Leaders of the Pac

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PROGRAM NOTE:  I don’t know how to break it to you, dear reader, but this is all in reverse chronological order. This “article” (all 17,000 words of it), starts at the bottom just after the June, 2010, announcement that Colorado had been invited to join the new Pac-12. “Leaders of the Pac” works you through the tumultuous summer and fall of 2010, as debates over exit fees, division alignment, championship game sites, and division of revenue were constantly in the news …

October 28th

Fresno State and Nevada in limbo

Colorado will play a second team from the Western Athletic Conference in 2011 after all …

Fresno State is coming to Boulder next September, and it appeared in August that the Bulldogs were to be coming as new members of the Mountain West Conference. Fresno State, along with Nevada, gave their notice to the WAC that they wished to defect, and the WAC pushed back.

Under a resolution reached Thursday, Fresno State and Nevada will remain members of the WAC in 2011, and will not become members of the MWC until 2012. This leaves the Mountain West short a few bodies, as Utah and BYU are leaving after this season, with Boise State becoming the only new member in 2011. The deal callls for both Nevada and Fresno State to pay a $900,000 exit fee, instead of the $5 million exit fee agreed to shortly before the Wolfpack and Bulldogs announced their intention to leave the conference.

The net result is that the Western Athletic Conference will have eight members in 2011, with an extra year to add new teams for the 2012 season (Montana? UT-San Antonio? Texas State? Denver?). The Mountain West Conference will be bolstered by the addition of Boise State, but will miss Utah and BYU.

The decision could have long term implications for the MWC, hoping to become an “AQ” – Automatic Qualifier – for the BCS bowls. The Conference is in the midst of a four-year evaluation process, which ends December 4, 2011. The addition of Nevada and Fresno State for the 2011 campaign would have helped in making future Mountain West conference champions automatic qualifiers for a BCS bowl game (read: $$$$$).

Even without Nevada and Fresno State, the Mountain West may meet the criteria established by the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, or may petition for an exemption if it fails to meet those criteria. We’ll know more after the completion of the 2011 season.

 

 

October 21st

Buffs to play in Pac-12 South; schedules and revenue sharing modified to accommodate LA schools

Well, it’s official …

It was hard to keep the agreements made by the Pac-12 athletic directors a secret for the two weeks since the group met in San Francisco. As a result, the votes of the chancellors, and the press conference by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, held little drama. There were concessions, though, made to the Los Angeles schools, and some of the details of the deal did make news.

Division alignment

It’s been in the works since June, but it finally came to fruition on October 21st, as the Pac-12 chancellors and presidents met in San Francisco to ratify agreements as to division alignments, scheduling, revenue sharing, and the site of a conference championship game.

The divisions were as Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn had intimated back in June when Colorado was asked to join the expanding conference:

North Division: Washington, Oregon, Washington State, Oregon State, California, and Stanford;

South Division: Colorado, Utah, Arizona, USC, Arizona State, and UCLA.

“Our key objective was to transform the Pac-10 to a modern 12-team conference that has long term strength, increased value, competitive balance and is fan friendly and we have done that with these monumental decisions today,” said commissioner Scott at his press conference Thursday. “Not only did we achieve a competitive balance in our divisions, but we were also able to preserve our traditional rivalries as cornerstones of our conference. These great annual battles have produced some of the most memorable moments in sports history. It was imperative that we kept them in tact.”

In order to preserve some of the traditional rivalries, a concession was made to the California schools. The Southern California schools, USC and UCLA, will continue to have annual games against the Northern California schools, Stanford and California. This was expected. But it is here that the announcement strayed from the anticipated …

There was no mention in the press conference that other schools in the conference would be similarly paired. It had been speculated that, in order to keep the conference uniform, the four schools in California would be matched as rivals, cutting across division lines. Then either the Washington schools or the Oregon schools would be similarly matched with either the Arizona schools or the “Mountain” schools, Colorado and Arizona, with the remaining pairs similarly matched in annual battles. This was the 5-2-2 plan which had been receiving media attention of late.

Now, there will be an “unbalanced” schedule for Colorado and the rest of the Pac-12. With Stanford and Cal committed to play USC and UCLA annually, there are not enough games to go around for the other schools to play each team in the other division an equal number of times. As a result, Colorado will be playing Stanford and Cal in a manner much like Buff fans were used to in playing teams from the Big 12 South - a home-and-home with each team, followed by two years off. With Cal already on the Buffs’ schedule for 2011, Colorado may be returning to Berkeley in 2012, and not play Stanford until 2013 and 2014.

As for Colorado playing the Washington and Oregon schools, the math gets a little more difficult. There are four teams to play, and only three slots each season to fill (with a nine game schedule, Colorado would have its five intra-division games, a game with either Cal or Stanford, and three games against teams from the Northwest). This will necessitate an eight year cycle with these four teams in order to have two home-and-home games with each team.

For example, Colorado might play at Washington in 2011, have a home game against the Huskies in 2012, followed by another road trip to Seattle in 2013. The teams would not play in 2014. Then, in 2015 and 2017, Colorado would have home games, with a road trip to Seattle in 2016 and and another off-year in 2018. The cycle would then begin again with a road trip in 2019.

The actual schedules for 2011 will not be finalized for another 30-45 days. Still, Buff fans realistically know six of the nine Pac-12 conference games – USC, UCLA, Arizona, Utah, Arizona State, and Cal, with only the Cal game in Boulder set as far as a date and place (September 10th in Boulder, though even that previously scheduled game could be moved).

What it means for Colorado … “be careful what you ask for, as you will surely get it”. Barring an unforeseen rise in the win column in the second half of the 2010 football season, Colorado fans will likely open up the Pac-12 preseason magazines next June to see Colorado predicted to finish last in the Pac-12 South. At present, amongst the five new rivals in the Pac-12 South, only Arizona State and UCLA are equals of the Buffs with 3-3 records. UCLA and Arizona State, however, have impressive road wins on their resumes this season (over Texas and Washington, respectively), while Colorado … well, you know the story there.

Looking at the long term, though, it is a good move for Colorado. Utah has had a good run, but is not an historical power. The Arizona schools likewise have flirted at times with the national spotlight, but haven’t shown consistent greatness. UCLA, quite simply, is the Texas A&M of the Pac-12. The Bruins have everything going for them – location, recruiting base, money, fan support – but can’t quite get past their bigger, badder arch-rival year in and year out. USC, even with sanctions, will be formidable, and will be the Nebraska of the Pac-12 South. The Trojans will be the team every other team wants to compete with, but is consistently behind in resources and talent.

Revenue sharing 

Here is another area in which the Los Angeles schools received a concession.

USC and UCLA were long-time proponents – and beneficiaries – of the appearance-based model for media revenue distribution. The model used by the Pac-10 favored those teams which made the most television appearances, which just happened to be USC and UCLA. Under the new system, there will be equal revenue sharing.

“Our key objective was to transform the Pac-10 to a modern 12-team conference that has long term strength, increased value, competitive balance and is fan friendly and we have done that with these monumental decisions today,” Commissioner Larry Scott said. “By unanimously adopting a plan for equal revenue sharing we have created a conference with a strong foundation for long term success. It’s an exciting day for the Pac-12 and all of our fans.”

But …

the Los Angeles teams did get a concession. In the event that the league’s media revenue falls below $170 million (with media revenue being defined as television and internet income; radio rights and local sponsorships will still belong to individual schools), USC and UCLA will receive a premium of $2 million apiece. This concession will kick in for the 2011 season, as, under the old television contracts, there will not be $170 million in revenue. It is widely anticipated, however, that with the new television contracts in place for the 2012 season, that the $170 million threshold will be reached.

What it means for Colorado … Each team not located in Los Angeles will, in effect, pay a $400,000.00 premium to the Southern California schools in 2011. It is a small price, a very small price, in order to sign onto a long-term equal revenue sharing deal. The Buffs have had to go out and play money games (see: trips to play Georgia; Cal; and, in 2011, Ohio State) to generate revenue, as home games against South Dakota State, Western Kentucky, and Idaho (see: Nebraska’s 2010 home non-conference schedule) would not sell out Folsom Field, and the Buffs would fall further and further behind in the Big 12 arms race.

Am I advocating that Colorado lower its standards for non-conference opponents? Hardly. National games against national opponents have put the Buffs on the national map in college football. Still, Colorado will not be required to play a killer schedule just to try and compete. A more rationale approach, as is taken by many teams (a gimme game, a home game against a decent opponent – CSU – and a national quality opponent) each season would be a refreshing change to the gauntlet the Buffs have had to run through in trying to re-establish itself as a top 25 program.

Championship game site

The inaugural Pac-12 Championship game will be played in December 2011 at the home stadium of the team with the best overall conference record. Such a move will, in the words of the Pac-12 press release, serve to “ensure a full stadium and an electric collegiate atmosphere befitting of a major conference championship game”.

The alternative was to have a neutral site for the title game. This has worked well with the stocked SEC, but has been a disaster for the ACC. At least at the outset, the move makes sense for the league.

What it means to Colorado … nothing, for the foreseeable future. The Buffs are far enough away from title contention that it is not presently an issue. This could change in the future, and the Buffs might be looking at playing a title game in Eugene or Seattle or San Francisco. On the other hand, having a team from the Bay area or the Northwest come to Boulder in early December has a certain appeal …

Overall, October 21, 2010, was a very good day for the University of Colorado.

It’s now up to the Buffs to take care of business in recruiting and on the field …

 

 

October 20th

Go South, young men!

While nothing is official until after the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors meet on Thursday, there seems to be a growing consensus that the division alignment has been decided …

Colorado, along with fellow newcomer Utah, will join the Pac-12 “South”, along with USC, UCLA, Arizona State, and Arizona.

The Pac-12 “North” meanwhile, will consist of Washington State, Washington, Oregon State, Oregon, Stanford and Cal.

What remains to be reveled are how the schedules will work. Will there be a 5-2-2 split, with each team playing every division rival, but also having annual games with two teams from the other division (thus preserving the wishes of the four California schools to play each other every season)? Or will the Pac-12 go with the model similar to the one used currently in the Big 12 (play every team in your own division, then rotate through the other division, playing four teams every season, rather than three as is currently the case in the Big 12)?

In order to get the Northwest schools to forego an annual trip, revenue sharing was the compromise. Instead of the appearance-based model for distribution of revenues, which is in place in the Pac-10 currently, the Pac-12 will have an equal distribution of revenue. This will hurt – relatively – the Los Angeles schools, which benefitted the most from the appearance-based model.

What was the bone thrown to USC and UCLA to get them to agree to an equal division of revenue?

An unequal division of revenue …

… for at least one year.

In another brilliant negotiating move by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, USC and UCLA will get a payoff, $2 million apiece. Before you start worrying about how this deal smells like the deal the “Little Five” of the Big 12 made to keep Texas from defecting to the “Pac-16″, here’s the beauty of the deal:

The payoff goes away as soon as the new television deal hits a pre-determined threshold … which will happen as soon as 2012. The new television contract, which is expected to net up to $14 million per team per year, will reach the pre-determined threshold. As a result, USC and UCLA will get an extra $2 million in 2011, with the remaining teams foregoing $400,000.00 apiece. With $14 million expected the following year (after averaging around $8 million per year before), the other ten teams were more than willing to give USC and UCLA an extra share for the 2011 season … and a guarantee of equal distributions in the future.

The other issue remaining to be announced is the location of the conference championship game. While the Big Ten has announced it will play a neutral site championship game in 2011 (at the home of the Indianapolis Colts), the Pac-12 is rumored to leaning towards having the top ranked team host the title game. This may only be a temporary fix, though, as the Pac-12 tries to build a brand for the Pac-12 championship game.

As Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has scheduled a press conference for Thursday, it is fair to assume that the votes of the schools in San Francisco is a formality, and that the above has been agreed upon …

PROGRAM NOTE: I actually have to do work related activities Thursday afternoon, so I won’t be able to get the news out as it happens. However, I will be posting a full recap of the day’s events on Thursday night …!!

October 15th

Buffs enter one of the most important weeks in school history

On September 21st, the power brokers of the newly formed Pac-12, including presidents and chancellors, will convene in San Francisco to vote on a multitude of issues concerning their new conference. Expected to be announced are decisions on division alignments, revenue sharing, and the site for the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.

The decisions will have both short and long-term implications for the University of Colorado.

The agreement on sharing of revenue will have the longest term impact on the Buffs, but it is receiving the least amount of attention. This may be because the consensus is that equal revenue sharing will be adopted. USC and UCLA, long-time proponents of the appearance-based model currently in place with the Pac-10, have either capitulated or have been out-voted.

As for the short term, everyone wants to know how the divisions will be split.

The “zipper” model, in which rivals would all be placed in separate divisions, but with arrangements to continue those rivalries, has apparently been abandoned. For ease of the fans and the media, the thought is that a North/South or East/West division, keeping rivals in the same division, would be the best alternative. The rub, of course, has been where to make the split.

The four California schools have all stated that they want to remain together, which is not likely with a North/South division split, unless the four California schools teamed up with the Arizona schools, with the four northwest schools taking on the newcomers Utah and Colorado.

Instead, the division most often being cited is the one which Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bohn told supporters about back in June when the Buffs’ move to the Pac-12 was announced. The North division would be made up of the Washington schools, the Oregon schools, along with Cal and Stanford. The South division would consist of USC, UCLA, the Arizona schools, along with Colorado and Utah.

The North/South division, it is argued, would be easier to market. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said last week that he wanted the divisions to have “competitive balance”, as well as be able to “market and promote our football season in a way that’s easy and logical to follow.”

USC and UCLA are not particularly happy with the North/South divisions, which reportedly received a 7-5 vote from the athletic directors when they met in San Francisco earlier this week. “I told (the other athletic directors) that my alumni would kill me if we don’t play the Northern California schools,” lamented USC athletic director Pat Haden. “We’re going for the money. Sadly, that’s what it is.”

The Northern California/Southern California games could still be a possibility if the schools adopt a 5-2-2 format for games. Under that scenario (not much different from the “California zipper” or the “pod” systems), each team in the Pac-12 would play nine conference games. Each team would play five division games (For Colorado, that would be USC, UCLA, Utah, Arizona State, and Arizona), then also have two designated games each year from the other division. For the California schools, that would mean the four teams all would get to play each other every season. It would then have to be decided how the other eight schools would matchup (one example: Colorado and Utah would matchup with the Washington schools; with the Arizona schools matching up with the Oregon schools). Those games would be the first “2″ of the 5-2-2 schedule.

The remaining “2″ of the 5-2-2 option would pit those schools not already matched in a home-and-home series two out of every four years (for Colorado in the above example, that would mean playing Cal and Oregon in a home-and-home series in 2011 and 2012, and Oregon State and Stanford in a home-and-home in 2013 and 2014).

So, how might a Colorado schedule look if a North/South division were agreed upon, with a 5-2-2 compromise (and Colorado and Utah matched up with the Washington schools)?

2011: Utah, at USC, UCLA, at Arizona, Arizona State, at Washington State, Washington, at Oregon, Cal

2012: at Utah, USC, at UCLA, Arizona, at Arizona State, Washington State, at Washington, Oregon, at Cal

2013: Utah, at USC, UCLA, at Arizona, Arizona State, at Washington State, Washington, at Oregon State, Stanford

2014: at Utah, USC, at UCLA, Arizona, at Arizona State, Washington State, at Washington, Oregon State, at Stanford

The schedules would then repeat for 2015-2018; 2019-2022; etc.

No matter the schedule, Colorado will be looking up at most of the Pac-12 in 2011 – this on top of games at Hawaii, v. CSU in Denver, at Ohio State, and Fresno State.

The 2011 season might be a long one for Buff fans, but the long-term implications are all postive.

NOTE: For an in-depth discussion of the issues of revenue sharing, division alignment, and conference championship locations, see the September 23rd update, below … 

September 23rd

Okay, now what?

Now that the Buffs move to the Pac-12 for the 2011 season has been finalized, there remain several important issues to resolve:

1) How to divide up the divisions?

2) Where to conduct the league championship game?; and

3) How to divide up the revenues?

All three issues will be discussed in the upcoming weeks. The league athletic directors will meet in San Francisco on October 6th, at which time the decision on the league championship may be announced. League officers will meet in San Francisco on October 21st to discuss division alignment and scheduling.

Where to play the championship game …

There is buzz now about the league championship game being conducted in Las Vegas. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=5604452. The problem with Sam Boyd Stadium, home to UNLV’s Rebels, is that the stadium has a capacity of under 40,000. While Las Vegas is centrally located, and would easily sell out, it would seem that the Pac-12 could do better.

The home site of one of the division champions is also a consideration, but there are several issues there. First, if the two division champions are both undefeated in league play, who gets to host the title game? Second, there is the issue of travel. It would be difficult to get the road team’s fans to the host’s site on just one week’s notice. Third – and this may be, without it being stated, everyone’s worst nightmare – what if Washington State hosted? The crown jewel of the Pac-12 Conference, the Pac-12 championship game – coming to America from Pullman?

The Rose Bowl would seem to be a natural choice, but there are disadvantages there as well. Every other year, USC and UCLA play their rivalry game in the Rose Bowl, home to the Bruins. If either of those teams won their division, they would (unless the rivalry games are moved away from the end of the season) have to play back-to-back games in the Rose Bowl. There is also the added consideration that the Pac-12 champion, if not playing for the BCS title, would earn a trip to the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day (or thereabouts). There would be the potential then, for either USC or UCLA to play three straight games in the Rose Bowl to end the season - their rivalry game, the Pac-12 title game, and the Rose Bowl.

Not exactly an attractive concept.

This leaves the Pac-12 to consider NFL venues. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Phoenix – and Denver – all have NFL stadiums near Pac-12 teams. There seems to be a bias at present towards Los Angeles and/or Phoenix, though, at this juncture. Warmer climates in early December should certainly be a consideration, but teams from the Northwest and mountain regions might not enjoy the proximity advantage enjoyed by the California and Arizona schools if the title game was always played in the backyard of those schools (See Big 12, Dallas).

Fans should look for a rotation of a handful of NFL sites to be the compromise, with an eye on voting on a permanent location in later years after the championship game is better established.

Division of Revenues …

The issue here is whether how to divide up the expected bonanza of revenues from the next television contract, which will be negotiated next spring. There are two schools of thought here.

The first would divide revenues equally, with each team receiving 1/12th of the revenues received. The other model is more appearance-based – teams generating greater revenues receive a larger share of the pie.

Currently, the Pac-10 has the appearance-based model, with USC commanding a significantly higher share of the revenue than the team with the lowest television appeal, Washington State. For the policy to be overturned, a 3/4 majority is required. For years, the concept of equal revenue sharing has been proposed at league meetings, with the two Los Angeles schools teaming up with Washington to vote down the proposal. Now, with 12 teams in the league, nine votes will be sufficient to change the system. Even if Washington wants to keep the appearance-based model (and there have been published stories that the Huskies, who haven’t had a winning season since 2002, may be willing to compromise on revenue sharing), USC and UCLA would have to find a fourth convert to keeping the status quo.

Look for a shift to a more balanced distribution (and, since the negotiations are not being done in a vacuum, the location of the title game in California may be used as a compromise to lure the LA schools into acquiescence).

Division Alignment …

 The “zipper” plan, all the rage for most of the summer, is seemingly giving way to the “pod” system as the favored method of dividing up the Pac-12. While the two types of division alignments sound significantly different, the only real difference will be in how the Pac-12 shows up in the morning papers.

The pod system envisions two divisions, with the North/South division the most commonly discussed. This alignment would have the California schools and the Arizona schools in the South division, with the mountain schools teaming up with the teams from the northwest in the North division.

If these divisions played a schedule in a manner akin to how the Big 12 presently operates (i.e., play all five teams from your own division, rotate amongst the teams in the other division), Colorado, like Utah and the northwest schools, would often have only one game in California each season, and would have seasons when southern California – where everyone feels the need to play every season – was off the schedule altogether.

The “pod” system gets around this problem by – get this – not having every team in each division play each other every year. Instead, the league would be divided into three “pods” of four teams each, with the northwest schools in one pod, the California schools in another, and the Arizona and mountain schools in the third “pod”.

Each team would play every other team in their own pod (For Colorado, this would mean annual games against Utah, Arizona, and Arizona State), while playing three teams out of four in the other two pods. As a result, in 2011, Colorado could play three teams from the northwest pod (say, Washington, Washington State, and Oregon), but miss the fourth team, Oregon State – even though the Beavers and Buffs are in the same “division”. Colorado would also play three out of the four California schools (say Cal, Stanford, and UCLA), but miss the fourth team (in this example, USC). Every season, the teams would rotate through the other two pods, playing three teams out of four.

Confused? In one sense it’s simple. Each team in each pod plays three games in each pod, for a total of nine games. Rivalries would be preserved, as rivals would be in the same pod (regional rivalries, like Washington/Oregon would also be preserved). It would also be easier on the eyes, as fans could look at the North Division – Washington State, Washington, Oregon State, Oregon, Utah and Colorado, and see the South Division – Stanford, Cal, UCLA, USC, Arizona State and Arizona – and it looks good aesthetically and makes sense geographically.

The pod system would work fine – until the day when Oregon and Utah are tied for the North Division lead, with undefeated 9-0 conference records – and they haven’t played each other. Which team gets to play in the Pac-12 title game? (Remember the Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech fiasco just recently, when the three teams went 1-1 against the other two? Oklahoma got the Big 12 title game bid, but Texas put up the “Big 12 South champion” banner in their locker room – until someone from the media noticed).

The “zipper” plan isn’t as clean – “USC and UCLA in different divisions???”, but could have the same results. By splitting the rivals into different divisions, and having two “rival” cross-over games with the other division, you end up pretty much in the same place as the “pod” plan. Colorado would play every team in its own division (for the sake of argument, we’ll go with Washington, Oregon, Cal, UCLA, and Arizona), with two known cross-over games each season (for Colorado, the designated rivals would be Arizona State and Utah). That gives Colorado five division games, two “rival” games, with two left to play. There are four teams not yet mentioned in this scenario - Washington State, Oregon State, Stanford, and USC. From those four teams, the Buffs would have home-and-home series with two of them (e.g., Washington State and Stanford in 2011 and 2012) with home-and-home series against the other two teams (Oregon State and USC) in 2013 and 2014.

The net result from the “zipper” plan would be that the California schools would all get to play each other every season (a must), regional rivalries (read: Washington/Oregon) would be preserved, and every non-California team would have three games in southern California every four seasons (in the above example, Colorado could play UCLA in Los Angeles in 2011 and 2013, and USC in Los Angeles in 2014).

The zipper plan is much cleaner from a scheduling standpoint. Each team is playing their opponents in a home-and-home series every two years (or every four years with the non-division non-rivals), while with the “pod” plan, the schedules pits your team against three teams out of four in the opposing pods each year. It would actually take eight seasons of play for Colorado (and every other team) to play each other an even number of times in each venue (three home, three away, two season not playing one another).

Clear as mud? About all we know for certain right now is that Colorado will likely play its first game as a member of the Pac-12, at home, next September against California. The game, scheduled for September 10th, was already on the calendar as a non-conference game.

As for the rest … Well, it won’t be long now. By this time next month, Pac-12 fans should not only know what division their team will be in, but their schedules for 2011.

I, for one, can’t wait!

September 22nd

Colorado and Big 12 agree on exit fees

 Pack your bags for the Pac-12!!!!!!

Colorado and the Big 12 agreed on terms by which the University of Colorado will officially leave the Big 12 Conference on June 30, 2011. The Big 12 will withhold $6,863,000.00 from the revenues otherwise distributable to the University. The amount due is significantly less than the $9.255 million Nebraska will pay to leave at the same time (see story below). The $6.863 million accounts for 36 percent of the conference revenue from the last academic year (2009-10) and the present academic year (2010-11). 

The total payout to the remainder of the Big 12 ($16.118 million) is not exactly the $30-$40 million numbers being thrown out when the Big 12 “left behinds” were trying to convince most of the Big 12 south from defecting, but it will add to the Big 12 conference coffers. Distribution of the extra funds will be discussed at a Big 12 board meeting next month.

The press release from Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe was almost identical to that given for the University of Nebraska, with Beebe stating that “the agreement was accomplished through a collegial, respectful process among the Conference, its institutions, and the University of Colorado that led to a resolution that all parties believe is fair … The Big 12 has enjoyed its relationship with CU, and wishes it well in the future.”

“We are very excited that Colorado will be joining the (Pac-12) Conference  in 2011,” said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott in a prepared statement. “Our plans all along were for them to join the Conference in 2012, so this puts the Pac-12 ahead of schedule, which is great news.”

Colorado Chancellor Phil DiStefano and university council members spent Sunday and Monday at the Big 12′s headquarters in Dallas, working out the details. “I felt that with a mediator, we would get this done,” said DiStefano. “That individual was able to work not only with Colorado, but also obviously with Nebraska and the Big 12.” The agreement was unanimously approved by the Colorado Board of Regents at a special meeting in Denver Tuesday afternoon.

How will Colorado pay- or more correctly, make up the lost revenue of – $6.863 millionn? The Pac-10 will float the University of Colorado a loan, with the funds to be re-paid – or, if you prefer, withheld – from Pac-12 revenues over the next few seasons. With the new Pac-12 television contract expected to generate significantly more revenue than the existing Big 12 television contracts, the loan should be repaid quickly, and at no noticeable loss to Colorado. In essence, like its new Pac-12 partner Utah, which will forego a full share of revenue for three years, it will not be a matter of deficits, but rather, delayed gratification.

The Pac-10 was prepared to loan Colorado as much as $10 million, so it is quite apparent that DiStefano, Bohn, and the Buffs’ negotiating team, did a good job of striking a deal. “Very pleased,” said regent Steve Bosley of his reaction to the settlement. “I don’t think we anticipated it to be this low. I was prepared for a little bit more.” 

Nebraska’s move also a done deal

The Big 12 announced Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with the University of Nebraska regarding the withdrawal of the Cornhuskers from the Big 12 on June 30, 2011. The agreement calls for the Big 12 to withhold $9.255 million in revenues which would otherwise have been paid to the University. If Nebraska plays in a BCS game this season, and the Big 12 receives two BCS bowl bids, the Cornhuskers will receive an additional $500,000.

“This agreement was accomplished through a collegial, respectful process among the conference, its institutions, and the University of Nebraska that led to a resolution that all parties believe is fair,” said Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. “The Big 12 has enjoyed its relationship with Nebraska, and wishes it well in the future.”

The Big 12 will now play with ten teams, and is not – at least for now – considering expansion. “All we hear from our membership institutions at meetings and individually is how excited they are with the ten-member conference,” said Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe. “I’m reflecting my membership’s desire, and it’s my own feeling, too.”

Some thoughts …

- It is not surprising that the Nebraska was completed easily. After all, there was no real dispute here. Nebraska gave one year’s notice, and is paying the penalty for leaving one year early. Colorado gave two year’s notice, which created a conflict – “Colorado originally was indicating it was going to stay for two years, and that was something we had to work through,” said Dan Beebe.

- If Nebraska had to sacrifice only $9.255 million, there should have been no way that Colorado should have had to give up more than that. After all, Colorado gave its two year notice, which would require less of a withholding for each year. The spin doctors for Nebraska and for Colorado haters will tell you that it was all about how Nebraska generates more revenue, and therefore has to pay more. Not true. The fact is that Colorado had every right to hold to its two year plan, and pay accordingly. The monetary concession from the Big 12 is – pure and simple – extra dollars to get the Buffs to leave in 2011 and not wait until 2012.

- Remember when Nebraska was saying – in June – that it would fight having against having to pay anything to the Big 12? Nebraska did not have to pay a “penalty”, the argument went, because the conference withholding was designed to compensate the league for lost revenue. There would be no lost revenue, but enhanced revenue, if Dan Beebe was to be believed. The Big 12 commissioner spent most of his time in mid-June trying to keep the Big 12 south from defecting to the Pac-16  – by promising greater revenues for the Big 12 south if those teams stayed.  What happened to that argument, Nebraska?

- The remaining ten schools in the Big 12 are all excited about not having to play a conference championship game. A “true” champion will emerge, as all ten teams will play one another.

Really? The conference will be better without Nebraska and Colorado, and without a championship game? Funny, but that is exactly the system the Pac-10 has had in place since 1978, and is exactly the same system the Pac-10 spent the summer getting away from …

September 12th

Pac-12 in 2011 odds “worse than 50-50″

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott indicated this past weekend that he believed the odds of Colorado joining the Pac-12 in 2011 as being “worse than 50-50″. On hand for the Colorado/California game, Scott met with Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn and Colorado Chancellor Phil DiStefano, and was left with the impression that the negotiations between Colorado and the Big 12 to allow the Buffs to exit along with Nebraska in 2011 have reached an impasse.

“It sounds like some discussions (with the Big 12 Conference) is going on,” said Scott, “but they’re pessimistic (about 2011), and are thinking 2012″.

At issue, of course, is timing. The Pac-10 is under a “self-imposed” deadline of mid-October to address issues of division makeups and set schedules for 2011. The Pac-10 could be flexible on timing if CU “is still jostling with the Big 12. But I think we’re going to hit a point in time when we’re planning for a football championship game, (and) television scheduling would become problematic.

The catch-22 for Colorado is that the Buffs may require a deal with the Pac-12 to help fund a buyout from the Big 12. Those funds will likely come from the new television contract Scott will be negotiating with the television networks … next spring. Scott didn’t rule out the Pac-10 assisting Colorado in its financial quest to get out from under its Big 12 obligations, but added, “We can’t anticipate new revenue until we enter TV agreements … before we start a football championship. There’s too many unknowns right now; we couldn’t commit to anything concrete up fron. If they work out a deal and they come to us, we’ll see what the situation is at that stage.”

While Scott’s words leave me as pessimistic as I have been about the Colorado move to the Pac-12 in 2011, I remain confident it will happen.

There are just too many factors working against the Buffs playing in the Big 12 in 2011.

Certainly, both the Pac-11 (with the addition of Utah without Colorado) and the Big 11 (with the loss of Nebraska) could play an 11-team schedule next fall – the Big Ten has played with 11 teams since Penn State joined the conference in 1993. But who would want to? Colorado would stumble along as the unwanted relative through another season in the Big 12, while the Pac-11 would be denied the opportunity to conduct (and cash in on), a championship game in 2011.

Which leads us to Colorado’s ace in the hole. How many dollars would the Pac-10 go without if there is no championship game next fall? If the Buffs are toiling away in the midwest, every team in the Pac-11 loses money. Plus, all the good publicity and positive energy generated this summer concerning the new league would be put on hold. The 2011 season would not only be a lame duck season for the Buffs, it would be a lame duck season for the entire Pac-10.

There are some dollars there to work with. The Big 12 wants Colorado gone; the Pac-10 wants Colorado in the fold; and the Buffs want to pack their bags and go west.

All three entities want to be a Pac-12 team in 2011.

I’m still confident that it will happen …

August 3rd

Pac-12 focus to be on “frequency of games”

Circle your calender now.

Thursday, October 21st.

Two days before the Buffs play their final Homecoming game as a member of the Big 12 (we’ll assume a 2011 switch to the Pac-12 until informed otherwise), Pac-12 presidents and chancellors will meet in San Francisco. At that time, it is likely that the new division alignment for the conference will be announced.

In the meantime, different scenarios will be offered, discussed, and debated, according to Pac-10 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiburg. The topic certainly came up this past weekend, as the conference’s athletic directors met in Los Angeles. Going forward, the conference is working with Bortz Media and Sports Group (a Colorado company!), which advises professional and college leagues and conferences on different scheduling models. Any of the league’s athletic directors can request computer models, showing multi-year schedules with different division alignments.

The focus, according to Weiburg, is “frequency of games”.

That, simply translated, is not the number of games each team will play against Washington State, but how many times each team can find a way to put Los Angeles on its itinerary.

Some variation of the “zipper” plan seems to be the consensus amongst those in the know at this point, with natural rivals placed into separate divisions. One of the arguments against – having two rivals - like Oregon and Oregon State this year, perhaps – play each other at the end of the regular season, and then have to face off again a week later as division champions. “I can understand why that is a concern,” said Weiburg. “But at the same time, history says it would happen so infrequently – natural rivals haven’t finished first and second in the standings very often – that it shouldn’t be a Zipper Plan deal breaker.” Still, Weiburg did allow that the league might look into the option of playing rivalry games earlier in the season to avoid just such a problem.

Third week in October.

May be the biggest week of the season for the Colorado Buffaloes.

August 1st

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott changing the landscape of college football

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has become a household name across the Buff Nation this summer. He has made a name for himself, and the Pac-10 conference, in the process.

By adding Colorado and Utah to his conference, and coming within hours of adding four more teams, Scott has shaken the foundation of college football.

And he’s not done yet.

Up next for Scott: making the Pac-10/12 a national brand. This past week, the Pac-10 unveiled a new logo (one which will quickly be transformed into a “Pac-12″ logo next fall), and took his coaches on an eastern tour to New York and ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. It’s all part of Scott’s plan to create a national buzz about the Pac-12 as television contract negotiations begin next spring.

“Sometimes on the West Coast, we have a West Coast attitude that things are great out here, and if the rest of the country wants to learn about us, they can come have a look,” said Michael Mokwa, a marketing professor at Arizona State. “It’s a matter of being agressive, or the alternative, being complacent.”

One of the first steps Scott took in expanding the Pac 10′s exposure was to put an end to a conference ban on allowing ABC/ESPN to “reverse mirror” its games. In the Big Ten, for example, if an Ohio State game was being shown to half the country on ABC, the other half would still be able to watch that game on ESPN or ESPN2. Until this past season, the Pac-10 did not allow for the additional coverage. “The conference had denied that opportunity on the basis that they weren’t getting paid more,” said Scott. “It was surprising to me. We have an obligation to promote our product as broadly as we can. I thought it was very short-sighted strategy to say we would deprive ourselves of added exposure.” Now, if half of the country is being shown USC/Oregon on ABC, the other half will still be able to watch the game, but on an ESPN network. The move will help the Pac-10 move from being a regional network to a national network.

Now, in addition to a new logo and a new website, Scott is seeking to expand the Pac 10 name by better promoting the region and its schools. The Pac-10 has won more NCAA championships than any other conference, and by a wide margin (over 100 more than runner-up Big Ten). UCLA holds more titles than any other school, and Stanford regularly wins the Directors’ Cup (formerly the Sears’ trophy) for the best overall athletic program. The Pac-10 has the beauty of the Northwest, the Arizona deserts, all that California has to offer, and now the mountain states.

Plus, there is the Asian and Latin American markets to tap into for additional exposure. “The Olympic sports in the Pac-10 are second to none nationally,” Mokwa said. “You have all these amazing athletes in track and swimming … these things translate on the international market.” They would also translate nicely for a conference looking to fill air time on its own television network.

“I’d give him an A+,” said Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour of Larry Scott.

Still, there remains much work to be done. “The proof is in the tasting,” said Washington athletic director Scott Woodward. “When the television negotiations are finished, we’ll know.”

Considering what Larry Scott has accomplished so far, it would be foolish to bet against him.

So, just who is Larry Scott?

The man who started the wave of change in college football alignment himself never played or coached college football.

Not completely surprising. Many of the game’s athletic directors never set foot on the field themselves.

But try this one on for size …

Until he took over as Pac-10 commissioner last summer, Larry Scott had not attended a college football game in five years.

Wow.

Larry Scott grew up on Long Island, New York, a long way from the beaches of Los Angeles. He attended Harvard, studying European History (I knew there was a real I liked this guy! A fellow history major!!). Until he took over at Pac-10 headquarters last summer, Scott had never worked in college athletics.

An All-American tennis player at Harvard, Scott did play three years professionally (winning one tournament – in doubles). Scott quickly turned his attention to the administrative side of the game, working his way to the top of the Women’s Tennis Association, where he was named CEO in 2003. Scott then set about taking the WTA to new heights, securing a six-year, $88 million sponsorship deal with Sony Ericsson – the largest sponsorship contract in women’s sports history.

This was the Larry Scott the Pac-10 hired in 2009:

- well-educated, which plays into the high academic standards of the conference;

- familiar with the “Olympic sports”, near and dear to the hearts of many Pac-10 officials; and

- savvy at the negotiating table.

Scott, who has three young children, is considered smart, bold, and ambitious. Characterisitics which will come in handy as the Pac-10/12 enters its transitional phase into a national power.

“He’s shaking things up,” said Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, “in a good way”.

And Colorado gets to go along for the ride …

July 31st

Pac-10 wide open

In the final season of the Pac-10, the league title is there for almost any team not named Washington State to take.

While the media poll for the Big 12 had Oklahoma edging out Texas in the South, and Nebraska the near unanimous choice in the North (it was reported as being unanimous, until a beat writer from Missouri said his vote for the Tigers hadn’t been counted), there is no such unifomity amongst Pac-10 media members. Oregon ended USC’s seven year reign as the media’s choice to win the conference – but just barely. Oregon received 15 first place votes, and 314 points overall, just edging out USC, which was the choice of 12 media members, with the Trojans receiving 311 points overall.

Just how divided are the Pac-10′s media?

In all, seven of the ten teams received first place votes, including UCLA, which was ranked 8th overall. Oregon (1st), Stanford (4th overall) and Arizona (5th overall) each had first place votes – and ninth place votes.

Cal, the Buffs’ opponent on September 11th, was one of the three teams which did not receive a first place vote. Overall, the Bears came in 7th in the voting. Washington, which will face Nebraska in Seattle on September 18th, had one first place vote, coming in 6th overall.

The only certainty, according the Pac-10 media, is that Washington State is the worst team in the league. There were 35 members voting, so, on a 10-to-1 point scale, the worst a team could do in the voting was 35 points.

The Cougars had 39 points. (Translation: four of those voting placed Washington State 9th overall; the remaining 31 had the Cougars last. If any one of the four who didn’t see Washington State as the worst team voted the Cougars higher than 9th, that would mean that more than 31 voters placed Washington State last).

The poll:

1. Oregon (15 first place votes) … 314

2. USC (12) … 311

3.  Oregon State (3) … 262

4. Stanford (1) … 233

5. Arizona (2) … 222

6. Washington (1) … 209

7.  California … 175

8. UCLA (1) … 134

9.  Arizona State … 81

10. Washington State … 39

July 28th

Another division option – three divisions of four teams

Not tired of trying to figure out how the Pac-12 teams (we can call them that now, see July 27th entry, below) will be divided so as to ensure that everyone gets a trip to southern California (almost) every year?

I’m still partial to the modified “zipper” plan (“A zipper plan which makes sense to me”, see July 26th entry, below) wherein archrivals would play in different divisions, but would still play every year (making up six games every year). The other three conference games would be with a designated second rival (the California schools would all be matched, as would the Northwest schools, and the “Mountain time zone” schools). As a result, Colorado would play in a divsion with one Washington school, one Oregon school, and one each from the choices of Stanford/Cal and USC/UCLA. Those four teams not in the Buffs’ division would be rotated, with home-and-home series every other year.

A “3 x 4″ split http://colorado.scout.com/2/986944.html would divide the Pac-12 into three four teams divisions (California, Northwest, Mountain), with each team playing the other three every year (which is the same as the zipper plan outlined above). The remaining six conference games each year would be determined by pairing up the archrivals.

For example, in year one, Colorado would play both Washington schools, both Oregon schools, and both southern California schools, missing both Cal and Stanford.

In year two, Colorado would play both Oregon schools and all four California schools, missing the Washington schools.

In year three, Colorado would play both Washington schools, both Oregon schools, and miss southern California.

In year four, Colorado would play both Washington schools and all four California schools, missing the Oregon schools.

Repeat …

Since each team would play the other non-division team three times every four years, it would actually take eight years for each team to rotate through and have an equal number of home games and road games with the other eight schools.

What isn’t answered is how, with three four team divisions, two participants for the Pac-12 championship game would be played …

Potentially eliminating one issue

One problem zipper opponents have put forth is the notion that, since arch-rivals play in different divisions, there exists the possibility of two teams – say USC and UCLA – playing each other in the regular season finale, only to play each other again the following week in the Pac-12 title game. A possible solution would be to have a “Rivalry Game (or two) of the Week”, and have teams play each other earlier in the season. I would guess, though, that Oregon and Oregon State do not want to move their Civil War to early October, and Arizona and Arizona State would rather face each other once it gets a little cooler.

One compromise would be to have the rivalry games come the second-to-last game of the season, or, perhaps, the first weekend in November (“the third Saturday in October” means one thing to SEC fans – Alabama/Tennessee). Each team could schedule a non-division opponent for their finale, guaranteeing that there will be no re-match issues in the title game.

July 27th

Shocking news …!

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Pac-10 announced today that the Pac-10 conference, no later than 2012 (but probably by next fall) will be known as the Pac-12. “The name should be uncomplicated,” said Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, “and should reflect who you are”, noting that his conference would remain “mathematically correct”.

As for the new Pac-10 logo, formally introduced on Tuesday, Scott Cromer of Mutt Industries, which designed it, noted, “We’re already designing the ‘two’ “.

Can’t come soon enough …

July 26th

A “zipper” plan that makes sense to me …

Okay, maybe I have missed some of the writings on the various options being discussed about division alignment in the new Pac-12, but I think I get it now.

The North/South split has been well-documented (and discounted by northern California schools and the Pacific northwest contingent), so the “zipper” plans, dividing up the rivals into separate divisions, but maintaining the rivalries, has been gaining traction. Under the “zipper” plans, rivals will be split, but guaranteed their year-end game against their chief rival (USC/UCLA; Oregon/Oregon State, etc.). That much I got. That gives each team six games (five division + one rivalry game), with the remaining three cross-division games (a nine game conference schedules seems to be a given) against the other five teams in the other division.

One example: Colorado joins Washington, Oregon State, Cal, UCLA, and Arizona State in one division, with the Buffs’ designated “rival”, Utah, being the sixth game. The remaining three games would be rotated through Washington State, Oregon, Stanford, USC and Arizona.

But how do you rotate five teams through three games a season?

Here’s how … (and my apologies if you already got this) …

Each team gets not one, but two, designated rivalry games from the other division. Two games which will be played every year, home-and-home, with a rotation of the other four teams every two seasons.

This would mean, in the interest of rivalries and history, that Arizona (from the example above), would be Colorado’s designated second rival. Utah would pick up Arizona State, while the California schools would pick up the other California school not already designated as a rival or division opponent, and the same for the Northwest schools.

Here is how it would break down for Colorado:

Using the division set up above (and no, I have no idea how it will break down, other than it would make sense to have USC, Cal, Oregon, and Washington – the four schools on the coast with the best football track record – divided up), Colorado would play in a division with Washington, Oregon State, Cal, UCLA, and Arizona State. That’s five games.

The Buffs would also play their designated non-division rivals – Utah and Arizona – on an annual basis. Now we’re up to seven games.

The remaining two conference games would be divided up amongst the remaining four schools – Washington State, Oregon, Stanford, and USC – with Colorado playing a northwest school and a California school in say, 2011 and 2012, then switching to play the other two schools in 2013 and 2014.

This nets Colorado – and every other school in the league not named UCLA, Cal, and Stanford – three games every four years in recruiting rich southern California. It also speaks to the most vocal opposition to date:

- Northern California schools want to play in southern California every year. Under this plan, they would. Cal would have UCLA in its division, and would have Stanford and USC as its designated non-division rival. Stanford would have USC in its division, but would have UCLA and Cal as its designated rivals;

- Washington and Oregon want to play every year. Same scenario: Washington would have Oregon State in its division, but would also have Washington State and Oregon as its designated non-division rivals. Oregon would have Washington State in its division, but would have Washington and Oregon State as its designated non-division rivals.

True, the above plan does not put every team in southern California every season. Short of having USC and UCLA play a 12-game conference schedule, however, that just isn’t going to happen. What this “zipper” plan does do, though, is put every team in southern California three out of every four years, while preserving all the regional rivalries.

Okay, now I get it.

All we have to do now is divide up the teams into two equal divisions. Does Colorado get USC or UCLA in its division? Oregon or Oregon State? Cal or Stanford? Washington or Washington State?

Time will tell …

July 24th

Revenue sharing “the elephant in the room”

When Pac-10 athletic directors meet at the Rose Bowl on July 30th, division alignment and the location of the conference championship game will be hot topics.

But it’s the topic of revenue sharing which may have the greatest long term impact.

“That’ll be great drama to watch unfold,” said Washington State athletic director Bill Moos. “It’s the elephant in the room,” said Scott Woodward, the athletic director for Washington.

How it works in the Pac-10 right now

Since 1986, the Pac-10 has allowed participants in a televised Pac-10 football game to divide 55% of the revenue, with the remaining 45% being divided equally amongst all ten schools. The result it that there is an imbalance between the top dog, USC, which is on television every week, and the bottom feeder, Washington State, which is not as popular with the networks, of $4 to $5 million annually. (Any wonder why the division split is so important to so many schools, and not just because of the desire to recruit in southern California?).

So … any school which does not get to play USC annually will miss out on that extra revenue. USC/Washington State = TV game; Colorado/Washington State? Perhaps not. The Big 12 also has a disproportionate distribution of television revenue – which is one reason why Nebraska was so eager to bolt. The Big Ten, like the ACC and Big East (and, to a point, the SEC) share all football television revenue equally.

Almost since the disproportionate plan was adopted in 1986, the notion of changing to an equal distribution of television revenue has been brought up by Pac-10 athletic directors. To change financial policy, though, it took approval of 75% of the membership, meaning that an 8-2 vote was required. USC and UCLA, which liked the extra revenue, always voted against, and were always joined by Washington. “They (Washington) were a pretty good ‘have’ in those days,” said Washington State athletic director Bill Moos.

Now, with Washington coming off of a few bad years (here is a stat which surprised me: The Huskies have a cumulative record of 17-54 the last six seasons, and haven’t had a winning record since posting a 7-6 mark in 2002), and with the addition of Utah and Colorado to the league, equal revenue may become reality. Assuming the Utes and Buffs would be in favor, a 75% vote of 9-3 would be possible, even if Washington remained a holdout.

And now?

It sounds like Washington may be coming around. Washington athletic director Scott Woodward does want one concession, however. He wants to do away with the policy of traditional rivals sharing their football gate, which hurts the Huskies more than any other Pac-10 school. “Essentially, I subsidize Wazzu to the tune of about 400 grand a year,” Woodward said. “If we’re going to share revenue with them, I want that to go away.”

While revenue sharing cannot be finalized until there is agreement on the division split and the creation of a conference championship game, the division of football revenue is an issue which will have long term implications, and is likely to be long debated.

Round One begins on July 30th.

July 16th

Zipper plans

There are almost as many options for dividing the Pac-12 divisions are there are teams to divvy up. The “zipper” option, wherein all of the rivals in the league would be placed in different divisions, but would still play each other every fall, seems to be gaining more and more support (see more on a potential division split, below, under “Arizona AD weighs in”).

Now, there is a “California zipper” plan, wherein only the California schools would be split, with rivals in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, and the two newcomers staying together. One possible split of teams would look like this:

Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, California

Washington State, Washington, Oregon State, Oregon, USC, Stanford

Such a division would guarantee every team in the conference at least one game in California each season, with two games in the Golden State every other year.

One possible schedule for the Buffs with these divisions: at Utah, Arizona, at Arizona State, UCLA, at Cal, Washington, at Oregon State, Stanford.

The second year of the schedule, the home-and-home series would be reversed. Then, in years three and four, the Buffs would switch out Washington State, Oregon, and USC for Washington, Oregon State, and Stanford (not unlike what Colorado presently does with the Big 12 South teams).

Note that there are eight conference games in this schedule. Colorado fans are used to eight games, with five intra-division games, then three games against the other division. This would give Colorado (and every other non-California team) three games inside California boundaries every four years.

But …

As noted earlier, the likelihood is that the Pac-10, which is used to playing nine conference games each year, will wish to continue to do so. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said that, while a final decision hasn’t been reached, “there’s a real bias toward sticking with nine games.”

One reason: inertia. Most teams schedule out for five to ten years (Colorado, for example, is scheduled to play at Hawaii in 2011 and 2015), and, as Pac-10 teams only schedule three non-conference games a season, it would be a scramble for existing Pac-10 teams to find new non-conference opponents for the 2011 season (if, as expected, Colorado eventually gets out of playing in the Big 12 in 2011).

The Pac-12 powers-that-be will be meeting in Los Angeles on July 30th. While it has not been announced that a final decision on divisions will be made at that time, it will certainly be discussed.

Stay tuned …

July 14th

Division alignments to be a hot topic in L.A. meetings

Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn, chancellor Phil DiStefano, and faculty athletic representative David Clough, along with their Utah counterparts, have  been invited to participate in the Pac-10 meetings at the Rose Bowl in two weeks. In anticipation of those meetings, Bohn will be participating this week in a conference call with Pac-10 athletic directors.

A sure bet to be on the agenda for both sets of meetings – the division alignmnent of the new Pac-12.

It has been widely reported that Mike Bohn, when Colorado and the Pac-10 were courting one another last month, stated to Colorado officials that part of the deal of Colorado coming to the Pac-10 was that the Buffs would be part of a Pac-12 South division, made up of Colorado and Utah, the Arizona schools, and the Los Angeles schools of UCLA and USC. This proposal would give Colorado an annual trip to the rich recruiting territory of southern California, but would relegate the northern California schools, Stanford and Cal, along with the Oregon and Washington schools, to trips to Los Angeles only twice every four years (much like Colorado did with the state of Oklahoma as part of the Big 12, playing host to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in 2007 and 2008, while traveling to the Sooner State in 2009 and 2010).

Why Cal’s deficits matter

The Northern/Southern divisional split proposal has not been sitting well with those northern schools which have grown accustomed to having a trip to Los Angeles every season, as well as return trips from popular foes USC and UCLA on every season ticket holder’s list of home games. In a seemingly unrelated story this week, it was reported that the University of California-Berkeley is considering major cutbacks in the school’s athletic department. In a report released July 11th, a committee of professors and alumni criticized the “arms race” of extravagent spending in athletics, citing an annual deficit run by the athletic department of $14 million per year. The report raises the possibility of coaching staffs being cut, as well as several non-revenue producing sports (I will pause for a moment as you let this sink in … If such a report came out of Boulder, no one would think twice about it, as Buff fans have heard this type of criticism for decades from the academic side of campus. Now try and imagine this discussion taking place in Lincoln, or Norman, or Austin … Reason #254 why Colorado is better off in the Pac 12). Cal-Berkeley has 27 intercollegiate teams (Colorado has the NCAA mandated minimum of 16), so some “non-revenue” sports, up to seven in all, may be cut.

What does this have to do with Pac-12 division realignment? Everything.

Cal does not want to lose its annual game against USC. The road game produces recruits; the home game produces revenue. It’s that simple. And with the athletic department facing a financial crisis, you can rest assured that when the Pac-10 officials meet in the Rose Bowl July 30th, they will argue against the Colorado/Utah/Arizona State/Arizona/UCLA/USC split of schools.

Arizona AD weighs in

New Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne estimated this week that there are six to eight different scenarios for creating Pac-12 football divisions. “How many are really legitimate, I don’t know,” said Byrne. “But there are choices, that is for sure.” Of course, Arizona, like everyone else, wants to have an annual trip to Los Angeles on the football calendar. “From a competitive standpoint and a recruiting standpoint, I think it’s important to stay connected with California,” Byrne said. “I think right now, the Pacific Northwest schools are concerned with that, understandably. And so, how do we find that balance that can positively affect everybody in the league?”

While these comments are similar to what other athletic directors have been saying, one comment made by Byrne did stand out. In the Big 12, Buff fans became used to the two six-team divisions, with five games within the Northern division rivals every fall, and rotating three games with three Southern division teams. The eight conference game schedule has been the norm for Colorado since 1996. Pac-10 conference teams, meanwhile, are accustomed to playing nine conference games each season. With the switch to twelve teams, the Big 12 model was seemingly a given, but Byrne does not agree. “I’ll be surprised if it’s not nine,” said Byrne. “I know there has been discussion about eight. I had even heard one person say 10. I don’t think 10 will happen”.

If a nine-conference game schedule is adopted, the “zipper” approach, written off by some as purely an internet invention, may be gaining traction. In that approach, the league would be split into six traveling pairs, with the Arizona, Washington, Oregon, northern California, and southern California schools, along with Utah and Colorado, split into two divisions (one example: Colorado would be in a division with Washington, Oregon State, Cal, UCLA, and Arizona State, with Utah playing in a division with Washington State, Oregon, Stanford, USC, and Arizona). Such a makeup would guarantee each team in the league a trip to Los Angeles every other season to face the team from LA in their division, plus rotating games to LA to play the Los Angeles team in the other division. Teams would also be able to maintain games with their rival (Colorado and Utah would be designated as rivals in this scenario), with the remaining three games rotated through the teams in the other division.

As to a conference championship game site, Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said that a Pac-10 football title game, “has a lot of value to it,” and the game could be held either at a neutral site, rotate around the league, or be based in the Rose Bowl. The problem with a home team scenario, said Byrne, was one of timing. “All of the sudden, it’s Pullman, Washington – that might be a challenge,” said Byrne. “Or do you rotate it between Arizona and Southern California? I think you hopefully want to be someplace you can get to.”

Finally, as to the name of the new conference, Byrne said he was “wide open” about changing the name of the Pac-10. “Does the Pac-10 brand stand alone?,” Byrne said. “It would be nice, since we’re all in education, to get the numbers right.”

“12-Pac”, though, might not be the answer. When asked about that choice for a new name, Byrne said, smiling, “I don’t know if that’s the right one at all”.

So … I guess we’ll have to go with “Pac-12″ instead of “12-Pac” …

July 8th

ACC deal with ESPN bodes well for Pac-12

Huge numbers, all with dollar signs in front of them, were thrown around this spring with regard to future television contracts for the new leagues (Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe helped to sell the remaining teams of the league on staying together based upon proposed new television contracts). Many of those talking about doubling or tripling television revenue cited speculation as to the ongoing negotiations between ESPN and the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Those contracts are speculation no longer.

The ACC and ESPN have agreed to a 12-year deal which will give the network exclusive rights to conference football and men’s basketball games. Those games not shown on the ESPN network will be syndicated out to Raycom Sports, with games of national interest available to be shown on ABC. The deal: $1.86 billion over 12 years. This translates to around $155 million in television revenue per year, an average of $12.9 million per year per school. The previous arrangement averaged $72 million per year, or $6 million per team.

How the deal translates to the new Pac-12 … Certainly, ESPN wanted to make sure mens’ basketball was part of its deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference. While the ACC currently has some glamour teams in football – Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Clemson – make no mistake, the Atlantic Coast Conference is a basketball league. ESPN wanted Duke and North Carolina, and not for the year-end grudge match in November. The Pac-12, meanwhile, is the reverse. There are some basketball first programs, most notably UCLA and Arizona, but the league earns its keep with football. As a result, it would be hard to directly equate the ACC appeal with that of the Pac-12. But, as we have seen this spring, football is the king of college sports (anyone doubting that should contact the University of Kansas). It would not be a stretch to assume that the doubled revenue ACC teams will be enjoying can also be expected by Pac-12 members.

Other items of note from the new ACC/ESPN contract … ESPN executive vice president of content John Skipper said that there are provisions in the new agreement with the ACC pertaining to future conference alignment, but that the deal would remain in place regardless of the number of schools in the league. Translation: If Miami and/or Florida State and/or Georgia Tech and/or Maryland bolt for the SEC or Big Ten, the $$$ will be adjusted accordingly – but the ACC as a basketball league will endure, so the contract will go its full 12 year term … The contract does not include money from bowl games or the NCAA tournament, so the payout to league members will be even greater than the current projections.

July 5th

Buffs already getting into the heads of Arizona players and fans?

While some continue to accentuate the negative – The Denver Post’s Mark Kizla opened his column about the commitment of Highlands Ranch quarterback Brock Berglund with, “In a state of 5 million people, we’ve finally found one Colorado resident who actually believes CU football coach Dan Hawkins won’t get fired …” – it is worthy of note that other schools and players still have some respect for the University of Colorado.

In a column for the Arizona Daily Star this weekend, Ryan Finley wrote about how playing Utah and Colorado, especially late in the season, was not a positive for the Arizona Wildcats. Finley gave three reasons why “snow and the Wildcats will not mix” (link: http://azstarnet.com/sports/football/college/wildcats/article_3bd4cd73-75ae-5b8f-8293-d971151dc71d.html)

- “Cats love the sun” – Seventy five of the 102 players on the Arizona roster come from California, Texas, and Arizona, and only five (two from Colorado) who could be considered as coming from cold weather states;

- “Arizona has a passing fancy” – Finley notes that when Colorado and Utah been successful, they have run the ball (citing the Buffs’ national championship runs under Bill McCartney), something to which Pac-10 schools will have to adjust; and finally, in what is warming to Buff fans starved for positive news:

- “Colorado and Utah are good” – Finley cites Colorado’s overall record against the Pac-10 (38-34-1), and notes that while Utah is 52-90-3 all-time against Pac-10 teams, 19 of their 52 wins have come against Arizona.

Finley quotes Wildcat wide receiver Gino Crump, who was a sophomore for West Virginia when the Buffs upset the Mountaineers in 2008: “Game day in Boulder is a lot like here, actually,” said Crump. “Their student section is pretty crazy. They get loud. It’s a good environment and a fun place to play football.” Crump went on to say, “When you go up to Boulder and look at their ring of fame, there are a lot of big names up there. They’re not a team to look past or to underestimate.”

Whew – a nice shot to the ‘ol ego there …

Coaches’ rankings

I was reading through the Athlon preseason magazine, and it had a list of the 22 new head football coaches for 2010. Only three of those coaches – Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech, Turner Gill at Kansas, and Lane Kiffin at USC – are at present or future conference rivals. While the write-up on Turner Gill was positive (“Gill appears to be the right man at the right time for Kansas”), I couldn’t help but wonder what will be the perception about Gill in Lincoln now that Nebraska, where Gill played and was an assistant coach, will no longer be on the annual calendar. Kansas is already reeling from the reality check that their legendary basketball program meant exactly nothing when it came to conference realignment. Now, as of 2012, Nebraska fans keeping an eye on the future (should Bo Pelini ever falter or bolt), can actually cheer for the success of the Jayhawks, who are now, officially, grooming the next head coach in Lincoln …

Athlon also ranked the 120 division 1-A schools when it came to the “attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective”. Tradition, facilities, location, and money were considered in ranking which coaching jobs were the best.

The findings, (bearing in mind that the magazine came out before Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, and Boise State elected to change conferences), have some obvious choices. The top ten: Texas; USC; Florida; Alabama; Ohio State; Oklahoma; Florida State; Georgia; LSU; and Michigan.  That would be two from the Big 12, two from the Big Ten, one each from the Pac-10 and ACC; and four from the SEC.

Colorado checked in at a more than respectable 31 (one would have to think it would have been even higher if not for the 16-33 record the past four seasons, and if the move to the Pac-10 was considered). The analysis: “Three different coaches have won 10 games in a season since 1990, so it’s possible to win big at Colorado. But until the school makes a significant commitment to the program, CU cannot be considered at elite job.” With Colorado facilities lagging behind most of its rivals, and with it tough to sell out Folsom even in good years, it’s hard to argue with the ranking.

Other rankings of note … Three other Big 12 schools ranked between Texas and Oklahoma and the Buffs: Nebraska (No. 17); Texas A&M (No. 18); and Oklahoma State (No. 27). Meanwhile, three other Pac-10 schools rank between USC and the Buffs: UCLA (No. 14); Oregon (No. 15); and Washington (No. 24) … Looking ahead to the Pac-12, the remainder of the conference schools are ranked as follows: Cal (No. 34); Arizona State (No. 38); Utah (No. 40); Arizona (No. 43); Stanford (No. 49); Oregon State (No. 57); and Washington State (No. 66).

The lowest ranked BCS school was Indiana (No. 73), with the lowest ranked school from the Big 12 was Iowa State, coming in at No. 70, just behind Kansas State, at No. 67.

While Colorado and its fans aspire to join the elite of college football, it is alway reassuring to be reminded …

It could always be worse.

June 28th

Colorado v. Pac-12 – A winning tradition

As noted earlier (see June 15th entry, below), Colorado has played 73 games against current members of the Pac-10, accumulating an overall record of 38-34-1. With the addition of Utah to the Pac-12, the number of games the Buffs have played against fellow members of the Pac-12 jumps to 130, as the Buffs have a 57 game history with the University of Utah.

The Buffs have a 30-24-3 overall record against the Utes, giving Colorado a 68-58-4 (.554) all-time record against its new Pac-12 rivals.

Colorado and Utah played their first game in 1903, with the Buffs prevailing Boulder, 22-0. The Buffs won the first three games in the series, and nine of the first 11 games overall. The rivalry was played out every year from 1903 to 1958, with only two exceptions – 1909 and 1918 – with two games being played in 1943 (the Buffs won both games – 35-0 in Boulder; 22-19 in Salt Lake City). The series has seen a number of streaks, with the Buffs posting four winning streaks of four games or more, with the longest streak being eight consecutive wins between 1951 and 1958 (and ten games unbeaten, counting a win in 1949 and a 20-20 tie in 1950). For Utah, the longest win streak came between 1925 and 1933, when the Utes won nine games in a row.

The Buffs own a 30-24-3 advantage in games played in Boulder, and are 14-15-2 in Salt Lake City. The last two games in the series, played in 1961 and 1962, were both Utah victories. The two teams were scheduled to resume the series exactly 50 years from the date of the last game – September 22, 2012 – but that may be changed once the Big 12 and Colorado come to terms as to when the Buffs are to be allowed out of their Big 12 contractual obligations.

Nebraska v. Big Ten

Colorado will enter Pac-12 play with an overall winning record against its new rivals – and Nebraska fans will be able to say the same.

Overall, Nebraska has an all-time record of 79-69-10 against existing members of the Big Ten, with the Cornhuskers’ .532 winning percentage just behind the .554 the Buffs have posted against the Pac-12.

While the Buffs trail in just four series in its new conference (against Arizona State, USC, UCLA, and Oregon State), the Cornhuskers trail six teams in their new league – Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State, and Minnesota.

Nebraska has played more games against Minnesota than any other Big Ten team, and trails in the series, 29-20-2. The two teams played every season in the 1940′s, and the Golden Gophers won all ten (since 1963, it must be said, Nebraska is 14-0 against Minnesota).

Just like the Buffs, the Cornhuskers will enter play in its new league without ever posting wins against two schools. For Colorado, its Arizona State (0-2) and USC (0-5). For Nebraska, its Ohio State (0-2) and Purdue (0-1, with the only game being played in 1958).

One of the two losses to Ohio State came in 1956. The Cornhuskers, heavy underdogs, stayed close to the Buckeyes, but lost, 28-20. Ohio State coach Woody Hayes was quoted as saying, “Nebraska should be proud of its team. They are not Big Ten caliber, but they played like it today.”

“Not Big Ten caliber …” – sounds like a midwest bumper sticker in the making to me.

June 23rd

Pac-10 commissioner defends addition of Colorado and Utah

With the loss of Texas as a potential member of the Pac-16, some fans of existing members of the Pac-10 are feeling that the conference lost out in settling for Colorado and Utah. According to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ray Ratto, Texas either: 1) played Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott in order to get a better deal from its Big 12 brethren; 2) misunderstood Texas A&M’s reluctance to go west; or 3) wanted to bolt, but was made an offer it couldn’t refuse by the “Little Seven”. What’s worse, Ratto contends, is that cash-strapped Cal not only lost all of the revenue that the addition of Texas had to offer, but now also faces only playing USC (a guaranteed sell out) once every four years instead of every other year. “The only way this could have worked worse for Cal and Stanford,” Ratto concludes, “was if the conference contrived a way to split all the rivalries in some sort of bizarre zipper formation and turn the Big Game (between Cal and Stanford) into a preseason after-school special.”

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, naturally, disagrees.

“Not surprisingly, the greatest question/concern/point of contention among the schools is the ‘frequency with with teams are used to playing,’ ” Scott told the Mercury News. “Everyone is potentially concerned about not playing the Southern California schools every year … But everyone recognizes that there are trade-offs to the division structure.”

While the ultimate division structure is on everyone’s minds, there is no specific timetable for a decision. The league’s athletic directors meet in Los Angeles on July 30th, but Scott does not expect a resolution at that time. Instead, Scott is “aiming for” a decision at the October meetings of league officials, although “that could change if there’s an emerging consensus.”

So, did the Pac-10 lose out by settling for Colorado and Utah?

No, said Scott.

“I’m absolutely confident that (the addition of the Buffs and the Utes) is additive in terms of value,” said Scott. “A football championship is additive. Now, if we chose not to have one, that would take away from any uplift.”

“But the TV strategies that we plan on pursuing,” Scott continued. “We felt the media markets and the athletic programs (Coloradon and Utah) would add significant value.”

June 22nd

No resolution … yet … on 2011 exit

Time for the attorneys to earn their keep.

With Utah set to join the Pac-12 in 2011, Nebraska willing to jump to the Big Ten in 2011, and Boise State set to join the Mountain West Conference in 2011, the dominoes should be in place for Colorado to team up with Utah in joining the Pac-10 next season.

And yet …

It’s all about the money – and a little bit of pride.

Nebraska has given its one year notice. The Cornhuskers are willing to go without 70-80% of its Big 12 revenue in order to leave early. Colorado, meanwhile, gave a two year notice, willing to go without 50% each year for two years.

Just because the Cornhuskers want to leave early, and pay more up front, doesn’t mean Colorado has to go along.

Which would make for an impossible scheduling problem for everyone in 2012.

So, the short answer: Colorado will play in the Pac-10 in 2011. The multi-million dollar question now becomes: how much will Colorado have to pay? The Big 12 can’t force the Buffs to take the 80% option just because Nebraska did, and Colorado has no interest in staying in a conference which now wishes to move on without them. Plus, you have the added sticking point that it has been reported that one way the “Orphan Five” (or the “Forgotten Seven”, depending on how you regard Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State) were able to convince Texas to stick around in the Big 12 was to offer up some of the “penalty” money coming from Nebraska and Colorado.

As a result, if the Big 12 agrees to let the Buffs out for a smaller amount (with the Cornhuskers likely to demand the same treatment), there will be a smaller pool of dollars for the smaller schools to offer at the alter in Austin.

I still believe a compromise will be worked out, with Colorado and Nebraska conducting press conferences announcing the early buyout deal, with Dan Beebe announcing on behalf of the Big 12 that the remaining members have properly punished their departing traitors.

Let the spin begin.

 

June 16th

Did “Forgotten Five” offer “penalty” money to Big Three?

According to ESPN, the Forgotten Five of the Big 12 conference – Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Baylor, and Missouri – offered their share of any monies received from Colorado and Nebraska as part of a “business plan” to save the Big 12.

Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins said the above five schools came up with the idea in order to keep Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M from bolting to other conferences. “Five schools got together, and we tried to develop a business plan,” said Perkins. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe had a different account, stating that the five schools offered to have extra funds taken from other sources, like television and tournament revenue, not from the “penalties”.

But, Nebraska is arguing that Colorado and Nebraska will owe nothing …

Nebraska, set to join the Big Ten as early as July 1, 2011, believes that there will be no penalties (or, more precisely, no withholding of revenues). “The bylaw is structured as ‘damages’, and it’s hard for me to see that there are any damages,” said Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman. “The Big 12 is getting more now than when we were a member.”

If Colorado leaves in two years, it will owe 50% of its revenues, or around $10.1 million. If Nebraska leaves with only one year’s notice, it will owe 70% of its revenues, or around $8.05 million … if the assessments are made. “Just take the liquidated damages (as Perlman call the “penalties”), and put an ‘X’ on it,” said Perlman. “Put it over here and don’t even think about it”.

Naturally, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe disagrees. “Our by-laws require us to withhold revenues from any departing members,” said Beebe, “which we’ll do, and then distribute (those revenues) to the remaining members.”

In other words, stay tuned, and get the University attorney’s office on the phone …

If there is a penalty, first there would have to be a determination as to the amount (there are predictions which vary from the numbers provided). Then, Colorado and Nebraska would have to figure out how to survive without the extra revenue. Not a real problem in Lincoln, which would have plenty of resources (not the least of which would be a call to boosters to raise the funds, which would take about a day to accomplish).

In Boulder, the Buffs have to look at other options. It has been reported that the Pac-10 has offered to help finance the move by assisting Colorado with the extra funds up front, to be paid off through a reduction of revenue distribution in later seasons.

June 15th

Colorado Football Schedule – 2012 (or 2011) – Revised

With the dilution of the Pac-16 to the Pac-12 (presumed) and with Colorado and Utah (presumed) to be the only new additions, the scheduling for Colorado becomes much easier.

It would be a natural for the Pac-12 to adopt a schedule similar to the one utilized by the Big 12 and SEC, namely to divide the conference into two divisions of six teams each. Each team would play an eight team conference schedule, with five games against every team in their own division, with three games against teams from the other division. With that schedule in 2010, Colorado is playing Kansas State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Kansas and Nebraska from the North, as well as Texas Tech, Baylor, and Oklahoma from the South.

The only debatable issue then, is, of course, how to divide up the new Pac-12. Naturally, Colorado and Utah would travel as a pair, so it is really a question of which two sets of schools match up with Colorado and Utah. There seems to be only one set of teams (Cal and Stanford) which does not fit with the Colorado/Utah pair. A couple of scenarios:

Colorado/Utah joins the Arizona schools and southern California schools to form the Pac-12 South;

Colorado/Utah joins the Washington and Oregon schools to form the Pac-12 North; or

Colorado/Utah joins the Washington schools and the Arizona schools to form the Pac-12 East.

From a Colorado point of view, the third option is the best. In terms of resources and national rankings, USC, Cal, and Oregon provide the most consistent teams. Having them battle one another to face a division champion made up of Colorado, Utah, Arizona State, Washington State, Arizona, and Arizona State would provide the Buffs with the most direct line to a conference championship game.

At the same time, the Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, who has proven to be capable in such areas, will likely see this. If you go by preseason rankings for 2010, the first Pac-12 championship game would be between Oregon and Utah.

Sound sexy to you?

Not exactly what the Pac-10 officials were hoping for when they approved expansion.

Best bet would be to go with Colorado/Utah the the northwest schools. As mentioned below, Cal and Stanford previously expressed reservations about giving up games in southern California when expansion was first being discussed. Any scenario which splits up the four California schools gives the Cardinal and Bears two trips to L.A. every four years. Published reports, however, have Colorado/Utah joining with the Arizona schools and the Southern California schools to form the Pac-12 South, so we’ll see …

This leaves us with the Pac-12 East, in which the six “western” schools are more powerful (not unlike the Big 12 South had become), so the third scenario, with Colorado/Utah joining the Oregon and Washington schools, becomes the most plausible.

Then the question will become, can a schedule be put in place as early as 2011 …?

Colorado Football Schedule – 2012

The landscape of college football shifted significantly the second week of June. While how the rest of the Great Conference Realignment of 2010 remains to be played out, Colorado knows it will be playing in the Pac-10 in 2012, perhaps as early as 2011. It is not too early, then, to take a look at how the Buffs’ new schedule might play out.

For starters, we’ll assume that the rest of the teams in the Big 12 South not named Baylor will ultimately opt for moving to the Pac-10. Whether its Texas A&M, Kansas, or Utah, the Pac-10 will likely have 16 teams. There will be any number of options for devising a schedule, the least attractive for Colorado is being placed into an eight team division with the Big 12 South teams, along with Arizona and Arizona State.

The division alignment would not be the tough part, it would be the scheduling. If the league demanded that every team play every other team in its own division, Colorado fans may soon be longing for the good old days of the Big 12 North. Every school in the division would have a larger stadium (though those at Texas Tech and Arizona are close), more money, and better facilities. Texas and Oklahoma would likely dominate, and the seven games played against the Pac-10 east foes would not be all that much different from what the Buff fans see on the calendar already.

To make matters worse, the benefit of playing (and recruiting) on the west coast would be negated. With only two conference games a year against Pac-10 west schools, it would take eight years to rotate through the western division (e.g., Colorado would play UCLA and USC home-and-home in 2012 and 2013; move on to Stanford and Cal in 2014 and 2015; play the Oregon schools in 2015 and 2016; and the Washington schools in 2017 and 2018. Colorado would not play again in Los Angeles until 2019).

Fortunately for Colorado fans, this schedule would also hold true for Texas and Oklahoma. As a result, the much talked about duels between Texas and USC, not to mention Oklahoma and Oregon, would only be played out twice every eight seasons. Here’s guessing that the television networks lining up to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars for broadcast rights want to see those matchups occur more often.

Thus, it is the four-team “pod” system which is now being discussed most often. The league would be divided into four four-team groupings, which we will call the Northwest Division (Washington and Oregon schools); California Divsion (USC, UCLA, Cal, and Stanford), the Mountain Division (Arizona State, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas Tech), and the Red River Division (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas). For now, we’ll include Texas A&M. If that changes to, say, Utah or Kansas, move Texas Tech in with Texas, and move the other new school into the mountain division.

How the schedule would work: Each team would annually play every other team in its own division (For Colorado: Arizona State, Arizona, and Texas Tech). That would leave six conference games left to be played, which could quite easily be generated by having each conference team play a home-and-home series with two teams from the other three divisions, then switching out opponents every two years (not unlike how Colorado switched out home-and-home series with three of the six Big 12 South teams each season).

As a result, the Buffs’ 2012 schedule (or, if Nebraska has its way, the 2011 schedule) could look something like this:

Colorado State (Denver), at Minnesota, Utah (these first three games are already on the 2012 calendar), then: Arizona, at Arizona State, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma, Texas A&M, USC, at Stanford, Oregon State, at Washington.

In 2013, the calendar would look like this: Colorado State (Denver), Minnesota, Fresno State, then: at Arizona, Arizona State, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma, at Texas A&M, at USC, Stanford, at Oregon State, Washington.

In 2014 and 2015, the Buffs would swap out the other pod teams, with the 2014 schedule looking like this: Colorado State, Hawaii, at Fresno State, then: Arizona, at Arizona State, Texas Tech, Texas, at Oklahoma State, UCLA, at Cal, Oregon, at Washington State.

While 2015 would look like this: Colorado State (in Boulder, so the Buffs have six home games), Utah, at Hawaii, then, at Arizona, Arizona State, at Texas Tech, at Texas, Oklahoma State, at UCLA, Cal, at Oregon, Washington State.

This would allow the Buffs to travel to the west coast twice a season, including a trip to the State of California every year.

The real beauty of the pod system, though,  is that it would preserve all of the existing year-end rivalry games, as well as the Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma. The only two teams which would be left without a rival on Thanksgiving weekend would be Colorado and Texas Tech, who would lose their year end games against Nebraska and, ahem, Baylor. This is a sacrifice most Buff fans would be willing to make in order to avoid a seven team division schedule, a schedule which would leave the Buffs with little exposure to the west coast.

One last item on scheduling I would suggest for Colorado.

With Nebraska off the calendar for the season finale, why not move the Colorado State game to Thanksgiving weekend? Many rivals who are not in the same conference – Georgia/Georgia Tech; Florida/Florida State; Clemson/South Carolina for example – play their rivals on the last game of the season, not the first. I have never, repeat NEVER, liked playing Colorado State in the opener. Give your in-state little brother a full month to prepare for you? Let them throw in gadget plays, new formations, different personnel – just for your game? I’ve never liked that. Put the game at the end of the season, and I will guarantee the already high winning percentage the Buffs have against the Rams would raise up even higher. Plus, it would give Buff fans something to look forward to at the end of the year. (Remember back before the Big 12, when Colorado would finish the season with late November games against Iowa State or Kansas State? Remember the tens of thousands of fans disguised as empty seats?).

So, should the Big 12 South migrate to the Pac-10, the four-team pod system would work well for Colorado and its fans …

I’ll leave to others as to how to devise the Pac-16 championship game tie-breakers.

Familiar Territory

Other than moving to the Mountain West (thank heavens that isn’t the case!), Colorado could not have moved to a conference with which it has had more experience. Over the years, Colorado has played 73 games against current Pac-10 teams, accumulating an overall record of 38-34-1. The Buffs’ winning percentage against the Pac-10  (.521) is on par with the Buffs’ overall winning percentage against former Big 12 foes (253-229-13; .511). The Buffs have played all ten teams in the league, and has posted wins against all but two (0-5 agaisnt USC; 0-2 against Arizona State).

The first game the Buffs ever played against a team from the west coast was back in 1904, when Colorado played Stanford in Denver (If you watched the  Colorado press conference Friday, or read the CU at the Game account, you know that CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano was more than a little embarrassed to learn that the score of that 1904 Colorado/Stanford game was 33-0, Stanford).

Colorado’s overall record against the league has certainly been bouyed by the Buffs’ record against Arizona. Over the years (mostly in the 1950′s, when the two teams played every year), Colorado accumulated a 12-game winning streak against the Wildcats. It was only in the last game played between the two schools, in 1986, that Arizona broke into the win column against Colorado. (The 92.3 winning percentage is the best for the Buffs against any team Colorado has played that many times, though the Buffs’ 24-2-1 record against Wyoming – 90.7% – is close).

The Colorado v. the Pac-10 breakdown:

Arizona – 12-1; last game played, 1986;

Arizona State – 0-2; last game played, 2007;

USC – 0-5; last game played, 2002;

UCLA – 2-4; last game played, 2003;

Stanford – 3-3; last game played, 1993;

Cal – 2-2; last game played, 1982 (the teams will play September 11th);

Oregon – 8-7; last game played, 2002 (Fiesta Bowl)

Oregon State – 2-3; last game played, 1988

Washington – 5-5; last game played, 2000

Washington State – 4-2; last game played, 2004 (in Seattle).

Looking at the numbers, Colorado and its Pac-10 brethren, other than Arizona and USC, are within two games of one another in the all-time series, which makes the renewal of some of these rivalries all the more intriguing.

Other series tidbits:

Colorado trails UCLA 2-4 and Oregon State 2-3, but the Buffs have won both of the last two games played in those series … The last two games played against Washington, in 1999 and 2000, two Washington victories which permitted the Huskies to tie the all-time series, were both coached by former CU head coach (and present UCLA head coach) Rick Neuheisal … Colorado has played a Pac-10 team five times in bowl games, including Oregon three times (CU going 2-1 in those games), and Washington twice (1-1) … When Arizona won its only game in the series, in 1986, the Wildcats were ranked 10th in the nation. Colorado, 0-3 at the time, hung close, falling 24-21. The Buffs used the momentum from that game to go on to post a 6-1 Big Eight record, including the epic 20-10 win over No. 3 Nebraska .

Significant games between Colorado and existing Pac 10 teams:

1982 – Colorado head coach Bill McCartney makes his debut as Buff head coach against Cal. The Bears, led by new head coach Joe Kapp (older fans will remember him as the quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV), beat the Buffs, 31-17. The game was the last between the two schools until this fall, when the rivalry will be renewed on September 11th.

1982 – The week after the Cal game, Bill McCartney posts his first win as the Colorado head coach, defeating another Pac-10 school, Washington State, 12-0. The game, played in Spokane, marked the last time McCartney would have a .500 record as the Buffs’ head coach until the middle of the 1989 season – seven years later.

1984 - Colorado tight end Ed Reinhardt almost loses his life after collapsing near the end of the game against Oregon in Eugene. Bill McCartney is touched by the outpouring of support by the people of Eugene. Reinhardt eventually recovers most of his abilities, becoming an inspiration to a generation of Buff fans.

1985 - Oregon, trailing 21-17, drives the length of Folsom Field as time runs down. On fourth-and-goal at the Colorado three yard line, Buff safety Mickey Pruitt sacks Oregon quarterback Chris Miller for a sack as time expires. The win gives Colorado a 2-0 record, doubling the victory total from 1984.

1985 - Two weeks after defeating Oregon, the Buffs hold off Arizona, 14-13, on the road in Tucson. The win over the Wildcats propels the Buffs to their first winning season since 1978. Colorado finishes 7-5 after losing to another Pac-10 team, Washington, 20-17, in the Freedom Bowl.

1987 - Colorado plays three Pac-10 teams to open the season, defeating Stanford and Washington State, but losing to Oregon. The 1987 season marked the third time in the 1980′s (1982 and 1985) in which the Buffs played three games against Pac-10 teams in the regular season.

1989 - No. 5 Colorado defeats No. 21 Washington on the road in the emotional first game for the Buffs after the death of quarterback Sal Aunese.

1990 – Running back Eric Bieniemy goes up and over the top on fourth-and-one with seconds to play to defeat Stanford, 21-17. Colorado, ranked No. 6 in the nation after tying Tennessee, 31-31, in the season opener, score on a play which Stanford coach Dennis Green said Bieniemy did not break the plane of the endzone.

1990 - Against the Washington Huskies a year after the emotional win in Seattle, No. 20 Colorado hangs on to defeat No. 12 Washington in Boulder, 20-14. With a fourth-and-goal at the Colorado seven yard line with 1:04 to play, Husky quarterback lobbed a pass to the corner of the endzone, trying to hit wide receiver Mario Bailey. Colorado sophomore safety Deon Figures (who would go on to win the Thorpe Award in 1992) intercepted the pass, preserving the Colorado win.

1993 - Stanford gets payback for the 1990 controversial win. With eight seconds remaining, and the Cardinal trailing the Buffs, 37-34, quarterback Steve Stenstrom hit Tony Cline for a game-winning five yard touchdown. As Cline came down with the ball, he was clocked by Buff safety Dwayne Davis. Cline dropped the ball, but was nonetheless given credit for a touchdown catch.

1995 – Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisal completes a successful first season with a 10-2 record, including a 38-6 romp over Oregon in the Cotton Bowl. The game is most remembered, however, for a controversial fake punt call by Neuheisal late in the fourth quarter with the game no longer in doubt. The Ducks remembered the play (see: 2002 Fiesta Bowl).

1998 - Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisal coaches in what turns out to be his last game in Boulder, leading the Buffs to a 51-43 win over Oregon in the Aloha Bowl. Less than a week later, Neuheisal accepts the head coaching job at Washington.

1999-2000 - Colorado players get a chance at revenge against their former coach, but Rick Neuheisals’ Washington Huskies defeats Colorado both seasons (31-24; 17-14).

2002 - Colorado upsets No. 20 UCLA, 31-17, in Los Angeles. The game, played in the Rose Bowl in September, is played in 99-degree heat, the warmest game for Colorado, ever.

2004 - In a game played in Seattle, Colorado holds on to defeat Washington State, 20-12. Senior defensive tackle Matt McChesney recovers a Cougar fumble at the Colorado two-yard line in the last minute of play to preserve the win.

2007 - Colorado falls to Arizona State, 33-14, on the road, in the last game played between Colorado and a Pac-10 team before the June 10, 2010, announcement that Colorado was to join the Pac-10 conference.

Just 16 or so memories from the past 30 seasons. Feel free to post your comments about these games, or memories of your own, by clicking on the “Comments” bar at the top and/or the bottom of this article. You are also invited/encouraged to check out the Archived Seasons, in which stories, stats, and memories of Colorado games played since 1980 have been preserved.

8 Responses to “Leaders of the Pac”

  1. Eric

    Just read a report out of USC. they discussed at a booster function the (reportedly voted on 7-5) new conference alignment. It was reported Colorado would be placed in with Arizona, Az State, UCLA, USC and Utah! USC wan not happy with alignment because they want to play No. Cal schools every year. Apparently USC is now petitioning for a 5-2-2 schedule that would allow them the two games every year with Cal and Stanford. This is a very favorable alignment for Colorado if it is true. Now if we only had a coach that could recruit….

  2. ExplosionZ

    Arguments for the zipper are getting stronger. What would happen if we split all of the rivals into opposite divisions. One side could be Co, Stanford, UW, AZ, UCLA, and OU with the other being UT, CAL, ASU, OSU, USC and OSU. You would play the other 5 in your division each year, three of the other division and your designated rival every year. That would give them the 9 conference games they are used to. Everyone would also get to play their rival each year. Imagine if you could designate each week as the “rival game of the week” in the Pac 12. The networks could highlight the game and make a huge deal out of it. Each rival game would then have it’s own special attention and not get lost in the shuffle.

  3. J Rifas

    Totally disagree with any division split that would make it “easier” for CU. Colorado was in the Big 12 North. And while we won 4 division titles, the Big 12 north was the laughing stock of college football. The North winner was fodder for the south. And I am still a firm believer that CU plays to the level of its competition. When CU was in the Big 8 with a strong Nebraska and OU, it did much better. They need, for their own good, to be in the toughest division available…and that would be the one that’s been most often mentioned Pac-12 South (SC, LA, ASU, UofA, Utah, CU).

  4. D W Bain

    – oh, yeah — now that it looks like the Big XII South won’t follow suit, what does your crystal ball say about the schedule?

  5. D W Bain

    Stuart –I concur with NCBuff – excellent retrospective and I am for moving the CSU game to the end of the season. The conference championship should be decided and, in lean years, it will be one last push for bragging rights.

    I stand corrected in my comment on “Expansion Clearinghouse” – you did cover potential affects on recruiting [you think of everything!].

    I’m still not keen on joining the Pacific 10 Conference, but now that we have – bring ‘em on!

  6. boulder77

    I whole-heartedly agree with the pod system of scheduling. If we get stuck playing the texas and okla teams MORE OFTEN than we did in the Big XII, then I start to ask “what the hell is going on here?”. One of the major reasons for moving to the Pac-## was to take advantage of our huge alumni base on the left coast. If they adopt the pod system, I’m all in with the Pac-16.

    Interesting comment on moving the csmoo game to Thanksgiving. Although I’d rather not play them at all, maybe moving the game to a more meaningful time would work.

  7. Thrill on the Hill

    So, the dust has settled on the Soap Opera “As the Realignment Turns”, aka “Search for Tomorrow”. Analyses have been have been more plentiful than road apples in Ft. Collins – some thoughtful, some emotional, some useless. So, here’s my $ .02. First, as just a fan I didn’t realize the Big XII was in some kind of trouble. Turns out it wasn’t. Everybody just wanted more cash. Second, the Buffs will be in the Pac-10; so let’s get those trips to USC, UCLA, Cal, and Stanford all planned. What? You say we will be in a Division with at least five of the olde Big XII schools, and will infrequently play the Bear State schools? And we get to play in Stillwater, Lubbock, and College Station every year and once in a while LA, Berkeley and Palo Alto (but also Pullman, Corvallis and Eugene)? Well at least weather will always be good. Third, I have to say that it was great to have the speculation behind us. The worst case would likely have been to be left behind holding our hats out to the MWC. It almost appeared that we would be returning to pre- Big 7 days. Finally, none of this “fixes” the immediate problem of poor performance on the field. In fact, it exacerbates it. As always we have to take the long view. We still have Ralphie and the best-looking coeds in any league.

  8. NCBuff

    Stuart: Great retrospective and I am with you on moving CSU to the end of the season. I don’t want our annual Thanksgiving game to be against Tech!

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