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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

December 28, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Pac-12, Big Ten enhance their relationship

The Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences announced Wednesday an agreement whereby, starting in 2017, programs from each conference will meet one another annually in a football game, and the leagues will work to schedule each other more frequently in a variety of sports.

Some of the two leagues’ men’s and women’s basketball teams will begin playing each other regularly next year, which obviously could augur a new agreement for a “challenge” format, such as the Big Ten now stages with the ACC, and as the Pac-10 did with the Big 12 until this season. Commissioner Jim Delany of the Big Ten said on a conference call Wednesday, however, that he doesn’t foresee anything as “full-blown” as the challenge format.

Delany said the Big Ten/ACC Challenge has at least five more years to run, and he didn’t sound eager to see it expire.

The Pac-12/Big Ten agreement, hatched by Delany in some discussions earlier this year with Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther, allows for a greater reach by both conferences and the prospect of enhancing the brand of both.

“This allows us to achieve the benefits of expansion without having to expand,” said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. “This allows us to have more creative ways for more national presence, and at the same time, maintain the structure of our conference.”

There has been talk of the two leagues creating their own bowl game, and Scott didn’t squelch the notion, saying, “We haven’t had any detailed discussion about it. But we do realize that this collaboration will likely lead to a lot of other things that make sense. It’s absolutely a conversation we will have.”

Added Delany: “All creative, fun concepts are on the table.”

As my story in the on-line and print editions mentions, this is not likely to be a popular concept among Pac-12 football coaches, who will be bound to play 10 BCS-league games by 2017. Stanford and USC also have Notre Dame agreements, so that means 11 high-level games. SEC teams, meanwhile, play only eight league games, and most load up on directional schools for their four discretionary games.

This is in keeping with Scott’s thrust since he became commissioner — enhancing quality matchups, improving inventory and playing at non-traditional times to become more attractive for TV.

The Big Ten, meanwhile, will stick with an eight-game league schedule.

“Adding that 12th game (by NCAA mandate, a few years ago), it was a ‘bye’ game for many schools in our conference,” said Delany. “It wasn’t as compelling as we would like.”

Delany added that the addition of a high-level football game — and for that matter, the collaboration between the two leagues — is “pro-fan. It’s for the fan.”

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