Pac-12 and Big Ten Strategic Collaboration: What Does It Mean For Hoops Heads?Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2011
In the excitement over the start of the Pac-12 basketball season, we’ve neglected thus far to mention the announcement Wednesday of a new “strategic collaboration” between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten. Included in this agreement are plans for more games between teams in the two conferences, beginning as early as next season for most sports, with a 12-game inter-conference schedule in football planned for 2017. For hoops, we should begin to see more games between the two conferences beginning next year, with possible special events, such as a college football kickoff event at a pro stadium, or basketball events played at NBA stadiums, to be announced at a later date. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany also look forward to being able to expand without expanding, to grow the reaches of their respective conferences into new regions and use the two cable networks – the already excelling Big Ten network and the Pac-12 network to come next year – to expand the branding of each conference.
Focusing just on the hoops side of things, knowing that the Big Ten already has the Big Ten/ACC Challenge that isn’t going anywhere, we likely shouldn’t expect to see a similar Big Ten/Pac-12 event, but there are plenty of ideas that would be appealing. Aside from the mere prospects of home-and-home series’ between teams like Washington and Wisconsin or Arizona and Michigan State, fans in out of the way places like Pullman or Lincoln can now hope to be able to wind up with elite programs making a visit to their campus – imagine UCLA at Nebraska or Ohio State at Washington State, the types of road trips that likely wouldn’t have happened prior to this agreement. Aside from that, perhaps we get some of these early season special events, things like a couple Pac-12 teams traveling to Indianapolis for a double-header with Indiana and Purdue or the opposite, perhaps, where the Big 12 sends a couple teams to Portland for a double header with Oregon and Oregon State. Delany even mentioned that such games could be used to help college basketball come up with a more definitive season-opening event, akin to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.
We’ll get specifics on how this all goes down later, but this is bound to do good things for the strength of schedule in both leagues. In the Pac-12 this season, only two teams had non-conference schedule strengths in the top 100 (according to Ken Pomeroy): USC (#51) and Washington (#97). The fact that the conference still somehow managed to rack up 57 losses against such meager scheduling is a discussion for another time, but what’s more amazing is that as poor as the Pac-12 non-conference scheduling was, it was downright trying compared to the Big Ten’s out-of-conference slate: No Big Ten team ranks in the top 200 in non-conference schedule strength, with Michigan State leading the way at #201. Given the sorry state of non-conference scheduling in both conferences, this new agreement between the two leagues will not only give the teams in each conference a better chance to garner quality, resume-boosting non-conference wins, but it will give college basketball fans a bit more interesting early season fodder. How far programs in each conference take it, remains to be seen, and hopefully the addition of a Big Ten opponent for a Pac-12 schools doesn’t simply replace another quality non-league opponent, but it this is done right, college sports fans come out ahead.