- Mark Saxon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott laid out a host of expansion scenarios to athletic directors on Friday, the first day of conference meetings here. They range from a full merger with the Big 12; to merging with six current Big 12 schools, including Texas; to adding Colorado and Utah; to the status quo, according to one athletic director.
On Sunday morning, Scott will brief the school presidents and chancellors.
Nobody here expects the conference to expand any time soon, certainly not by Sunday, the final day of the meetings. Still, the possibility of adding schools -- which could lead to a financial windfall for the conference, as well as ratchet up competition -- has several attendees excited by the possibilities.
"Larry and the Pac-10 are being very proactive. That's what I like," said Washington athletic director Scott Woodward. "We're not the bug on the windshield. We're kind of driving the bus."
The latest scenario, first reported by Orangebloods.com, a Rivals affiliate, on Thursday, is that Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Colorado and Oklahoma State would be invited to join the Pac-10. Such a mega-conference likely would be divided into two leagues, one comprised of the eight original conference teams and the other made up of the newcomers plus the two Arizona schools.
Some people see that scenario as a smokescreen to a more modest expansion.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, who chairs the men's basketball committee, compared the conference's discussions here to his committee's shortly before it expanded March Madness to 68 teams. At one point, the idea of a 96-team field was floated before the more modest change was adopted. That could be what happens in the Pac-10 -- with the latest whopper just a bombshell that spurs talks.
"We went through an exercise of due diligence and really decided to look at all the possible scenarios and all the options to see what might be in the best interest of the association long term," Guerrero said. "We're doing the exact same thing here. We're in a due-diligence process."
USC athletic director Mike Garrett, whose football and basketball programs are under investigation for NCAA rules violations, declined comment.
The future look of the Pac-10 could depend on what happens with the Big Ten. If Notre Dame elects to join that conference, the likelihood is that any Pac-10 expansion would be modest. But if the Big Ten pulls in Nebraska and Missouri instead, the Big 12 could be in danger of crumbling. The Pac-10 wants to be position to scoop up some of those schools, particularly Texas, which brings with it a large, lucrative TV audience.
The heart of the issue is money. According to the Sports Business Journal, the SEC TV contracts with ESPN and CBS are worth $205 million annually.
The Pac-10's contracts with ABC/ESPN and Fox are worth $45 million. Scott hired Creative Artists Agency, a global marketing and entertainment firm whose clients include the New York Yankees, to help find new sources of revenue.
Scott is scheduled to discuss the expansion talks with the media on Sunday at noon, after the conclusion of the meetings. It's unlikely any decisions will be made so soon, but things clearly are in the works.
"I don't see any way our conference will be diminished in terms of competitive excellence," Guerrero said. "It can only be enhanced if things progress to the point where we do make decisions, but at this point in time there's nothing imminent."
Mark Saxon covers USC football for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
The possibilities for the conference range from mega-expansion merging with Big 12 to standing pat.