Yes money/greed do play a role, but with the Pac-12 at the center of this expansion and the teams it could add, Oregon State would gain prestige, wealth and offer a wonderfully entertaining product to its fans. It's something that two years ago this university could never have afforded to give its fan-base.
So why is there so much money in television rights? Is it that there are just more people, more people watching, or something else?
One of the key reasons the cost of sports television broadcast rights, particularly football, have jumped so high is the invention of TiVo and DVR. The instant gratification culture got a huge boon with the DVR… the ability to zip through advertisements and all it costs is watching your favorite show 15-45 minutes after it has begun.
But what canny marketers have found is that we don't like to hear about our favorite sports teams second hand and by and large, we watch it live and on time.
With the potential addition of schools like Texas and Oklahoma to the Pac, they would provide significant television revenues to the conference. Don't believe me, it's okay, Larry Scott doesn't either, but the value of those two schools is what keeps the Big-12 alive and their addition to the Pac would produce a goliath in the sports world. That means Oregon State would likely more than double its football revenues … Let that sink in a moment... More than double.
Now, this revenue windfall would go to all schools in the Pac, but Oregon State will benefit more than most. OSU will probably always struggle against the elite athletic powers, (as well as Oregon and Oklahoma State's booster driven programs), but the prestige and money it will garner from this merger would far outweigh its negatives. Further, second tier schools will not be able to compete with these mega conferences in terms of dollars and fortunately for Oregon State, we are the ones looking out and not in for a change.
So what are the cons? Is it the decreased chance to win the conference titles? Well, you may have a point, but in reality without a large shift in alumni support, aka dollars, Oregon State will probably always be on the five to ten year plan when it comes to winning conference titles. That's the same whether it's the Pac-10 or the Pac-16. Year in and year out, a good goal for Oregon State should be to realize a top five finish in a new Pac-16. This may not be what many fans want to hear and while this scenario could still change, these are the realities of the current situation. Consistent top 5 finishes with 2-3 runs at the title each decade is more than obtainable and would keep OS relevant.
So tradition is already destroyed, there is more money to be made, and in reality the position Oregon State holds in the power rankings wouldn't change – so what is there not to like and/or fear about expansion?
Is it some sort of "North Division" relegation that has you scared? Well, it should, any kind of northern alignment would crush Oregon, Washington State and UW's chances of remaining relevant in college sports on a regular basis. In fact, it likely would crush all but one or two schools as they would rarely play the big market teams and would have to rely on big donor bases to just out-glitz the teams to the south. No, a true North-South split would be the end of the Pac-16 before it started and would leave the teams in the North a boring product to watch.
So how do you do it that makes it valuable to all the teams? Well there are only two options I've heard so far that have legs.
Pac-8 versus the Big-8 would simply be the resurgence of the Pac-10 round robin (less the Arizona schools). For fans it would feel like having five non-conference games to play each year, with two of those being scheduled for you and counting towards your conference win-loss record. Beyond that, the sense of cohesiveness would not exist and the entertainment value as a fan of a specific program would be cheapened by the lack of diversity in conference play. The intervals playing cross divisional teams would be measured in decades and for all intents and purposes it would feel like the conferences never changed. You really only get the feeling that Pac and Big got together to make a plus one championship game.
For an Oregon State fan you do not get better competition at Reser and in most years you wouldn't even know that back in 1978 the conference had expanded.
The pods on the other hand, offer something more. For the past few years Oregon State's round-robin had two marquee matchups at home, and those where only every other year -- the Civil War and the Trojans. A return to the Pac-8 Round Robin may well put Oregon State back to this kind of schedule or at best, you alternate USC and UO every other year at home.
But with the pod system, as shown below, three of four years you get a marquee game at home -- and this would be true for all teams. For the sake of a conference champion you could have East and West divisions with two pods in each division. Each team would play its three pod mates every year and two from each of the other three pods. Henny The Medicine Man has made you a graphic.
How do you settle a champion? Well, the idea I like the best is a four-team playoff. From a monetary standpoint, two more games would get the conference at least $10-20 million in additional television revenue and the fans of the two best teams would get another home game.
In this scenario, two pods from each division would face one another with the East and West meeting up in the Championship Game. For an added bonus, assuming the trend of four super conferences is realized; the four winners of those games would meet in a playoff format to determine the national champion. Yes, this in turn would produce a 16-team national championship playoff. If a fifth super conference exists then you would have to do something along the lines of the two lowest ranked conference champions having a play-in game.
The Pac-16 winners of the semi-finals would play a championship game in one of two formats -- a rotating schedule where the conference title would be held in, Dallas, Denver, Seattle or L.A. in those cities' professional stadiums. Or, it could be played at the home stadium of the team with the highest ranking.
The other option would be the teams from each division with the highest BCS ranking plays in the Championship Game and that would most likely stay as a home game for the highest ranked team, as is proposed in the current Pac-12 format. The key here, like my whole argument has been, the new format allows for greater fan value with great matchups, diversity as well as long standing rivalries.
Beaver Nation would have a 75 percent chance of seeing a truly storied program play in Corvallis every year. In addition to that, you get the Civil War every other year -- and once every four years there is the "Battle for the Orange and Black" in Corvallis (OSU vs OS).
Finally, recruiting is a big worry for all schools, especially those not playing teams based in Southern California or Texas. But with the pods system set up, Oregon State would play in Texas or Southern California every year with the exception of one year -- where they would play in Oklahoma and Northern California. In this scenario, Oregon State's "off-year" would be a game at Oklahoma … not a bad recruiting place to be.
Change is hard, but the opportunity of the Pac-16 -- and what it means for Oregon State and its fans -- is far too great to pass up. The university will make more money, which makes bigger and better stadiums and facilities, two things that are vital in recruiting. The quality of opponents that play in Corvallis improves and the overall entertainment value is just that much higher in all the sports Oregon State participates.
So stay tuned, because while the conference carrousel is stopped for now, the topic of expansion is far from dead.
Eric Henny is a lifelong Beaver fan who graduated from Oregon State in 2006 and has been the unofficial BF.C Seer, having predicted Oregon State's win over No. 1 USC in 2008 and other Beaver upsets. When he's not solving Larry Scott's expansion issues, he continuously indoctrinates his 11-month old daughter in all things Oregon State, and attends as many home and away games as his schedule, (aka his wife), allows.