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Thursday, May 6, 2010
Expansion? What about a Pac-10-Big 12 partnership?

By Ted Miller

Most of the expansion talk on the West Coast has focused on the Pac-10 luring Colorado away from the Big 12, but there's increasing evidence that the Pac-10 and Big 12 also are interested in a potential partnership.

Big 12 and Pac-10 administrators and athletic directors met Wednesday in Phoenix, and afterwards Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott used terms like "strategic alliance" and "pooling TV rights" and "joint network."

None of it sounded terribly adversarial.

Both conferences' media contracts expire after the 2011-12 academic year. Both want -- need -- to sign new contracts that help them keep pace with the SEC and Big Ten.

That might take some creativity, though a rebounding economy should help the cause. There are plenty of reasons the conferences could work together, starting with geography: They are the only two BCS conferences entirely located west of the Mississippi River. It would be easier for the Pac-10 to partner with a conference in the Mountain and Central time zones, rather than one that's entirely in the East, such as the ACC.

Moreover, Scott's No. 2, deputy commissioner/chief operating officer Kevin Weiberg, is a former Big 12 commissioner. Not to mention that new Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne is the son of Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne, who used to be athletic director at Oregon.

So there are grounds to build trust during what could be complicated negotiations.

Scott and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe huddled for several minutes after a long afternoon meeting on Wednesday. It may have been only one of many future negotiations between the two.