For weeks, I have been amazed at the power vested in Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott. It is unprecedented to such a degree that it reminds me of a Seinfeld episode that finds Jerry sitting next to a model in a first-class seat.
A flight attendant asks Jerry if he wants more wine.
"More wine!" he says, giddily. "More everything!"
Scott just completed his More-Wine-More-Everything Tour of the Big 12 and came away, gulp, with nothing more than the Colorado Buffaloes, a skiing power. In retrospect, it would've been better had Scott first completed his negotiations with Texas, anchoring the deal, before inviting Colorado and others.
Colorado brings little to the Pac-10. No baseball, no softball, no swimming, a basketball team that averaged 6,267 fans and almost no new money.
Utah would bring even less. The Utes wouldn't help to solve the raging financial crisis at Oregon State, Wazzu and ASU.
We take it on good faith that Scott has more to his expansion tour/marketing outreach than Colorado and Utah. We take it that the presidents and chancellors of the Pac-10 didn't give Scott all of that power merely to add teams with less presence than Oregon State.
The Pac-10 can use a bump in glamour, and especially one at the bank, but I don't see how Colorado or Utah can help either. I'm aware of the negative variables and politics about adding BYU, but the Cougars have a history, a brand and a presence that neither Utah nor Colorado can touch.
Now the pressure moves to Scott, a risk-taker and front man in a league that hasn't taken a chance and hasn't changed its image for 30 years.
Pac-10 presidents and chancellors for decades ran the league with such old-school conservatism that former commissioner Tom Hansen seemed to have less authority than those on the Tournament of Roses committee, or whomever was coaching football at USC or basketball at Arizona.
During NCAA tournament basketball games, Hansen wouldn't sit with the ranking figures of college sports, as is befitting the Pac-10 commissioner, but rather in the media room, munching popcorn, waiting for the stats to be distributed.
That's why this bold dash for the Texas and Oklahoma schools was so riveting. It would've meant a great deal of missed class time. It would've disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of loyal fans. And it would've been a general selling of the soul for Big Time Athletics.
That strategy used to be beneath the Pac-10.
The real winner of the expansion wars was Big Ten-bound Nebraska, not only athletically but academically. The losers were those who missed an opportunity to escape Texas' shadow.
The Pac-10 isn't a loser. It still has some cards to play, doesn't it? Shouldn't it? It's difficult to fathom this great change in Pac-10 culture resulting only in the addition of Colorado and maybe Utah.
But I will say this: The Colorado vs. Utah skiing rivalry matches any Pac-10 rivalry in any sport. Across the last 50 years, the Buffaloes have won 16 NCAA skiing titles. Utah has won nine.
The Mount Rushmore of Colorado Buffalo sports is a vintage collection. If you are over 50, you may remember Olympic skier Jimmie Heuga, gold medal decathlete Bill Toomey, football star Whizzer White and U.S. Open golf champion Hale Irwin.
In sports, CU is vanilla ice cream.
The most famous man in the history of Utah sports is Rick Majerus. Big dude. Lived in a hotel. Told lots of funny stories. If Utah enters the Pac-10, can it arrange to get Majerus back?
If Colorado is vanilla ice cream, Utah is snow melting on the sidewalk.
Adding Colorado, and possibly Utah, puts the Pac-10 in a neutral negotiating position with more partners in the split. When Scott goes to market next year, the TV people at ABC, ESPN and Fox Sports Net next year will see what they've always seen. Colorado and maybe Utah won't generate more money.
In a manifesto Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe sent to conference big shots this week and obtained by Sports Illustrated, the commissioner appealed to the Big 12's sense of togetherness. He essentially said that they must be crazy to consider going into business with teams located in Corvallis, Ore., and Pullman, Wash.
Beebe grew up in Walla Walla, Wash., attended school in Southern California and absorbed the culture of Pac-10 sports. In his letter to Big 12 insiders, Beebe wrote:
"I grew up in Pac-10 territory, and although there are outstanding institutions, the facilities and fair-weather fans are a disappointment. I suggest their fan support, and the accompanying image it projects, should be carefully examined."
Fair-weather fans? Empty seats? Is that really how the rest of the world views the Pac-10?
With Colorado coming in, and Utah apparently on the way, Beebe might be right.
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or firstname.lastname@example.org