The Pac-10 is about to be the Pac-12 in a year, meaning that some fundamental things about the conference will be changing next season. With the heads of the Pac-10 families meeting in October in San Francisco, we've decided to take a look at the upcoming pressing alignment issues and wonder what you think we'll happen, how it'll affect the conference for the better or for worse.
Today we look at the two conventional alignment scenarios floating around. Tomorrow we look at the radical alignment scenarios that could satisfy all parties, and the day after we focus on the championship game.
Although we're all aware of the zipper and pod proposals, for thought experiment purposes let's ignore the compromise ideas being floated around. Let's instead just assume everyone stays conventional and stodgy, as is typical to happen when old people come together to try and make forward-thinking decisions.
Thus, these following rules would apply: (1) every team must play each other in their division, (2) the top two teams from each division would play each other in the title game. Which would you prefer and why?
Here are the two most common scenarios being floated around.
North and South (dominant)
North Divison: Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, Wazzu
South Division: Arizona, ASU, Cal, Furd, UCLA, USC
Chip Brown mentioned that this will be the alignment, meaning I will ignore this rumor until I hear it from someone who can be trusted.
Logistics: Colorado-Utah becomes the new rivalry game in the conference. All the current schools preserve their rivalry games, but also preserve natural Northwest and California rivalries that have lasted longer (Oregon schools vs. Washington schools, California schools vs. each other).
Pros: This is ultimately what most Cal fans want. Our California rivalries are preserved and we don't have to worry about rotating LA schools every year. We would lose our traditional rivalries with the other Pac-8 schools and have to make do with trips to the Arizonas every year, but we also wouldn't have to go to Autzen and Seattle, the two hardest places to win a road game in the conference.
Cons: The Northwest schools lose their inroads to do California recruiting (sort of...if we stick with the nine game schedule, at minimum they'll at least get one trip every year to one California school). As Cal fans, we lose at least a few games with our old Pac-8 rivals, although before the round-robin we hadn't been playing them every year anyway.
If we go conventional though, this is probably what happens. The Northwest schools won't be happy, but what will they do, secede? The California schools are the big moneymakers, and you'd figure UCLA, USC and Cal (Furd doesn't have enough power in these negotiations) are the schools that carry the weight. Additionally, the pod scheduling proposal being floated around could alleviate the worries of the Northwest schools.
Northwest and Southeast (dark horse)
Northwest Divison: Cal, Furd, Oregon, Oregon St., Washington, Wazzu
Southeast Division: Arizona, ASU, Colorado, Utah, UCLA, USC
Logistics: The Colorado/Utah schools make the more geographically logical move to the Pac-12 Southern Division, while Cal and the Furd move on up with the Northwest schools.
Pros: Maintains our rivalries with the Northwest schools, meaning we will at least be guaranteed five games against old Pac-8 rivals. Leaves the Northwest schools happy that they get a game in California and a chance to make inroads with Bay Area/California recruiting every year. Also leaves the 10% highly tantalizing possibility of an all-California Pac-12 Championship, which would be the best possible outcome of a conference title game and would be sure to sell out and attract the highest television coverage.
Cons: Breaks up the California rivalries and would probably leave them with the choice of one of either USC or UCLA. It's an extremely unpalatable scenario that won't stick well with the TV networks; it'd be the Pac-10 equivalent of breaking up Florida and Georgia (low on the rivalry order, but still an iconic matchup) and not allowing them to play every year. Cal-UCLA and Cal-USC are two of the highest rated games TV networks get from the Pac-10 every year. The possibility of these games disappearing into thin air would make this scenario untenable.
I'd imagine there'd be a lot of unhappy people in California if this is the arrangement we get, and ultimately their voices will probably carry the day. Still, neither of these scenarios is likely to please everyone.
Thankfully, there are alternative possibilities...but we'll get to those tomorrow.