Big Ten, Pac-12 Agree to Far-Reaching Scheduling Partnership
By Tony Gerdeman
Long hitched together via the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten and Pac-12 took a much larger step forward in their relationship on Wednesday by announcing a more focused, long-term scheduling agreement across all sports between the two conferences.
Some of the scheduling is expected to begin as soon as the 2012-2013 academic year, though football isn't expected to be included until 2017 because of how far out programs coordinate their non-conference football schedules.
There will even be cross-promotion among the two conferences' cable networks, though the Pac-12's network doesn't launch until next August.
It's an agreement that serves many purposes, not the least of which is growing an already strong bond between two of the six major athletic conferences in the NCAA.
"As other conferences continue to grow through expansion, we believe there is great merit in deepening the historic relationship between the Big Ten and Pac-12," said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany.
"We believe that both conferences can preserve that sense of collegiality and still grow nationally by leveraging our commonalities in a way that benefits student-athletes, fans and alumni. This collaboration can and will touch many institutional undertakings, and will complement our academic and athletic missions."
The agreement will no doubt result in the BTN's footprint growing out west, and the Pac-12's network getting good initial footing in the midwest. Both of which will result in increased revenue between the two conferences.
The most exciting news for football fans is that beginning in 2017, each member of the two conferences will play a non-conference game against a team from the other conference every year.
This plan calls for matchups to be rotated, but the teams will be matched fairly between, what Delany terms, "like-minded programs." It has not yet been decided exactly when these games will occur on the schedule, but it will likely be early and Delany said it could span "two, three or even four weekends".
The marquee games in both football and basketball would then be aired by the highest bidder, likely FOX or ESPN, which will provide even more revenue to the two conferences.
According to the USA Today, marquee games may even be played at neutral sites, like NFL stadiums and NBA arenas.
The non-marquee games would then be aired by the BTN and the Pac-12 Network, which provides necessary inventory for the networks, which also brings in more revenue via ad sales.
The agreement is an answer to the rampant expansion going on in college athletics right now, but it doesn't necessarily negate the possibility that the Big Ten or Pac-12 may explore expansion in the future.
However, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, once an aggressive proponent for expansion, thinks this move will now put those aspirations on the back-burner.
"We've obviously explored the possibility of going beyond twelve (teams)," Scott told ESPN.com.
"I've been a believer, philosophically, of that if it made sense. Now I don't see us expanding anytime in the foreseeable future. A lot of what we can do through collaborating with the Big Ten will help us accomplish some of the same things."
The connection between these two conferences began back in 1902 with the inaugural Rose Bowl, and has grown ever since. It's an innovative agreement that will bear fruit in places that likely haven't even been considered yet.
Where it will be most readily apparent, however, will be in the experiences of the 17,000-plus student athletes on the 550 teams between the two conferences, and the fans that follow every last one of them.
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