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Thoughts On Pac-10’s Effort To Boost Profile/Conference Expansion Chatter

Let's pick up on A's note on Pac-10 hiring Creative Arts Agency to help enhance the current profile (a vanilla one among BCS conferences) in the national scene. Like A I have no problem with the move either although I think we have to wait for the results before getting too excited over it. What seems pretty clear though that the new commissioner - Larry Scott - is being proactive about boosting the branding of this conference, which is a welcome change from the lifeless leadership of his predecessor.

Scott's fingerprints are also all over Pac-10's TV scheduling for next season, which has UCLA slotted for network television appearances for at least 7 times. UCLA is not the only team in the conference with increased visibility next season. Jon Wilner from the College Hotline blog picked up couple of key trends in the scheduling for next season. First, he noted that the number of appearances on ESPN is up compared to slots in ABC/ESPN2:

The total number of games on ESPN/ESPN2/ABC is the same as last year, according to Pac-10 officials, but more of the games are on ESPN.

And that's good for the conference: ABC games are usually shown regionally while those on ESPN are broadcast nationally.

Second, the conference is being flexible with kickoff times and scheduling:

There are four games on Thursday ... three on Friday ... and a bevy of 7:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m Saturday kickoffs (slotted right behind the must-see SEC game of the week).

In the past, the Pac-10's Saturday night regional/national broadcast window was restricted to FSN at 7:15.

"There's more flexibility," Weiberg said. "We're trying to work with our TV partners to increase exposure."

It's worth noting that weeknight games increase the amount of missed class time, something the league has been loathe to do in the past.

But this is the new, more flexible, exposure-hungry, dollar-seeking Pac-10, and the schools signed off on the Thursday and Friday night games.

I think a school like UCLA should be able to devise academic plan for its program to ensure the student-athletes miss the least amount of classes. If there are students who are going to miss classes for games scheduled on Thursdays, then the academic-advisers in the athletic department can work with students and professors to make sure necessary steps are taken in advance so that those guys are not missing out. 

I have known plenty of UCLA students who have had to miss one or two classes for number of reasons. They figured out ways to stay on top of their course work and do well in classes with the world ending around them. I think we are going to manage just fine in this case if the team plays couple of games of on Thursday nights.  That said of course there should always be a sense of moderation about all this. We will start to get a little queasy if UCLA starts scheduling 80 percent of its games on Thursday or Friday for the sake of national exposure.

In other conference related note, I guess expansion chatter is the other hot topic (besides whether the gutless NCAA will stand up to Southern Cal) this college football off-season. Ted Miller went over possible "options" (with some loopy ones) for the conference:

  • The Pac-10 does nothing and signs a new TV contract that keeps it (relatively) competitive. That likely would include some partnership with the Big 12 (whatever that conference looks like going forward).
  • The conference doesn't expand but adds a championship game, with the No. 1 seed playing host.
  • The conference adds Utah and Colorado and breaks into six-team divisions and adds a championship game.
  • The conference adds Texas and Texas A&M, breaks into six-team divisions and starts dancing in the streets.
  • The conference adds Texas, Texas A&M, Utah and Colorado. Carnival in Rio is relocated to the Pac-10 offices after the new Pac-14 Network estimates a $25 million per team distribution.
  • The conference adds Texas, Texas A&M, Utah, Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska. Commissioner Larry Scott wins Nobel Prize for Kicking Butt at the Negotiating Table, despite Big Ten and SEC opposition.

At this point I am not exactly sure how I feel about all of this. I still think the conference chatter needs to be around Colorado plus one.  I have written before that my preference would be the addition of Colorado/Colorado State so that we could keep symmetrical rivalries all along the Pac-10. Realistic options probably point towards addition of Colorado/Utah (even though the addition of Utah is not exactly exciting). The addition of Texas to the conference could be very exciting but at the same time I am not sure how would that benefit UCLA by allowing Texas to open up a recruiting front in Southern California.

I am sure others have more extensive thoughts on expansion but for me the most important task at hand for Scott et al. is to strategically market this conference to boost its profile. The entire conference was really hurt by complete lack of vision by the previous leadership. While other BCS conferences were carving up all the limelight over the years, Pac-10 was simply sitting on the sidelines content with itself.  Of course staying relevant in this expansion chatter by considering all options should be part of Scott's plan but for me the most important objective at this point is to get this conference back on the national radar so that it gets due respect around the country.