Pac-10 to evaluate expansion
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday that the window for expansion by the conference is open for the next year as the conference begins negotiations for a new television deal.
Speaking on a conference call to introduce former Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg as his new deputy, Scott talked about possibly adding new teams to the conference and launching a new television network.
Scott, the former head of the Women’s Tennis Association, took over the conference last July. In his less than eight months on the job, he has seen growing interest from the membership over the possibility of adding teams for the first time since Arizona and Arizona State joined the conference in 1978.
“It is really over the next six to 12 months that we’ll start having serious analysis and serious evaluations,” Scott said.
While there has been major upheaval in conference alignments in recent years, the Pac-10 has remained stable for more than three decades. But with a new commissioner and television deals that expire following the 2011-12 academic year, the time is ripe for a fresh look at the issue.
“To me, the logic if the Pac-10 is going to think about expanding, now is our window,” Scott said. “The reason being if you’re going to consider a reconstruction of the conference, there’s a value proposition associated with that. Given that we’re about to have negotiations regarding our media rights, it makes sense that if you’re going to do it, to do it when you can monetize it and get value from it commercially.”
The Pac-10 isn’t the only major conference looking at expansion. The Big Ten said in December that it would explore the possibility of adding a 12th team in the next 12 to 18 months. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 already have 12 schools, while the Big East has 16 teams for basketball and eight for football.
Scott said there have been “no serious discussions” with any schools. He said the primary factor in the decision will be finding schools that fit into the conference culturally and academically.
“I know that’s of paramount importance to our presidents and chancellors,” Scott said. “There are other economic and athletic considerations such as increased costs that would be involved, increased travel that would be involved, splitting the pie in more ways. You look at how that is offset against potentially greater revenue, potentially greater exposure into more markets, possible recruiting opportunities, the impact on media negotiations generally. There’s a whole analysis you would go through in terms of cost benefit.”
The conference is also looking at the possibility of starting its own television network. Scott said the priority in the new television deal will be to increase exposure and revenues.
“I always knew that there’s a lot of interest in the possibility in a network,” he said. “But that’s not the only solution to achieve our overall goals.”
Scott said the conference will undergo a rigorous evaluation of whether to launch a network in the upcoming months. Weiberg, who helped launch the Big Ten network, will play a big role in that process.
Weiberg said assuring wide distribution of a network is paramount to its success. The Big Ten Network had trouble getting on cable systems in the Midwest when it launched in August 2007 and was initially only available in about 17 million homes.
Within a year, it was available in about 75 million homes.
“Clearly for a network to be successful, you want it to be distributed as broadly as possible not only in the region but hopefully to have distribution that is national in scope,” Weiberg said. “One has to think carefully about how to achieve that. It’s fundamental to the economic success of such a network.”