Washington, Washington State will be in North Division with Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and California. The Huskies and Cougars will play USC and UCLA in football every other season.
SAN FRANCISCO — Elson Floyd, the Washington State president, called it “a very historic meeting.”
Indeed, it seemed all of that, even as the CEOs of the Pacific-10 Conference did their work in a hotel meeting room Thursday without the pomp of coats and ties.
When they emerged from a morning gathering, they made changes to the very fabric of the Pac-10. Moments later, commissioner Larry Scott announced:
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• The formation of the new Pac-12 into North and South divisions, with the Northwest schools joined to those in the Bay Area.
• Football scheduling that gives a nod to the history of the California schools, which will continue to meet every year, no matter the divisional alignment.
• A football championship game played on the home field of the division winner with the better record (or the victor in a tiebreaker).
• A revenue-sharing format, revolutionary for the conference, in which members will share equally in TV revenues when they reach a combined $170 million. Until then, USC and UCLA, traditional beneficiaries of the appearance-based model, will get a $2 million premium annually.
Said Scott, “We came up with a system we think is in the best long-term interest of this conference as an enterprise long-term.”
The issue of division alignment drew significant interest since the league announced it was adding Colorado and Utah in June. Scott said half a dozen models were considered in “an extremely extensive and rigorous process.”
Joining the two new schools to the Northwest seemed an imbalance, so the league settled on connecting California and Stanford to the Northwest. Scott produced a chart showing a competitive balance in the two divisions in games since 1997.
But it was clear from his comments and some of the presidents that a major issue was the possibility of breaking up rivalries between the California schools because of the alignment.
“The biggest conversation piece was the California schools, and what we do with the rivalries,” Floyd said.
Or, as Scott put it, “Part of the DNA of the Pac-10 is the importance of traditional rivalries.”
So those were preserved for the California schools, which means the Northwest schools will get only a game annually with one team from Los Angeles — and thus one trip every two years to an L.A. school.
“It wasn’t that big a deal,” said Washington athletic director Scott Woodward.
“It’s fine with us,” said Floyd, referring to WSU.
Scott, though, was asked how he would rationalize the arrangement to fans in Oregon, who were already questioning it.
“There’s still a lot of frequency in inter-divisional play,” he said.
The home-site championship game, Scott conceded, “may leave some revenue on the table, in terms of not playing in a 70,000-seat or 90,000-seat venue.” But he stressed the positive of playing before a capacity crowd in a more energized campus atmosphere.
Revenue-sharing became a greater possibility with the addition of Colorado and Utah, as the sentiment of the L.A. schools to keep the status quo became less forceful.
Scott said the expected big revenue bump in the next TV negotiations — for contracts to begin in 2012-13 — would ease the angst of USC and UCLA, which will each get the $2 million annual premium “basically until we get to the point where they’ve doubled the revenues they’ve been getting.”
In other developments:
• No other Pac-12 sports will have divisions.
• In basketball, the CEOs approved a format by which each school is guaranteed to play home-and-home with their traditional rival and will play six annual home-and-homes plus four single games for a total of 18.
• The league office is scrambling to readjust the conference football schedule for 2011, something Scott said should be in place in 30 to 45 days.
• Scott said simplicity won out over imagination for potential division names.
• The league also moved to a system of aggregate media rights — what Scott called a “more comprehensive, centralized approach.” In the current arrangement, schools can make deals in their local markets after the conference schedules are set, which will now change.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org