The Pac-12 coaches are meeting this week, and word on the Twitter is they’ll discuss dropping a conference game and moving to an eight-game conference schedule like the SEC. The Southeastern Conference is college football’s reigning power conference (see: recent BCS Championships and NFL draft selections), and adopting an SEC-like schedule would be just one more way the Pac-12 is trying to gain ground under Commissioner Larry Scott.
Since Scott took over as commissioner in 2009, the Pac-10 conference added two more teams, rebranded itself as the Pac-12, split into divisions and instituted a conference championship game, and established the Pac-12 Network. Scott has been aggressive in beating the rush on trends like realignment and forming a conference network.
The moves haven’t necessarily had the most stellar results — Colorado and Utah haven’t done much in their two seasons in the Pac-12, the first two Pac-12 Championship Games have featured underwhelming match-ups, and after launching prior to the 2012 football season, the Pac-12 Network still isn’t available to DirecTV customers — but coupled with the recent success of teams like Oregon and Stanford, the changes have helped make the Pac-12 a more powerful player among the major conferences.
Dropping a conference game would further the Pac-12’s mission to become an SEC-like powerhouse conference. The SEC takes heat from critics who feel their constant presence in BCS bowls and National Championship games is at least partially because they don’t play as many other SEC teams. (The Big 12 plays a nine-game conference schedule, the Big Ten is moving to that format, and the ACC has experimented with both eight and nine-game conference slates.)
To get to the championship game in the current format, it’s almost a requirement to either be undefeated or have only one loss to very strong competition, and the chances of doing that are obviously greater if teams don’t have to play as many tough conference games. On the flip side, dropping a game would mean fewer conference games available for Pac-12 Network broadcasts and fewer advertising dollars coming in, so the switch might be tough for the coaches to sell to the powers that be.
Bryan Fischer, a senior correspondent for Pac-12 Digital, responded to the coaches’ rumored push for eight games, tweeting: “They can talk about it, but it won’t happen.”
It might be more likely to see the SEC add a ninth game for the same reason the Pac-12 probably won’t drop to eight: television revenue. And if doing so knocks the SEC from its pedestal atop the college football ranks, Larry Scott and the Pac-12 will be there jockeying to take over the top spot.