The Pac-10 Conference is reportedly nearing a decision on how to divide the conference into two six-team divisions next year, when Colorado and Utah will join the conference to create the Pac-12.
Conference athletic directors discussed possible configurations during a meeting in San Francisco last week, and Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott said he hopes to have a final decision made by Oct. 21, when the league’s presidents and chancellors will meet.
Under the current scheduling format in both basketball and football, the teams play each other in a round-robin format. Each football team plays the other once, and each basketball team plays other teams twice — once away and once at home.
The issue is that Pac-10 football currently has no conference championship game. This will most likely change with the addition of Colorado and Utah, as the 12 teams will be split into two divisions, with the winner of each meeting in a conference championship game.
The question that remains is how it should be done.
One option is the so-called “zipper” format, in which each geographic rivalry would be split into separate divisions — USC split from UCLA, Stanford from Cal, Arizona from Arizona St. and so on. However, each team would still play a nine-game schedule, which would include two or three conference games out of their division — one against its rival.
Another solution is a North-South split, in which the Pacific Northwest schools would create one division and the Southern California and Arizona schools the other.
The issue is whether to put the Northern California schools or the conference newcomers in the South. If Stanford and Cal were put with the Southern schools, it would isolate the Northern Division from recruiting-rich California. However, if the Bay Area schools are placed in the north, they would lose their annual rivalry games with USC and UCLA, and therefore the media revenue and exposure gained from playing in the Los Angeles market.
Either way, the winner of each division would face each other in a conference championship game, presumably at a neutral site, although Scott did say that the conference is exploring having the school with a better record or standing host the championship.
However, should USC lose its appeal to the NCAA regarding its program sanctions, it would not be able to participate in the championship game until 2012.
In basketball, the conference wants to keep its 18-game conference set-up. In order to do this, teams will play their geographic rivals along with six other teams in a home-and-home format, meaning one game would be played at each school. They would then play one game against the other four conference teams; two at home and two on the road. That would ensure that all conference teams play each other at least once during the season, but not all in a home-and-home set-up.
The conference tournament in basketball would invite all 12 teams and remain at the Staples Center until 2012.
The conference currently has a television contract with Fox Sports Net, but will most likely open up television negotiations next year.