It was announced Wednesday that the Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences will form a “collaboration” for future scheduling that will involve all sports, with the football collaboration starting with the 2017 season.
The conference commissioners described the process as getting many of the benefits of expansion without the hassles involved. In all honesty, that logic makes a lot of sense. There’s probably going to be another major shift in the college sports landscape in a few years -- be it a super-conference or something else -- so the conferences get to explore this option to see where it goes in the meantime.
There’s no real need for the Pac-12 to expand beyond its current number of teams and media contract right now. There are a lot of good natural rivalries that have been structured in the new conference -- plus a lot of money -- and it makes sense to let things settle for a while before looking at expanding even more.
If you’re the Pac-12 conference and looking to make a deal like this, the Big Ten is the logical choice. It makes sense from a prestige standpoint, as the Big Ten boasts some of the most powerful names in college sports. It also will be a good thing for USC fans if future schedules include stops in places such as Ann Arbor or Columbus.
There has already been a long history established between the two conferences with the Rose Bowl tie-in, a previously exclusive relationship that has been already altered in recent years by the BCS.
By reaching this arrangement with the Big Ten, the Pac-12 also assures itself of regular match-ups with a quality conference that includes major markets and cities for games and events. With the two conferences both having their own networks, this element will be a boon to provide programming for both entities.
It will be very interesting to see how the football matchups play out. It will be natural for the conferences to want to put the best teams against each other for a marquee game, but that adds a tough out-of-conference opponent for those teams.
This is especially critical for the Trojans, as one of their out-of-conference spots is already reserved for Notre Dame. USC has no plans to end the rivalry with the Fighting Irish and they usually play another strong OOC opponent anyways, so this schedule will not be too much of a departure from what Trojans fans are used to seeing.
There will also be recruiting implications. Schools from both conferences will be able to sell themselves players from the other region by stating that more games will be played in their area on a regular basis. The two conferences cover some fertile recruiting grounds, so it’s easy to imagine this part of the relationship being a benefit.
You have to hand it to Larry Scott. Like him or not, the Pac-12 commissioner has been proactive in his tenure with the conference. After so many years of the conference seeming to be behind the times, Scott is definitely out in front of the curve. He has shown it with the way he structured the landmark media deal with the Pac-12 Network, and now he is involved with forming a collaboration that will likely help shape the future of college athletics.