Pac 10 is not SEC so why the talk of expansion?

The Southeastern conference is the college football trend setter, and it has all reason to be. What better group to command the leadership role than the one having the most financial success? The SEC does, and others will attempt to do, but not all SEC doings are replicable. The structure of a conference may allow one to prosper with change, while another struggles with the same alterations. And here in the age of conference growth, Pac 10 expansion would lead to a road of financial disaster, simply because they are not the SEC.

The SEC is a football conference, just as the Big East and ACC are basketball conferences. The Big 10 and Big 12 represent a combination of both. But when it comes to the Pac 10, we’re really without a label. It’s the conference of champions, winning more NCAA championships than any other. But with the exception of baseball, the league isn’t recognizable as a power in the top selling sports, despite having USC (a traditional football power) and UCLA (a traditional basketball power).

If the Pac 10 is to expand, it would need to search for neighboring programs. And unless they plan on doing some BCS body-snatching (as the rumor of adding Colorado surfaced in past years), our Pacific neighbors are less marketable than the programs already in conference. Boise State and Fresno State have both proven competitive, along with BYU and Utah. But if marketing the Washington and Oregon programs is already met with difficulty, selling those new additions to the general public becomes a nightmare.

The SEC has marketable programs in both the East and West divisions. Pac 10 expansion would most likely leave the top money makers in the South, while the northern programs struggle for air time. To divide the conference, you disrupt profitable meetings between Northern teams with the more marketable powers (USC and UCLA) in the south. Even in the Big 12, where the marketing power is stockpiled in the South with the Texas and Oklahoma schools, Nebraska (good or bad) is a marketing juggernaut in the North.

As it is now, the Pac 10 round robin is financially better. The conference would most likely draw more money with regular season match ups between North and South than it would with a conference Championship game. For example, looking back on 2007, the most marketable games in the conference were:

USC vs. Cal
USC vs. Oregon
USC vs. ASU
USC vs. UCLA
Cal vs. Oregon
Cal vs. ASU
UCLA vs. ASU
UCLA vs. Oregon
ASU vs. Oregon

Of the 9 games, only one was a contest played between two Northern teams (Cal/Oregon). If conference division occurred in 2007, some of those other games would have never been played. If we had division, one of the biggest games of the regular season (USC at Oregon) has the likelihood of not occuring. USC would have drawn an Oregon team (as the Northern Champion) in a conference title game, minus Dennis Dixon. Win that game, and advance to the BCS championship with one loss, and outsiders swearing the Pac 10 needs a conference title game would be crying for the conference to revert to olden ways. Just imagine, if USC managed to dodge Stanford and not meet Oregon until December, the possibility of an undefeated regular season would have been high, with the Trojans running the table in the South. We’re talking about media hell breaking loose.

We need to understand our own identity, and not attempt to duplicate another. What works in the SEC is a result of possessive balance, which means it may not work for all. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the ACC. What is best for the Pacific 10 and for college football is to leave the round robin in play. You can continue to lead the conference in what gives it the most stability or become a follower on a road to financial destruction. Choosing the latter makes little sense, unless you’re banking on any newcomers morphing into marketing monsters. With that, I wish you the best of luck.

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~ by Anthony on July 1, 2008.

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