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Tuesday, June 15, 2010
So what's next with Pac-10 expansion?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

One of the good things about the Pac-16 scenario -- other than beaucoup dinero -- was that it was going to mostly keep intact the integrity of the traditional Pac-10  alignment (apologies to the Arizona schools), with the old Pac-8 settling in as a "Western" division.

Now, with Utah likely to soon join Colorado as the conference expands to 12 teams, there are some complications, starting with how the teams will be split up into divisions.

A North-South split appears most likely. In fact, the Boulder Daily Camera reported that Colorado was previously promised a spot in a South division if the 12-team scenario with Utah prevailed. That means the South would include Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, USC and UCLA.

That would not go over well with the schools in the Northwest, which believe they need an annual trip to southern California for recruiting purposes. A "down the spine" split could alleviate that, with traditional rivals posted on opposite sides and guaranteed a game every year, but that creates travel issues, and the ACC tried that model and no one can keep up with which teams are in which division. A source said that idea has "no traction."

There are reports that Utah has already told the Mountain West Conference that it is leaving, but a source said no invitation has been extended from the Pac-10. Yet. That could change inside of 24 hours.

So instead of nine of the top 20 TV markets with the Pac-16 model, commissioner Larry Scott will have to settle for adding Nos. 16 (Denver) and No. 31 (Salt Lake City). That still might be enough to set up a conference TV network, and the addition of a conference title game could further increase revenue.

While the loss of $20 million a year, per team, a Pac-16 might have distributed likely has created some heavy hearts today, a Pac-12 is still expected to increase the conference's annual payout -- currently about $8 million to $9 million a year -- significantly.

How much, of course, remains to be seen when new broadcast rights are negotiated before the 2012 season.

Other issues ahead: