CBS' Dennis Dodd reported today that the commissioner of the Pac-10 has had conversations with the Big 10 and Big East about holding a championshp game with less than the NCAA-mandated twelve teams.
The article notes that there's not a lot of value for the Pac-10 adding teams. Unlike the Big Ten, it does not have a cable network that is driving the expansion issue. (Although, there reportedly have been talks about the Pac-10 and/or Big 12 joining forces to form one.)
Dodd's article leaves the impression though that the Pac-10 might be interested in staying at ten teams but having a championship game. What stands in the way are NCAA bylaws that require a conference to have 12 teams to hold a conference championship.
So I'm reading this article and I'm thinking, well good luck with that Pac-10. If I remember correctly the ACC wanted to do the same thing but was told they needed twelve teams. That set them on the path to expansion and the Big East raid. So why is the Pac-10 commissioner bothering to talk to the Big East and Big Ten about this? Well they're the only BCS conferences that don't have a conference championship. Maybe he's trying to cobble together some support to get the twelve team rule overturned?
Here's another thought. What if the Pac-10 decided to set up a championship game that involved not one but two or more conferences? Suppose the Pac-10 approaches the Big East and says, "Hey let's soak up some of this post regular-season, pre bowl time TV time and maximize our TV revenue by staging a Pac-10/Big East championship?" Now I'd include the Big Ten in this idea because it, or at least Joe Paterno and Barry Alvarez are concerned about the Big Ten disappearing from the public eye after conclusion of the Big Ten season. Expansion, however, makes more sense for the Big Ten because of the potential for further profits from their Big Ten Network cash cow.
The Big East and the Pac-10 don't have that option. If Dodd reports that the Pac-10 is having trouble finding schools "valuable" enough to support expansion, how do you think the Big East feels? The Pac-10 targets could be Utah, BYU, and Colorado. The Big East gets to look at UCF, Memphis, and East Carolina. Now don't get me wrong, I think any of these schools could become valuable members of the Big East, just as USF, Cincinnati, and Louisville did. "Become" is the operative word though. They're not going to come in and immediately increase the pie.
But a Pac-10/Big East championship would increase the TV revenues of both conferences. Some hungry network would be happy to pick it up during the week of the other conference championships. You don't have to expand to do it. Finally, it gets you back in the public eye during conference championship week. Alternate the site between the Pac 10/BE champ for the first few years so you don't have the embarrassment of an empty Gator Bowl like the ACC had. If you get a really prime matchup like a highly ranked West Virginia and USC you can always move it to a larger pro stadium nearby if deamand warrants it. In fact most of the teams in these conferences line up pretty well with nearby pro stadiums. Just look at the BE: WV and Pitt- Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Cincy and Louisville-Paul Brown Stadium, Rutgers, UConn, Syracuse-The new Meadowlands, USF- Raymond James Stadium. The Pac 10 already has USC, UCLA, in the LA Coliseum and Rose Bowl, Cal's Memorial Stadium seats 75,000, Stanford can play at Candlestick, Husky Stadium holds 72,500, (Sorry Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State, you get to schlep to Seattle), and Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium and Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Now, I'm sure the bowl interests would fight this tooth and nail. The Big Ten wouldn't like it. But, hey, with the Big Ten's potential expansion, it' a bold new world in college football right?
Now, will this stave off expansion for both of these conferences forever? No. But not a bad interim step to make some money.