Expansion Signals Major Changes

Aside from causing a chain reaction that could lead to four 16-team megaconferences, what are the four immediate ramifications for an expanded Pac-10?

Welcome to the new era. The Pacific-10 Conference, long tied to its traditions, is poised to expand to as many as 16 teams as early as Tuesday by adding Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and possibly Texas A&M, according to published reports.

Aside from causing a chain reaction that could lead to four 16-team megaconferences, what are the four immediate ramifications for an expanded Pac-10?

A Pac-10 Network is coming

That's what it is all about. Footprints, Nielsen markets, viewers - whatever you want to call it, it's all about maximizing television revenues, both with new contracts and a cable network.

The Big Ten has done it on cable, the SEC with ESPN and CBS, pushing them to the top of the financial mountain. Every move made by commissioner Larry Scott has happened with that goal in mind, from hiring Kevin Weiberg, the former Big 12 head and a critical force in launching the Big Ten Network, to employing CAA.

A Pac-10 title game is (probably) coming

Where to play it? Obviously, the mammoth new Cowboys Stadium will be a favorite, possibly in rotation with a West Coast site like Phoenix, San Diego or Los Angeles.

That's assuming there is one. What if the Pac-16 keeps its relationship with the Rose Bowl and adds the Fiesta Bowl berth that belonged to the Big 12, awarding BCS bids to the two division winners? That could defeat the need for a title game, unless a playoff emerges for the champions of four megaconferences. Then, it would serve as a de-facto quarterfinal.

An increased recruiting presence in Texas is likely

Stars from the Lone Star State emerged across the Pac-10 last season. Oregon running back LaMichael James was second in the conference in rushing, with Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State just behind. Big brother James had the most all-purpose yards in the league for the Beavers. Quarterback Andrew Luck led Stanford to new heights.

That's not going to change anytime soon in an expanded Pac-10. The Oregon schools, Stanford and Arizona have found major success recruiting in Texas. Despite their fertile Los Angeles base, even USC and UCLA have found players there.

With a better media presence and games within driving distance, it will be an easier sell for the West Coast schools.

Of course, that would go both ways, with the former Big 12 teams pushing into California. Most notably, Colorado will need a major foothold to reestablish itself as a contender.

A lot of compelling matchups are coming

Off the top of my head, I can think of no less than a dozen storylines for the new conference.

The Stoops Bowl. Oklahoma's return to Autzen Stadium after the 2005 onside kick. Oregon's Phil Knight and Oklahoma State's T. Boone Pickens. 55-19. A Rose Bowl rematch between USC and Texas. Oregon State's Orange and Black against Oklahoma State's Orange and Black. Rout 66. Rick Neuheisel's return to Boulder. Tommy Tuberville dealing with the Trojans again. You could have Colorado and Nebraska renew their rivalry in the Rose Bowl. Same for the Sooners and Huskers.


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