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Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Expansion not a player in BCS meetings

By Ted Miller

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Amid the buzz and threat of expansion, the BCS meetings haven't degenerated into professional wrestling. At least not yet, even though Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany makes a great villain among other conference leaders who are trying to protect their bailiwicks.

“I tried him in a headlock, but he’s a tough guy," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe quipped after the first of three days of meetings ended at the posh Royal Palms Resort.

Expansion is not on the formal agenda, though it clearly is being discussed informally by nearly every administrator on hand. The general feeling among Beebe and others, however, is the Big Ten won't exercise college football's version of manifest destiny this week.

But there is formal concern. The Big 12 and Big East are expected to be prime targets for the Big Ten, which could add just one or a handful of teams and become a "super conference."

"It would be negligent for me to not be concerned," Beebe said.

Delany has agreed to speak with reporters Wednesday.

On the other side of the table is Pac-10 chief Larry Scott. His conference is considering expansion in advance of negotiating a new TV contract, but his is a more measured, less urgent approach. While the Big Ten seems eager to expand, and other conferences are worried about their membership, Scott said he feels no threat nor any need to aggressively pursue other teams in order to keep up.

"Play out for me a scenario where it harms us," he said of expansion outside the west coast. "No one has given me any kind of compelling explanation of how it impacts us."

Asked if a 16-team Big Ten might create a chain reaction of expansion and consolidation of BCS conferences, he said. "I've heard a lot of that and I've found it interesting. I've talked to a lot of people about it, whether some chain reaction would affect the Pac-10, but I don't see that ... So far I don't see any compelling rational that just because one conference might expand it puts pressure on us to expand."

That doesn't mean the Pac-10 won't expand, but Scott's position remains constant: Expansion makes sense if only it increases per team revenue.

Said Beebe, "Any conference looking at expansion has to look at whether an institution is going to bring at least one unit to pay for itself."

Moreover, just because a team resides in or near a prime metropolitan market doesn't mean that team will deliver that market.

Noted WAC commissioner Karl Benson, "It's how many television sets they can deliver, not necessarily how many people are in their market."

Of course, Benson then noted that the Big Ten has been delivering on TV, with a conference network that has made per-team revenue by far the biggest among BCS conferences -- $22 million, $5 million more than the SEC.

Day one of the BCS meetings appeared bloodless. But there's always day two and three, right?