Jeff Eisenberg

A two-division Pac-10 will put some schools at a disadvantage

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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It was no surprise that Utah finally received its invitation to the Pac-10 on Wednesday, but the bigger news that emerged is how the conference plans to adjust after expanding to 12 teams.

The Denver Post reported the Pac-10 will split into two six-team north and south divisions. Stanford, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State will be in the northern division and USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado will comprise the South.

The conference made the right call splitting up the L.A. and Bay Area schools to ensure the money, attention and TV markets weren't concentrated in one division, but the ramifications of being cut off from SoCal will not be pretty for teams in the North.

Pac-10 North teams would no longer visit Los Angeles annually in football and basketball, a significant loss considering Southern California is the West Coast's prime recruiting base in both sports. Furthermore, the Pac-10 North schools also won't be hosting USC football or UCLA and Arizona basketball as frequently, which will hurt from an exposure and attendance standpoint as well.

The divisions may not formally exist in basketball, but schedules will still be made as if they did. Schools in the same football division would play each other at home and on the road each season in basketball, but they would only meet teams in the opposite division once.

One solution to this problem might have been if the Pac-10 split its divisions like a zipper with natural rivals on different sides. The league would be creating balanced divisions that allow every school equal access to the SoCal market, yet they could arrange the schedule in such a way that natural rivals would meet annually in football and twice a year in hoops.

It might be too late for Pac-10 to consider the zippered format, but new commissioner Larry Scott has shown the past few weeks that he's not afraid to think outside the box.

At Scott's news conference on Thursday in Utah, we'll find out if he's willing to get creative again.

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