New Big Ten, Pac-12 alliance subtle & sensible
Score another shrewd move for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
The plan to strengthen ties with the Pac-12 by increasing athletic competition is a nice subtle response to the expansion mayhem that is sweeping the nation. It will give the two leagues a way to grow the audiences of their television networks without the complications and headaches.
The Big East's frantic trans-continental expansion plans to keep its football league alive are fraught with peril. Even the rock-solid SEC, with its additions of Texas A&M and Missouri, has created the potential for scheduling and geography issues.
Having covered an early-season game in the Rose Bowl--a 6-3 UCLA win over Illinois on Sept. 13, 2003--I can tell you a game like that can be a mere step-child to the Granddaddy of Them All. But it also has the potential to be good stuff--Illinois and Arizona State put on a good show in Champaign in September--if the teams are right.
And a series of Big Ten/Pac-12 nonconference matchups will beat the stuffing out of those endless tuneups in which Northeast Southwest State picks up a guarantee for getting pounded.
It's also a nice tip of the cap to the conferences' Rose Bowl partner and other bowl-system proponents who don't want a Plus-One or playoff system shoved down their throat. By further solidifying ties with the Pac-12, the Big Ten, which has been the conference most concerned with protecting the bowl system, has added a stronger potential ally.
Adding more competitive early-season games to the basketball schedules also seems promising.
The recent additions of Nebraska to the Big Ten, and Utah and Colorado to the Pac-12, are looking like solid moves that give the two leagues conference-championship-game symmetry and television benefits without reaching too far.
This new partnership also seems like a good next step because it allows the leagues to remain flexible.
If Notre Dame ever reverses its field and wants to join the Big Ten, that would be irresistible. In the meantime, since the Irish have given every indication they're not interested, the Big Ten has found a way to turn on more television sets, and enhance recruiting, throughout the vast Pac-12 West.
It's a good move for the Big Ten, another careful advance by Delany in the changing world of big-time college athletics.
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