Pac-12 dawn brings 'new energy'

Colorado, Utah join officially as conference proceeds to evolve
2011-07-01T00:01:00Z 2011-07-02T09:27:41Z Pac-12 dawn brings 'new energy'Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 01, 2011 12:01 am  • 

Quietly at midnight, the Pac-10 formally reconfigured for the first time in 33 years, adding Colorado and Utah to the league to become the Pac-12.

Renovation began long before the start of the new fiscal year, however. The Buffaloes and the Utes accepted invitations more than a year ago, and the conference has since split into two football divisions and signed a revolutionary $3 billion television contract.

"These schools are very, very good cultural fits within the conference," commissioner Larry Scott said. "There's a new energy they bring to us by being new, and each school's a little different."

Scott painted an image of Colorado, which came from the Big 12, already having a "natural affinity" for the West Coast.

The state of Utah declared today "Pac-12 Day." Scott will speak at Salt Lake City's Capitol Hill to commemorate the Utes' move from the Mountain West.

"I sense almost a feeling they've been promoted," he said. "And this is something they've had to fight for and earn - not only from their athletic success but academically."

Many changes have already been unveiled. The league was split into north and south football divisions, with teams from Southern California and Arizona joining the two new schools in the latter group, in October. The Dec. 2 title game will be played at one of 11 home venues - USC is ineligible for one more season because of NCAA violations - depending on the top-ranked team.

"That's going to be interesting, how the fans react to that narrative," Scott said.

The league's new logo was rolled out in March, so schools could put the mark on their jerseys, fields and ticket stubs for the fall. Fans voted for a Pac-12 title game logo in May.

The league's renovated, easier-to-use web site became www.pac-12.org - chosen from about "60 or 70" variations, said Danette Leighton, the league's chief marketing officer.

"We wanted the easiest transition for our fans and the simplest way for them to find us," she said. "We want to make this change as easy as possible."

More changes will come.

Scott said the Pac-12 has a "pretty ambitious agenda," beginning with the formation of the Pac-12 Network, for which the league has reserved prime football and men's basketball games.

The conference could either start a new station from scratch or buy a current network, which would have built-in distribution deals with cable companies.

"We have more parties than I thought would be interested in partnering with us in a network," Scott said.

He stressed the league wants to "embrace new forms of distribution and technology." The Pac-12 could partner with Internet giants such as Apple to distribute its games online.

Major League Baseball, for example, distributes its games for a fee on television, online and through Apple TV, a box that plugs into high-definition TVs. Fans can watch games from their phones, computers and TVs.

"We've got a very tech-savvy, very mobile healthy outdoor lifestyle," Scott said of the league's fans.

Scott said the Pac-12 wants to be "state of the art in 2020" as well as today. He hopes to have a recommendation for school presidents by the end of the summer.

The commissioner doubted the league would last another 33 years between expansions, as it did following the additions of Arizona and Arizona State in 1978.

"The pace of change is probably going to be quicker than that," he said.

Scott called college sports "fragmented" and said the likelihood of fewer, larger conferences looms.

"What I learned as I went through the expansion process and talked about bigger conferences," he said, "is that there's a lot of untapped potential in college sports."

 

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