Pac-10 to decide by end of year
SAN FRANCISCO -- Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott emerged from the final day of conference meetings Sunday and announced that university presidents and chancellors have given him all the authority he needs to expand the Pac-10.
"What direction that process takes still could go in different directions, everything from remaining as we are as a Pac-10 that's got some very bright days ahead of it to a bigger conference footprint," Scott said. "I have the authority to take it in different directions, depending on various scenarios and discussions we're going to have."
Scott wouldn't give any timeframe for expansion talks -- other than to reiterate that the deadline is the end of this year -- or discuss specific schools. However, it sounds as if he will aggressively court some of the biggest names in college sports, including Texas. The Big 12 is in danger of collapsing and could provide the Pac-10 with six new teams or more.
The Big 12 reportedly gave Missouri and Nebraska an ultimatum of Friday to decide if they will remain in the Big 12. If those schools leave, the Pac-10 could be strategically situated to gobble up Big 12 teams looking for bigger opportunities, including Texas. The most widely discussed scenario has Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado joining the Pac-10. There was some indication Sunday that Baylor could replace Colorado under pressure from the Texas Legislature.
"You've read about an awful lot of ideas. I'm not sure I've read every single one, but we probably have contemplated or are contemplating almost everything you've read about," Scott said. "The Pac-10's in a very fortunate position."
In addition to giving Scott the power to negotiate expansion, the conference also has made him the only voice on the matter. A handful of school presidents and chancellors declined comment when asked about the expansion talks as they left the final day of meetings at the Westin St. Francis hotel.
Washington president Mark Emmert, who will take over as the next chief executive of the NCAA in November, described the discussions as "Good. Good, but complicated."
Because the Pac-10 has to work out individual agreements with each of the schools involved and has to overcome major logistical issues, including complex travel scenarios, it's hard to imagine anything getting done in a matter of days. Scott said it's possible the expansion announcement could come as early as July 27, the first day of the Pac-10 football media days in New York. The new schools wouldn't join the Pac-10 until the 2012-2013 school year, Scott said.
The Pac-10 begins negotiating its new TV agreement at the end of this year and Scott said he needs to know the makeup of his conference before he sits down with TV executives. There are reports that expansion could be worth as much as $20 million per school. Scott hired the Creative Artists Agency to help negotiate the conference's next media deal.
One unnamed Big 12 school administrator told The American-Statesman of Austin, "I've talked to the Pac-10. There is an invitation. When it comes, it'll come fast."
Said Scott: "We absolutely could move more quickly if we needed to, but we're under no pressure to decide anything earlier than the end of the year."
Because the Big 12 is feeling the squeeze, Scott said he reached out to that conference's commissioner Dan Beebe and to several other conference commissioners. The collapse of the Big 12 would create an upheaval in the landscape of college sports that stretched from coast to coast.
"I know there's some anxiety being created there," Scott said.
Expansion isn't the only agenda on Scott's plate. He said he will unveil a series of marketing initiatives at the July 27 media day that will include airing Pac-10 games in Asian countries.
"The West Coast is the gateway to the Pacific Rim," Scott said. "We've got a lot of student-athletes with Asian roots. Some of our schools have a very high level of brand recognition in Asia and a lot of international interest. I think we're going to be the first collegiate conference to have an international marketing plan."
Mark Saxon covers USC football for ESPNLosAngeles.com.