Scheduling alliance aimed at broadening Big Ten and Pac-12 reach, improving brands for the long haul
The Big Ten and the Pac-12 aren't merging. They're collaborating.
And in doing so, the two leagues are broadening their reach to brand new lengths.
"Our goal is to build something new here," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Wednesday during a teleconference. "On a strong foundation of history."
Delany and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott officially introduced a scheduling alliance Wednesday that will create annual inter-conference matchups between schools from both leagues in all sports, football included.
The hope is to have all 24 schools from both leagues fully participating in the collaboration by 2017, and to continue the alliance for the foreseeable future beyond that.
"It's not a five-year deal, it's not a 10-year deal," Delany said. "This is an indefinite collaboration to build both conferences over time."
Both Delany and Scott maintained how the collaboration between the two leagues made sense, and also allowed each league to expand its overall footprint.
The Pac-12 currently features schools from six different states, stretching from Washington to Arizona and California to Colorado. The Big Ten, meanwhile, holds a presence in nine states -- spanning from Minnesota to southern Indiana, and from Pennsylvania to Nebraska.
"Because there's no overlap (geographically), it really helps," Delany said. "I think what it allows us to do is extend our reach to become more national, while also sort of maintaining the essence of the competition that we have within our own region."
The most notable sport impacted by this partnership is football.
By 2017, the Big Ten and Pac-12 hope to create an annual 12-game inter-conference schedule between both leagues, creating meaningful preseason games to enhance competition, fan interest, television revenue (for both the Big Ten Network and the new Pac-12 Network) and recruiting bases.
"It's a natural fit, given the deep roots of the history of our conference's relationship," Scott said. "This is the logical partnership of this sort, but it doesn't mean we won't collaborate with other conferences in different ways."
Both Delany and Scott said the process of selecting football matchups is still ongoing, but Delany explained how both leagues will attempt to pair teams according to competition level.
In addition, Big Ten-Pac-12 games will likely take place during the first three weeks of the season, with most games occurring on college campuses. However, the agreement will create an opportunity for unique contests at neutral sites, possibly in new markets like New York, Atlanta or Texas.
Asked whether the football relationship would be branded as some type of challenge, similar to the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in basketball, Delany said not presently.
That doesn't mean no one will be keeping tabs on which league is more successful, though.
"Everybody counts in competition," Delany said. "Whether or not it's branded that way or not, I think people will measure and count and that's the nature of competition.
"We always try to play the best and we think the Pac-12 represents some of the very best intercollegiate athletic programs in the country."
Also, Delany said the Big Ten is likely to scrap the idea of moving to a nine-game conference schedule moving forward.
Leaving league members with three non-conference games to schedule outside of an annual required meeting with a Pac-12 school.
"When we began discussing this and adding this as a 12-game (series), our athletic directors jumped to the conclusion that if we do this, the nine-game (conference schedule) would then go away," Delany said.
The addition of a required Pac-12 opponent each season is likely to make a Big Ten team's path to the national championship game more difficult within the current Bowl Championship Series system.
Delany didn't argue that point, but did say the new collaboration is better than the alternative.
"For coaches that are used to having four home games that are four likely wins, it'll make it more challenging," he said. "But that's just one aspect of the overall take. Our presidents and our athletic directors were unanimously supportive of it."
While the goal is to bring football up to full participation by 2017, the rest of the Big Ten and Pac-12 sponsored sports -- including men's and women's basketball '' could be brought up to speed much sooner, possibly as early as the 2012-13 academic season.
As far as basketball is concerned, Delany maintained the agreement with the Pac-12 will not jeopardize the future of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, though it could -- in time -- create a similar packaged deal on its own.
"We're not looking at replacing (the Big Ten/ACC Challenge)," Delany said. "(But) when you have 12 or 13 (non-conference) basketball games, with games in Maui and Alaska, I certainly think there's room for round-robin competition between the Big Ten and Pac-12, it's just a matter of how you get there and format it."