of the conference and the traditional rivalries among particular schools.
“I think we’d probably both be excited if Cal and Stanford were playing for the conference championship, [and] we’d probably be okay with it regardless of how often we played them. It’s highly likely that Stanford and Cal would end up being in the same division if we went to divisions, but those are things you have to work through,” Bowlsby said.
Though next year’s schedules do demonstrate some matchups between original Pac-10 schools and the newly added members, “the intention is that [the integration] would start in 2012, for all sports at the same time,” Scott said. However, recent information from the Pac-10 suggests a possibility for integration to begin in 2011 for Utah and 2012 for Colorado.
Colorado joins the conference with 11 varsity teams: basketball (men and women), cross-country (women), football, golf (men and women), skiing (men), soccer (women), tennis (women), track and field (women) and volleyball (women).
While most Pac-10 schools have a minimum of 15 varsity teams (Stanford having the most with 35), Colorado will not be expected to add any varsity teams in order to compete in the conference.
“In the Pac-10, schools are known for a broad-based sports, with some even playing in the Mountain Pacific Sports Conference, so undoubtedly, it would be a sport-by-sport scenario,” Scott said about the future of particular sports that do not exactly match up with the current infrastructure of the conference.
Utah joins with 18 varsity sports. For the men, the Utes play baseball, basketball, football, golf, skiing, swimming & diving and tennis. Women’s sports include basketball, cross country, gymnastics, skiing, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field and volleyball.
While many of Stanford’s teams will not be facing Colorado and Utah solely because not all the schools have the appropriate sports programs, the University’s major sports will be affected by the new additions.
“I think it challenges basketball scheduling a little bit,” Bowlsby said. “We’re pretty unlikely to play twenty-two league games in basketball. We’ve had a long history in men’s and women’s basketball of playing a full double round robin, and I don’t know that that’s reasonable at this point.”
“Colorado is a relatively small program in terms of the number of sports, and so that doesn’t change too much for us,” Bowlsby added. “In the case of Utah they have a relatively broad program and have had some success in a wide variety of areas, so I think it helps us in some sports.”
The expansion has undoubtedly increased the conference’s options in negotiating media contracts and possibly in determining conference championships, yet planning and consultation in regard to financing and scheduling remains underway.
Eric Messinger contributed to this report.