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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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July 7, 2008 10:36 PM

Just say no to Pac-10 expansion

Posted by Bob Condotta

A few of you have asked whether the Pac-10 might be more amenable to expanding now that commissioner Tom Hansen is on his way out --- he'll officially retire next summer.

I'd been putting together some thoughts on the issue to respond when I read this today from Dick Harmon of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City and realized he echoed many of my views.

Harmon says there's no chance that BYU and Utah will be invited into the conference, nor will anyone else, which is exactly what I think, as well. Whenever I've asked the question of conference or school officials I've almost always been told that there's really no interest from the Pac-10's side to expand. The conference tried in the mid-90s, most notably approaching Colorado and Texas. But those two decided to head to the new Big 12, and serious expansion hasn't been broached since.

Harmon also reiterates a point I made here earlier --- that people assign way too much power to conference commissioners such as Hansen for making these kinds of decisions. It is not Hansen who has stood in the way of the Pac-10 expanding, or Hansen who is the sole reason the conference is against a playoff. Hansen, instead, is merely serving as the public voice of the conference's presidents and chancellors, who are against both. Hansen works for the presidents, chancellors, etc, and if they don't want something to happen, it's not going to happen no matter what a commissioner might want. This is also something to consider when ripping Hansen for the conference's TV deals. It's the fact that the presidents/chancellors don't want to move basketball games to Monday night at 9 p.m. for ESPN that matters most, not whatever Hansen thinks.

Where I differ with Harmon is on his somewhat harsh critique that the conference mostly doesn't want to share its money. That the conference isn't concerned with being fair. I'd ask Harmon this --- why should the Pac-10 expand? Why should it split its financial pie? What would the Pac-10 really gain? What's unfair about wanting to keep something that has worked well for 30 years the way it is and not wanting to disrupt some hard-earned traditions?

As a longtime fan of the Pac-10, I see no reason to change, nothing that BYU would really add other than maybe a little more money, that would make it worth it to alter some of the things I think help make the conference great, such as the round-robin football schedule or the traditional traveling partners in basketball. He says both BYU and Utah would be better than Washington State or Oregon State. That's debateble by any measure, I think. But even if you grant that, is that a reason to want add BYU and Utah, that they are better than the two worst programs in the conference? To me, that would be a reason for holding out on expansion to make sure it's something that's a no-brainer, as Texas and Colorado would have been.

One of the most common arguments for expansion is that it would allow the Pac-10 to play a conference championship football game. But I think a lot of people around the conference fear it might not be much of a success. Say you play it in the Rose Bowl every year. What happens if Oregon wins the north division and Arizona the south? Are they going to get 90,000 for that on one week's notice with fans of both teams knowing a bowl game also awaits? What kind of TV rating is that going to get?

And speaking of divisions, I would ask UW fans who might favor expansion if that's something you really want. That would almost inevitably mean that the Huskies wouldn't play both USC and UCLA every year, also meaning there would be seasons that neither would visit Seattle. You really want to give up the annual visit from USC/UCLA to add Utah?

The Pac-10 may have its issues --- TV contracts, bowl games, though I've argued elsewhere that I don't think either is really as bad as often portrayed --- but those aren't things that will be solved by expansion. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


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