Pac-10 Conference to Expand

The Pac-10 Conference, one of the nation’s elite athletic conferences, might become the undisputed king of athletic conferences very soon.

According to the LA Times, the Comissioner of the Pac-10, Larry Scott, has been given permission to expand the conference by the representatives of each Pac-10 School: Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Southern California, University of Washington, Washington State University, Oregon State University, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, and University of Oregon.

The university which the Pac-10 is most interested in adding is the University of Texas, which would be the crown jewel of the expansion.  The University of Texas, being the flagship public university for the state of Texas, commands viewership from the entire state of Texas for its football games and, as such, is one of the most valuable brands in all of college sports.  A colleges’ brand recognition and TV Ratings are important because it allows the athletic conference to negotiate more lucrative TV deals with TV Networks, which the athletic conference then splits with each university.

Though money is the driving force of this expansion, it will not be the only consideration in the commissioner’s decision.  The Pac-10 maintains a very prestigious academic profile, with eight schools demonstrating “very high research activity” according to the Carnegie foundation.  Although the University of Texas, the University of Colorado, and Texas A&M fit the academic profile of a Pac-10 university, the other three schools in the expansion are not a natural fit for the Pac-10.  Although the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, and Texas Tech University are excellent schools, they are not the academic and research powerhouses that the Pac-10 Conference is known and respected for.

Some would suggest that academics do not matter in this merger of athletic conferences.  However, the relationship created by close competition in an athletic conference shape the identity of both the conference as well as the respective schools.  After all, the Ivy League is an athletic conference and few would doubt the fidelity and of that label.  For example, the University of Chicago and Duke University has more in common with Harvard and Yale than Cornell does, yet Cornell is distinguished from the former two by its membership in the Ivy League.  And although the University of Chicago and Duke are extremely prestigious and respected universities, they are not Ivy League.

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