The Pac-12 and Big Ten have agreed to a long-term interconference scheduling "collaboration" that, if successful, could have far-reaching ramifications for both of their memberships.
Likely beginning as early as next year, the Pac-12 and Big Ten are going to significantly reconfigure their future football, basketball and Olympic sports schedules to feature games between their combined 24 member schools.
The conferences will announce their plans later Wednesday.
The cleverly constructed "collaborative effort" provides the Pac-12 and the Big Ten with some of the benefits of expansion without the messiness of exit fees, litigation and the loss of historical rivalries. And from a strategic standpoint, the arrangement could broaden the geographical, television and brand reach of both conferences.
"Rather than go down the road of just trying to add members, we thought this was a way to keep who we were and an increase value for everybody," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski. "It doesn't mean you can't expand one day. It seems to us this is an intelligent way to get stronger and do so with zero collateral damage."
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told ESPN.com that "it's a flexible approach to achieving some of the benefits of expansion without dealing with some of the other structural issues."
Details remain fluid, but the probable first phase of the partnership would include increased Pac-12 vs. Big Ten games in men's and women's basketball, as well as in Olympic sports. Those changes will begin in the 2012-2013 academic year.
"Part of building our brand is getting our brand around to different places in the country," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said Wednesday. "The fact that this is an agreement that will connect a number of different sports, not just football, not just men's basketball, but many, many of our other Olympic sports and team sports, it's a great opportunity for us to travel and us to take our teams and our coaches and our brand to other parts of the country (where) ordinarily we wouldn't be appearing a lot. So I think that's significant."
The scheduling transition in football will be slower because of existing non-conference contract commitments. But by the 2017 season, the two conferences are expected to have a full, 12-game Pac-12/Big Ten schedule in place, meaning each Pac-12 team will play a separate Big Ten program on an annual basis.
"We've obviously explored the possibility of going beyond 12 (teams)," Scott said. "I've been a believer, philosophically, of that if it made sense. Now I don't see us expanding anytime in the foreseeable future. A lot of what we can do through collaborating with the Big Ten will help us accomplish some of the same things."
Information from ESPN.com senior national columnist Gene Wojciechowski and WolverineNation.com was used in this report.