Question of the week: Is there one good reason for Pac 10 expansion?
If you’re a mid major program, situated in the west, and looking for an opportunity to become part of the BCS mix, expanding the Pac 10 to a twelve member league is a brilliant thought. But if you are the Pac 10, why would you do this? What do you gain with the increased membership that can’t be obtained by ten?
The Pac 10 has its own identity, and there’s no need to play follow the leader and add a potentially worthless conference championship game to close the regular season. Oklahoma lost that game in 2003, denying them the league championship, and the Sooners still played for a national title. If a conference championship isn’t required to play for the biggest prize, then what’s the point?
You may see the 2006 SEC championship game propelling Florida over Michigan in the polls and into the BCS title game. I saw the 2006 regular season finale between USC and UCLA having more impact on the national championship picture than all 3 conference championship games combined. Alabama losing to Florida last December cost them an opportunity to play for the crystal ball, but so did USC’s loss to Oregon State, in a regular season game.
Those conference title games may be profitable for the SEC and Big 12, but adding a couple of mid major programs isn’t going to increase the national interest out west. The ACC added major players in Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, yet still struggle to sell tickets to the league’s season finale. If the ACC struggles, why wouldn’t the Pac 10?
I’ll admit that at one time I was a proponent of conference expansion. That all changed in 2005, when the NCAA allowed the 12th regular season game, which enabled the Pac to utilize the round robin format. USC won national championships in 2003 and 2004. They didn’t play Oregon in either of those seasons. I’m not saying the Ducks would have defeated the Trojans, but seeing that USC has lost 4 of the last 7 games played in Eugene, you have to wonder. The round robin eliminates that guessing game.
In 2007, LSU won the SEC and the National Championship. A championship trophy says you’re the best in the country, but we don’t even know if they were best in conference, because they never played a Georgia team that they had to leap frog in the polls to get into the BCS title game. In 2002, Ohio State won it all, but never played Iowa, who also finished undefeated in the Big 10.
The round robin doesn’t prevent conference co-champions, but it is a better measure of overall strength within a conference, because you compete against all league members. Why should we go back to guessing when we don’t have to?
There are other priorities that should come before any Pac 10 expansion thoughts, such as improving the bowl tie-ins, and increasing the television market outside of the Versus network. We need cosmetic surgery to make us more attractive on the national stage, before adding two more faces that no one wants to see. We wouldn’t get Colorado, Texas, or some of the other big names tossed around in the past few years. You’re looking at Utah, Fresno State, Hawaii or Boise State. Is either of those programs going to improve the national perception of the Pac 10? I think not.