The Pac-10 is no more.
Right this moment it’s the Pac-11, or – if you’re so inclined – Paco Once.
But there will be a 12th team. The only question is if four more teams join on top of that.
After three decades of standing still the Pac-10 has started moving at breakneck speed. In a December conference commissioner Larry Scott said, “We’re hard-pressed to really see how you improve upon the structure of the Pac-10 as it is with five sets of natural rivals in four states.”
In February Scott said, “We’re looking at (expansion) very seriously.” But talks weren’t supposed to heat up for six to 12 months.
On June 6 the Pac-10 gave Scott “the authority to pursue any possible expansion, while not committing the conference to adding any more schools.” Four days later Colorado was officially a member and the rumors of a 16-school super conference were swirling in full force.
How did we get here? And do we want to go where we’re apparently heading? Let’s break it down.
Why the Stephen F. Austin do we need 16 teams?
Texas, Texas, Texas. UT is the biggest fish, the golden goose and the sacred cow. When mere mortals started discussing Pac-10 expansion they tossed around the pie-in-the-sky dream of adding Texas and Texas A&M. But the idea was quickly dismissed because Texas would never leave its rivalry with Oklahoma, right?
You can picture Larry Scott in his underground lair standing over a map that looks something like this and thinking, “Texas won’t leave Oklahoma or A&M. The regents won’t allow for the split of OU/OSU and UT/A&M/Tech. I guess my only option is to…TAKE THEM ALL!”
Why announce the addition of Colorado before you know if Texas is in?
Texas wanted the Big 12 to stay together. If you already have the biggest house on the block and your neighbors mow your lawn and pick up after your dogs, why would you move?
The only way you get Texas is if the Big 12 falls apart. Nebraska leaving wasn’t going to be enough. Texas could just decree that TCU or SMU be invited and Bevo would go back to grazing on million dollar bills.
There’s no way any other school in the Texas/Oklahoma bloc would abandon Mama Tejas. So if you’re the Pac-10 you target the one school you’re interested in that isn’t part of the Big 12 South and you go past rumor to official. The goal is to force Texas into finding a new conference when you know your conference is the Longhorns’ best option.
Won’t it be really embarrassing if we go through all this Pac-16 speculation and just end up with Colorado and Utah?
From a national perspective, yes. Larry Scott and the Pac-10 would be viewed as having failed if the Texas merger doesn’t happen. The Big Ten Plus Two will brag that it got the school it wanted in Nebraska, and the Big 12 Minus Two will boast about how it stonewalled the Pac-10 invasion and protected Long Star/Sooner State pride.
But Larry Scott won’t be a failure even if Texas stays put. He went after the biggest prize. He swung for the fences. He could have quietly added Colorado and Utah weeks ago and no one east of Boulder would have cared. No matter what happens Scott has established that he is a man of action and his league isn’t going to stand on the sidelines any longer.
Scott’s mission when he took this job was to make more money for the Pac-10. A lot more. To do this he had two primary objectives: prepare for the next TV deal and improve the bowl tie-ins. When he looked to add a bowl did he go after the Insight or the Humanitarian? No, he went after – and landed – the Alamo Bowl and its $3 million payout.
Now he’s going after the entire Alamo state.
Regardless of the expansion outcome Larry Scott has proven he’s the person the Pac-10 needs to keep pace in the 2010s. He went from The Women’s Tennis Guy to The Guy Who Tried to Conquer the Big 12.
Who do we want to win?
Until there’s a big burnt orange press conference nothing is a done deal. Texas has options. Which option is best for the Arizona schools?
If you’re one of the original Pac-8 universities you desperately want Texas and Friends. You’re not going to lose any of your long-standing rivals and the Longhorn money will rain on you for years to come.
But what about the two youngest siblings in the Pac-10, those crazy kids in the state that spends half its time in the Mountain Time Zone?
For the fans of Arizona and Arizona State it comes down to your personal priorities. The money angle can’t be denied. A Pacific-16 conference would generate an insane amount of revenue. As in forget-the-SEC-even-the-federal-government-is-jealous revenue.
If you can get past the dollars (and dollars and dollars) and cents it comes down to whether you want to be in the biggest, baddest athletic conference in the nation (even if it means potentially getting crushed in football) or do you want to maintain close ties with the West Coast?
If you like seeing the Cats and Devils make annual trips to L.A., the Bay and the Pacific Northwest, you want Texas to stay put. Things would change in a 12-team Pac with two divisions but it wouldn’t be earth-shattering.
The earth will shatter if five more schools from the Big 12 come on board. Every logical division or pod puts the Arizona schools closer to the new Texas/Oklahoma schools and further from the California schools. There’s nothing wrong with embracing that but there’s nothing wrong with being opposed to it either.
One thing’s for sure, it won’t be Paco Once for long.