Before Pac-10 leaders announce their new 12-team division setup for the 2011 football season next week, they'll have to find a way to appease the two schools that occupy the geographic middle of the conference as we've known it since 1978--Stanford and Cal.
According to a report by ESPN.com's Andy Katz, a compromise is in the works after the conference's athletic directors were unable to reach consensus during meetings last week in San Francisco. The conference is expected to announce a north-south split with two six-team divisions. Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State and two of four schools to be determined would form the North division. UCLA, USC, Arizona, Arizona State, and two of four schools to be determined would form the South division. The four schools without an obvious home: Cal, Stanford, and newcomers Colorado and Utah.
As Katz reports:
The schools in the Northwest will sign off on a north-south split, but want Stanford and Cal to be in their division instead of Colorado and Utah to ensure a foothold in recruiting-rich California.
However, the California schools would rather stay together, which would mean UCLA and USC being with Stanford and Cal. Add southern schools Arizona and Arizona State, and the South not only would have all of California, but also a historical competitive advantage, even if the current standings show the Oregon schools atop the conference.
One possible compromise, which California Golden Blogs commented on last week, would place Stanford and Cal in the North division, but with guaranteed games every year against the Los Angeles schools. CGB's assessment of this scenario is worth a full read, but one of their main contentions is that such an arrangement would put the Cardinal and Bears at a competitive disadvantage. I think that argument puts a little too much stock in the Bruins' and Trojans' past success. It's not that I don't expect the Los Angeles schools to rise again, but I imagine there will be years, such as this one, when playing out-of-division games against UCLA and USC would offer an easier path to playing in the Pac-10 Championship than games against Utah and Arizona.
Katz reiterated that the Pac-12 will maintain an 18-game schedule sans divisions for basketball. Conference rivals, including Cal and Stanford, would play a home-and-home every year. Each team would play six other conference foes home-and-home and the remaining four teams once on a rotating basis by year.
As someone who grew up following the ACC in addition to Stanford, I still haven't gotten over the death of the true round-robin basketball schedule when the conference expanded. No compromise or alignment can fix that. What are your thoughts on the proposed split?