Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Jun 2010

Colorado Joins the Pac-10

And so it begins.

Many experts believed that Nebraska would be the first team to jump ship from the Big 12, but it turns out that Colorado will exit first. The school has accepted an offer to join the Pac-10 conference.

"This is an historic moment for the conference, as the Pac-10 is poised for tremendous growth," commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.

The last couple of words in that statement are key -- the Pac-10 still has it sights set on some bigger Big 12 teams, namely Texas.

Posted by: David Gardner on 10 Jun 2010

54 comments, Last at 12 Jun 2010, 1:43am by An Onimous


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 1:58pm

Another wild card in this matter is the degree to which prominent Senators from certain states, say, Utah, believe that this merger mania is leaving their football fan constituents in a better or worse position, with regard to their favorite team having a shot at getting a piece of tasty post season pie. If it is the latter, a few conference commissioners and university presidents may end up regretting the decisions they made.

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:29pm

I don't think the commissioners or presidents will regret any of this (the presidents certainly won't; they'll look at the academic importance and leave the rest for the ADs and commissioners).

The commissioners have an obvious out: hey look, now we only have five conference with automatic BCS spots. And what a coincidence! The Mountain West wanted one. Well, here you go. Enjoy! (Of course if the Mountain West does invite Boise State - why they are delaying is absolutely beyond me - then Utah and BYU are going to have a tougher road for the near future anyway. The Broncos may not roll through the MWC like they did the WAC, but it's not like Missouri joining the Big Ten either.)

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:47pm

Four conferences.

Once the SEC gets into the expansion business, there will be a cascading effect that is going to kill either the ACC or the Big East as major football conferences. Guess the casualty will be the BE. Plus Rutgers will jump at the opportunity to join the Big 10 if possible and bring the NYC market with it. Nobody cares about Big East football anyway. It should have been a basketball conference in the first place.

by Dean :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:53pm

Except that Rutgers doesn't actually deliver the New York market.

No team does, really. It's a pro town. No college team has ever really been a ratings draw in New York.

Penn State and Notre Dame probably draw the best. When Syracuse is good, they draw OK. But none of them are big draws in the 5 boroughs.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:58pm

As long as it can serve as a ticket to get out of the dying Big East, Rutgers probably wouldn't care that much.

by DavidL :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 3:00pm

Rutgers won't, but the Big 10 will. What's the upside for them? Jersey?

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 3:06pm

Yeah, Jersey, which has a bigger population than Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Iowa, is probably far richer, and most importantly is an inseparable part of the biggest television market on the whole continent.


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 3:18pm

When you have your own network, the number of households into which your product is available, and the terms under which it is available, becomes even more critical. I don't know what percentage of households in Jersey gets the Big 10 Network, nor do I know what tier it is available on, but if adding Rutgers improves things in either regard, then the Big 10 would be nuts to not add them.

by Dean :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:13pm

Changing "New York" to "New Jersey" doesn't really change anything.

New Jersey is Pro Sports country.

In the South, Birmingham can't get a pro team because it'd automatically be 3rd tier behind Auburn and 'Bama. Rutgers will never be more than about the 14th option - even in their home state - behind the various NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB teams in NY/NJ and Philly.

Whatever TV ratings you can get for college football in New Jersey are already delivered by the Big Ten. Notre Dame might improve ratings in that market, but not Rutgers.

It's as much of a fallacy as the idea that Temple can somehow deliver the Philadelphia market.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:26pm

Put it another way, Rutgers will be the Big Ten Network's ticket into the NYC Metro market. If it can get into a fraction of basic cable packages or even better options for pay packages, the profits would be dizzying. With Rutgers, the Big Ten Network would be "local" programming.

Half of the Big Ten has the perfect right to scoff at Rutgers. But for a conference with two teams in freaking Indiana and is looking to add a third, scoffing at Jersey is quite hilarious.

by Dean :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:35pm

Except that you completely miss the point.

If you're a cable/satillite provider, why do you make that deal? If you weren't offering the Big Ten Network before, adding Rutgers is NOT going to suddenly make it an economically viable proposition in New York/New Jersey (or anywhere else for that matter).

It may be located in Indiana, but adding Notre Dame would be MUCH more likely to actually deliver those pesky ratings things that the network will need in order to be profitable. And I say this despite the fact that I hate Notre Dame.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:53pm

You have to be on the channel listings to gain ratings. Right now the Big Ten Network isn't very accessible in New York.

With a local team, more cable companies will carry Big Ten Network in the NY Metro area, in wider packages. That's just how the industry works. (Local NFL games are still on television, after all.)

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 11:20pm

The other difference is that the BTN charges substantially more per subscriber within the conference footprint than outside of it. (I am guessing that the references to "Rutgers delivering NYC to the Big Ten" refer to the mystical rules that would somehow define NYC as part of Rutgers' home territory.)

Even if the BTN were available throughout NYC, the change in revenue would be significant, given the size of the market, which is why Rutgers keeps coming up instead of, well, any number of other schools on the list. (Rutgers does bring things to the table, else they wouldn't be mentioned, but they are a poor fit in ways that, say, Pittsburgh is not.)

by Dean :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 9:33am

And if you belive the addition of Rutgers will somehow magically make the providers include the Big Ten Network when they're not including it now, you're simply deluding yourself. Rutgers simply isn't that important - even in its local area.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 10:57am

If you think it wouldn't, you are simply ignorant of how cable sports work. Rutgers doesn't have to be important, it just has to be local. Furthermore, if it's not important today when it's competing against UConn football and USF, it certainly will be a much bigger draw when it plays Michigan, OSU, PSU etc every week.

by Dean :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:03pm

"Rutgers doesn't have to be important, it just has to be local. "

So then why is there not also a mad crush to televise and buy ad space at Princeton football? Or Fordham?

Or, if you want to change to another Northeast city for a D-1A example, take a look at Temple. The Big East brought them in thinking it would somehow "capture" Philly - much like how Rutgers was somehow going to "capture" New York/New Jersey. It didn't work. And adding Michigan and Ohio State to the bill isn't going to change that. Nobody cared when they (Temple/Rutgers) were playing Boston College or Syracuse - programs which at the time had every bit as high a profile in the northeast (but not nationwide) as the elite Big 10 powers.

People will tune in for Penn State and Notre Dame - but they're already tuning in for those two programs. They're not going to watch in larger numbers because one of those schools is playing Rutgers.

At the end of the day, Rutgers isn't going to generate ad revenue, and adding the Knights to the Big 10 will not increase the ratings of BTN into the NY/NJ marketplace.

by DavidL :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 2:03pm

This is the same fallacy the NFL commits whenever it moves a team to Los Angeles. Just because people watch sports doesn't mean they will watch whatever team you put in front of them, just because it happens to be nearby.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 3:05pm

That may happen, and if the final result is 64 teams from four conferences having a shot at the big post season cash, that may get certain politicians motivated to get involved. You would think that these guys would be smart enough to avoid this, but ya' never know.

by dryheat :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 11:53am

It was.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:50pm

I didn't say it was probable that they would have regrets. Never underesitmate, however, the possibility of people like this doing something extremely stupid.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:55pm

To illustrate the point, you can pretty much put the blame of college football instability in the last twenty years on the SMU Death Penalty and the 12-team championship game rule, which led to the demise of the SWC, which led to the expansion of the Big 8 and the SEC, which led to ACC poaching the BE, and finally the last year.

As soon as the Big 10 signaled its intention to expand, the whole rotten thing crashed.

by Bobman :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 6:23pm

"tasty post season pie"

Aw crap, man, now I'm hungry....

by Travis :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:13pm

I presume The Pac-10 invited Colorado first because they really don't want to have to take Baylor with the other 3 Texas schools, and Colorado was the team that would have been bumped for Baylor.

by Lola was a dude (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:32pm

I thought the same thing. I wonder if this wasn't a way to put pressure on the Texas legislators who are threatening to make the 4 Texas schools into a package deal. Now if they want to do that, they'll be handcuffing Texas (and A&M) to a disintegrating conference, for the benefit of Baylor.

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 11:25pm

I think that is exactly correct. The Pac-10 is desperate enough (apparently) to want to invite several Texas schools, but not all of them; they've been looking at Colorado for some time, apparently, because I seem to recall hearing that rumor months ago, and I'm sure CU can't wait to get out of the Big 12.

From other rumors I've read recently, the fact that the four Texas schools can't go as a package deal to either conference has freed Texas and Texas A&M to go their own way, as Fleetwood Mac would say it. Basically, their message to the Lege seems to be "We told you so, no one was going to let us in with those jerks in the car anyway, so now we're outta here. See ya! P.S. we'll send a truck with research dollars in a couple of years. Find a big place we can put it."

If that is how it plays out, I say thank you to the Pac-10 and Colorado!

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:15pm

I will ask the commenters: Does this mean anything about CU's attitude toward football changing?

I'm hoping not, but I'm afraid that a headline-grabbing move like this (especially being the first one) will be ammunition to put more into the football program, which I absolutely do not want happening. However, I also really don't understand what any of this means for them.

by zlionsfan :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:26pm

It means they are moving to a conference where academics are valued, for one thing ... sure, they may feel compelled to spend more on football, but how much are, say, Washington and Washington State spending? I would think they would be Colorado's counterparts at this point.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 3:00pm

I won't worry too much then.

by Scott C :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 8:02pm

Also, note that the extra ~ $10M+ a year in football revenues due to this will change the way they approach football and ALL OTHER SPORTS.

It pays for much of the rest of the athletic budget and helps stabilize the situation there so that they can focus on both academics and on the side do athletics.

Cal calls it "comprehensive excellence". Short hand for Not Ivy League But Still Good At Academics.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 3:09pm

One aspect of this story which has surprised me is that there has been little talk of schools like Cal or Stanford being reluctant to being joined to a school like Texas Tech.

by Eddo :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:02pm

Sure there has been; I've seen it referred to as "The Tech Problem". It appears, though, that joining up with a hugely profitable and academically strong school like the University of Texas makes it worthwhile to have to accept Texas Tech with it.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:06pm

Stanford and Cal, sure. But it's not like Washington and ASU could really scoff at anybody else's academics.

by Eddo :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:51pm

Good point. I wanted to note that, but couldn't easily find academic rankings (and a pesky thing called my job beckoned). And I knew that blindly throwing out poorly-rated schools without sourcing it would draw the ire of alumni if I had assumed wrongly.

by sidereal (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 6:24pm

Um, WTF?

Washington is an excellent school, particularly for Medicine and Comp Sci. You know what UW sucks at? Football. Education, not so much.

Perhaps you meant WSU, which specializes in winter wheat and underage drinking.

by patriotsgirl :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 6:42pm

U-Dub actually has a reputation as one of the best public schools in the country; US News currently has it ranked higher than UT-Austin.

So the Pac-10 has 5 extremely well-respected schools (Stanford, Cal, UCLA, UW, and USC), and 4 public schools that are solid financial choices for in-state students (WSU, Arizona, ASU, and Oregon are all Tier 1 under US News' rankings). Though it seems OSU is the outlier, I'd say that it's not disingenuous for the Pac-10 to be concerned about academics.

/graduate of a Pac-10 school that isn't UW

by To Titicaca (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 6:51pm

You must mean WSU.

by Scott C :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 7:53pm

Check out the world academic rankings:

The Pac-10 has the #2 (Stanford), #3(Cal), #13(UCLA), and #16(Washington) schools.

#16, world-wide, is WASHINGTON.

I'm a Cal grad and fan, but several others in the Pac-10 are also great academic schools.

University of Colorado at Boulder is #34, and Texas is #38. USC is 46, Arizona is 77.

Sure, poke fun at Arizona St. and Oregon St. Only the Ivy League can compete with a comparable top echelon (#1, #7, #8, #11, #12). Except, that by size of student body, Cal, UCLA, and Washington alone dwarf the Ivy League.

Adding Texas and Colorado is a big plus on the academic side.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:42pm

It means they are jumping off a sinking ship. Simple as that. Losing the STL, KC and Texas (and now Denver) markets means the Big 12 is dead.

As to your wish for CU not to spend more money on football, apparently nobody cares.

by Dean :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:48pm

The Big 12 hasn't lost STL and KC yet. And it may not. The Big 10 was the least likely of the conferences to go apeshit with expansion plans. They just might stop at 12.

And if the politicians and the Baylor Plan torpedo the mass exodus to the Pac 10, suddenly the Big 12 might not be quite so dead.

Personally, I wouldn't mourn the loss of the Big 12, but I suppose there are folks who would.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 3:23pm

Delaney would be a real schmuck to stop at 12, if the 12th's mascot ain't a little guy in a green suit and hat, which may mean you are correct.

by Dean :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:15pm

Agreed. I'm assuming for the moment that Notre Dame isn't jumping on board. But if they do, the Big Ten would do backflips.

by UTchamps (not verified) :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 2:55pm

Texas, USC, LSU, Florida, FSU, OSU, Alabama, Tennessee, Va Tech, Oklahoma, Miami and Nebraska should just say ef the BCS and start a champions conference.

Then they could adopt relegation and let in teams like Boise State etc. and kick out the worst two every year. I was kidding at first but I really like this idea now.

by andrew :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:20pm

That would be an awesome league. But no college president is going to risk relegation.

by tuluse :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 6:07pm

College sports with relegation would be the most awesome thing ever.

Although I think it would lead to my rooting interest, Illinois quickly being thrown out of the top football league.

by andrew :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 4:19pm

Miami, Florida, Florida State, Central Florida, South Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida A&M and I think there's a school in Jacksonville too.

Then Texas could revive the old SWC, just make it the texas schools plus the ones that were left out when they went to the Big 12...

If nothing else these public schools could save a lot of money on travel costs...

by Brendan Scolari :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 7:02pm

A main point for these expansions though is to get more TV markets. An All-Florida (or All-Texas) conference only gets 1 state's TV market, meaning they'd get a lot less money.

by andrew :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 8:33am

After all the defections, a bold new big 12 emerges:

University of Phoenix Online
Northeastern University
Florida International University
Connecticut School of Broadcasting
Western New England College Lawschool
ITT Tech
Faber College
The Citadel
Trinity (Texas)
Old Dominion

by Joe T. :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 9:54am

That would be sweet.

But take out Old Dominion and replace them with Johnson & Wales.

by dryheat :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:05pm

Kansas should be able to finish in the first half of those. UMASS might be able to move up though. I hear NETTS and Strayer are dueling for the right to replace the Minutemen.

by An Onimous (not verified) :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 11:24am

I think everyone is missing the single most significant implication of this move. With Colorado jumping ship to the Pac-10, it means there are currently conferences named "Big 10", "Big 12", and "Pac 10"... and all three of them have eleven teams.

by Lealand :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 12:39pm

The big ten actually has 12 teams if nebraska joins.

by Lance :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 1:51pm

Yeah. And if, at some point in the future, X number of teams join Y conference, then they will have N+X teams. At some point in the future. Good observation. But at the time the poster made his humorous observation, Nebraska hadn't made any move.

by An Onimous (not verified) :: Sat, 06/12/2010 - 1:43am

Nebraska did wind up severing ties with the Big 12 about 10 hours after my post, but it's not like it added any clarity. Now the Big 12 has 10 teams, the Big 10 has 12 teams, and the Pac 10 has 11 teams.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to higher education in America.

by FMTEMike (not verified) :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 1:52pm

If Rutgers is so attractive because of the New York market, why is no one chasing Rice or SMU to pull in Houston or Dallas? For the sam reason, because neither is a real draw in their own hom market...