Pac-10 presidents are expected to announce realignment and revenue-sharing plans Thursday for the new 12-team conference. Under the new revenue-sharing model, USC and UCLA will each receive $2 million more of broadcast revenue than the other 10 schools, until that revenue reaches an annual threshold, which will be from $130 million to $170 million.
Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is counting on a fast resolution at the league’s game-changing meeting of presidents Thursday in San Francisco, but the matter of a monetary threshold for equal revenue sharing among members still looms as a key issue.
Sources familiar with the Pac-10’s recent discussions over the expansion issues say the presidents will vote on a proposed $2 million-per-year payout apiece for USC and UCLA above the other 10 members of the new Pac-12 until the year that combined broadcast revenues reach a certain threshold. Then the 12 members would share equally.
That threshold is still in question, and probably will range from $130 million to $170 million annually. Consensus on the number could be fine-tuned already, as Scott is known to have had back-channel talks with presidents as a result of groundwork laid by athletic directors in recent months.
The Pac-10 announced late last week that an 11:30 a.m. news conference with Scott will follow the meeting of the presidents. That indicated confidence the commissioner will emerge relatively quickly with resolution on the key issues of divisional alignment and revenue sharing.
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Last week, USC athletic director Pat Haden revealed at a Trojans booster meeting that the ADs, in concert with Scott, had voted on a divisional alignment of the Northwest plus the Bay Area schools, putting the Los Angeles schools with the Arizonas, Colorado and Utah.
Scott, in Washington on Saturday for two Pac-10 football games, wouldn’t confirm that was the ADs’ recommendation, but that format is likely to be rubber-stamped by the presidents. What could still be negotiable is whether the California members play each other annually in football and how often the Northwest schools will play those in L.A.
The revenue-sharing issue is less splashy for fans, but no less important for the financial well-being of the non-L.A. programs.
While most of the major conferences, including the powerful SEC and Big Ten, share TV revenue equally, the Pac-10’s model is heavily weighted toward the participants. For instance, for conference games, each reaps 32 percent of the revenue, while the eight non-participants share the remaining 36 percent.
The L.A. schools, generally favored by TV, have thus campaigned in recent meetings for a high threshold before the equalizer kicks in, while Scott has tried to build consensus for a unified front when the league, in 2011, begins talks for contracts to take effect in 2012-13.
“Everyone is about to get a lot healthier than they’ve ever been,” Scott said Saturday. “There’s a very robust media market right now.”
While the SEC and Big Ten each have contracts of about $200 million annually, the Pac-10’s combined football/basketball deals are worth only about $53 million annually.
But league insiders are confident that number is about to rise dramatically for the following reasons:
• The Pac-10 deals were struck three years earlier than the Big Ten and SEC;
• They are believed undervalued in any case;
• The Pac-10 can now offer a conference-title football game;
• It will add the No. 16 TV market in Denver;
• The merger of Comcast Corp. and NBC Universal might drive up bidding rights.
Scott is also bullish on a Pac-12 TV network, which would also increase revenue significantly.
“I would be pretty optimistic,” said A.J. Maestas, a media-rights consultant and president of Navigate Marketing in Chicago, referring to the next bidding process. He also notes that the Pac-10, under Scott, has shown a willingness to be more flexible in football and basketball scheduling, allowing for windows like Thursday nights for football.
A benchmark closely watched in the Pac-10 is the Atlantic Coast Conference’s football/basketball rights fees of $155 million reached earlier this year. While the basketball property is more valuable there, Pac-10 administrators believe their own football property vastly outstrips the ACC’s.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281