Pac-10 swells to Pac-16!
April 1, 2010
WALNUT CREEK, Calif.
The "Conference of Champions" has suddenly taken on a far more distinctive "Bay Area" flavor.
In surprising news that sent shock waves throughout American intercollegiate college athletics, the Pac-10 Conference has voted to increase its membership from 10 to 16 schools. In a Tuesday evening media conference, Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott announced that the new "Pac-16 Conference" members will include Sacramento State, San Jose State, Saint Mary's, Pacific (UOP), Santa Clara and San Francisco (USF). Three of the new additions, Saint Mary's College, Santa Clara, and USF are private, religiously-affiliated universities and each of the three previously had been part of the West Coast Conference.
The bold expansion move, originally expected to add just two additional schools (in recent months, Utah and Colorado were rumored to be leading candidates), received strong support from prominent Pac-10 corporate sponsors including Gatorade, Nike, KFC, Pacific Life, Dr. Pepper, State Farm, Wahoo's Fish Tacos, Verizon Wireless and freecreditreport.com. Certain financial guarantees were negotiated to allow several of the incoming programs to have adequate resources to be able to initiate the challenging process of returning to FBS competition.
After 26 years under the pioneering leadership of former league head Tom Hanson, Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott, previously Chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) ,was brought in last July to increase the conference's revenue and "improve" its existing television contract with Fox Sports Net (FSN). The newly-formed Pac-16 will have its football, men's and women's basketball, soccer, rugby and field hockey games broadcasted on the USA Network during the 2010-2011 season. According to disarmingly telegenic "Special Counsel to the Pac-16", Jed E. Salmon, the expanded league is expected to launch its own network, the Learfield Directors' Cup Sports Network [LDCSN] aka "The Cup Leader" with a targeted debut in the spring of 2011.
Bob Bowlsby, the "Jaquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics" at Stanford University and Co-Chairman of the Conference Expansion Committee, said there was little argument among the members with regard to the need for an independent network. "We saw the success of the MountainWest Network [aka "The Mnt."], took a careful look at their combined record against Pac-10 teams in recent years, and made the call. It was an absolute no-brainer."
According to Tuesday night's press release from the Pac-10 office headquarters in Walnut Creek (Calif.), the conference will be split into two separate divisions, whose respective annual champions will play in a "Pac-16 Conference Championship Game", the creation of which will be required under the new television agreement.
The "Bay Division" will include Stanford, Cal, Pacific, Sac State, San Jose State, Santa Clara, and Saint Mary's. The "Oceanic Division" will include the eight remaining programs: USC, UCLA, Arizona, ASU, Oregon, OSU, Washington, and WSU. Each conference team will play all five teams within its own division, play four of the eight teams in the other division on a rotating basis, and still have three spots remaining for non-conference play. Last time we checked, several of those schools are located a bit inland from the "ocean", but whatever! Pacific representatives had lobbied hard for a "Delta Division", but conference officials were understandably concerned about having to display pledge pins on team uniforms and decided instead to place themselves on double-secret probation.
Traditionalist may have a difficult time adjusting to the new split-conference format. The motivation for dividing the 16 teams into two separate divisions was both geographic and economic.
"In addition to the obvious opportunity represented by the conference championship game, by playing more proximate intra-divisional games our cash-strapped programs can generate substantial savings by taking environmentally-efficient hybrid buses instead of fuel-guzzling planes" said newly appointed Pac-16 Associate Green Travel Coordinator John Eschleman. "We hope some of these exciting Bay Division match-ups will lead to the establishment of resurrected rivalries rich in tradition, while at the same time allowing us to be fiscally- and environmentally-responsible during these uncertain economic times."
Back from visiting U.S. troops in Iraq, President Barack Obama released a statement praising the league's aggressive expansion plans which "should mean more jobs for American bureaucrats" and stating that he was pleased that western colleges would be "doing their share by redistributing conference revenue to some of the less financially stable and deserving athletic programs in the country." President Obama also stated that Pac-10 conference expansion had long been "a critical element of my long-term vision for a 'transformational presidency' ." He said he was going to see the Pac-10 expansion plan pass whether the members actually wanted it or not.
In selecting the six new schools and to satisfy expansion requirements, careful consideration was given to the caliber of each university's academic reputation, the broad-based nature of their gender-equitable athletic programs, and the untapped potential of their respective cable and satellite television markets. Essentially, any new additions would have to bring enough television money to overcome the obvious economic disadvantage of having to slice up the conference revenue pie into 16 pieces.
"Stockton and Moraga are Top-50,000 television markets in the United States - the Pac-16 would be remiss if they failed to avail themselves of such a unique opportunity for new market penetration." said senior analyst Danny Noonan of Bushwood Media in New York.
According to Angus Strom of Dublin-based Draper Sports Marketing, "There is a tremendous amount of pent-up demand for USF, UOP, Saint Mary's and Santa Clara football-related merchandise, which should add substantially to the conference coffers in the coming years. Sales of "Dick Bass Ale", Brent Jones and Eddie LeBaron bobbleheads, and Ollie Matson and Dan Pastorini throw-back jerseys should go though the roof!" added J. Walter Subchak, Founder of Dude Collectibles in Lafayette (Calif.).
"USF, Saint Mary's and Santa Clara historically have been local sports rivals and that friendly competition should be fairly easy to rekindle" added longtime Bay Area sportswriter and Cal alumnus Glenn Dickey. "For Kapp's sake, Cal can't seem to get to a freakin' Rose Bowl, so we might as well give some other schools a shot!"
Pacific, which dropped football in 1995, was reportedly a last-minute substitution for UC-Irvine, which easily had beaten out Cal State University - Monterey and Cal State University - Channel Islands for the final spot on the conference slate. The Stockton-based school wasn't sure it could get approval from the university's board of trustees in time for the conference vote in mid-March, but Dr. Ted Leland, Vice President, External Relations at Pacific reportedly pulled a few strings. Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, former Raiders coach Tom Flores and former Stanford coach Walt Harris are all graduates of UOP and have been mentioned as possible Pacific coaching candidates that could lead the Tigers back to intercollegiate competition in football.
Sacramento State is already on Stanford Football's 2010 schedule, but the Hornets' inclusion is thought to be closely related to the recent appointment of Danette Leighton as the conference's first ever Chief Marketing Officer. Leighton, an Arizona Wildcat, was previously the Vice President of Marketing and Brand Development for Maloof Sports & Entertainment, owner of the NBA's Sacramento Kings and ARCO Arena, site of the recent Women's Basketball West Regional.
The addition of USF helps explain why Stanford has scheduled its annual spring scrimmage, known as the "Red & White" game, on April 17 at 2:00PM at historic Kezar Stadium, the venue at which the USF Dons played their home games until dropping football, largely for financial reasons, after a spectacular undefeated 9-0-0 season in 1951. Stanford can already boast a proud tradition of sacrificing its own best interest in order to subsidize and otherwise assist fledgling programs like San Jose State and of offering to play teams it gets no credit for beating, like San Jose State, and gets demonized for losing to - like UC-Davis.
KNBR 680 sports radio personality Ralph "The Razor" Barbieri, a proud graduate of USF, claims he applauds the inclusion of his alma mater, but that he was vociferously copasetic and perennially dyspeptic" "It was reprehensible that USF football got crap-canned. Our tremendous '51 team produced three NFL Hall of Famers and the penny-pinching school administrators shut it all down because there weren't any corporate sponsors back in those days."
One significant hurdle was a long-running football feud between Stanford and Saint Mary's. After Saint Mary's defeated Stanford in 1927 in a brutally violent game in which the "Saints" players were accused of deliberately and successfully attempting to injure Stanford line-smasher Dick Hyland, Stanford athletic department officials refused to schedule "Slip" Madigan's sinister Saints again. The two schools have never met on the gridiron since, even though Saint Mary's did not discontinue its football program until 2003.
Thanks in no small part to the skillful mediation efforts of Saint Mary's alumnus and former Stanford Athletics staff member Scott Leykam, the schools agreed to resume gridiron competition, agreeing that after 83 years, the schools could let "bygones be bygones".
West Coast Conference Commissioner Jamie Zaninovich says he is not too concerned about the defection of Saint Mary's, USF and Santa Clara, the first schools to leave the WCC in more than 30 years, "After all, the WCC does not field football teams. They want to try this, they can do what they have got to do." Zaninovich said that he wasn't surprised that the new "Pac-16", ravenous for additional NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament revenue, would want to expand and have more than one representative in the Men's Sweet Sixteen.
One of the attractive reasons for adding the new schools was the growing economic viability of some of the minor women's sports. "Women's Lightweight Crew, for example. has seen a substantial surge in recent years out here on the Delta and ticket sales are growing 22% year-to-year. Women's Heavyweight Crew-related annual giving is up 45%. Just think what we can do as part of the Pac-16!" stated Pacific's enthusiastic Associate Athletics Director for Development, Jim Dugoni.
According to sources within the
commissioner's office, other colleges considered for Pac-10 conference expansion
included Boise State, Colorado, Faber, Fresno State, Nevada, Pace, San Diego State, UNLV, Utah and Western Kentucky.
The new conference has tentatively branded itself as the "SIXT-PAC" and fittingly the promotional posters making their debut at yesterday's media conference showed USC head coach Lane Kiffin brandishing his washboard abs while wearing nothing but Nike short-shorts, Jimmy Choos, and a sideline headset visor.
The Bootleg will report back as developments unfold and further details are released.
From the Official Pac-16 Site: The Pacific-16
Conference continues to uphold its tradition as the "Conference of Champions" ®,
claiming an incredible 166 NCAA team titles over the past 19 years, including 11
in 2008-09, averaging nearly nine championships per academic year. Even more
impressive has been the breadth of the Pac-16's success, with championships
coming in 26 different men's and women's sports. The Pac-16 has led the nation
in NCAA Championships in 43 of the last 49 years and finished second five times.
Spanning nearly a century of outstanding athletics achievements, the Pac-16 has
captured 380 NCAA titles (261 men's, 119 women's), far outdistancing the
runner-up Big Ten Conference's 222 titles.
Since the NCAA began conducting women's championships 27 years ago, Pac-16 schools have claimed at least four national titles in a single season on 19 separate occasions. Overall, the Pac-16 has captured 113 NCAA women's crowns, 30 more than any other conference.
The Conference's reputation is further proven in the annual Learfield Sports Directors' Cup competition, the prestigious award that honors the best overall collegiate athletics programs in the country. STANFORD won its 15th-consecutive Directors' Cup in 2008-09, continuing its remarkable run. Eight of the top 25 Division I programs were Pac-16 member institutions: No. 1 STANFORD, No. 4 USC, No. 7 CALIFORNIA, No. 11 WASHINGTON, No. 12 ARIZONA STATE, No. 16 UCLA, No. 22 OREGON and No. 24 ARIZONA. The Pac-16 landed three programs in the top-10, one more than the second-place ACC, Big Ten and SEC (2).
Do you have a "premium" subscription to The Bootleg? If not, then you are seriously missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest, baddest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)! At The Bootleg, "WE WRITE!"