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Pac-12, Big Ten form alliance to increase competition in multiple sports

By Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The Pac-12 and Big Ten conferences, Rose Bowl partners since 1947, have major plans to strengthen their business relationship.

The leagues Wednesday jointly announced a massive collaboration that will increase athletic competition across multiple platforms for all 24 schools.

Plans include a football game at the Rose Bowl, possibly as soon as 2013 or 2014, involving schools from each conference.

“The Rose Bowl is interested, both conferences are interested,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. “There are no details yet, but it’s fair to say you’ll see it in some form or faction.”

The goal by 2017 is for each Pac-12 school to play a Big Ten school on its football schedule.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany also said he would be interested in a neutral-site game in the Midwest.

“Who knows,” Delany said. “You could have the Rose Bowl one year and Soldier Field the next.”

The collaboration made sense for Scott and Delany at a time when conference realignment has disrupted college sports’ national landscape and uprooted traditional rivalries.

Both commissioners said they were comfortable in their present 12-team configurations and see enhancing the partnership as a way to expand their national brands without having to add new members.

The Big Ten Network, launched in 2007, has been a huge success; the Pac-12 is starting its own network in August.

“We have common interests,” Scott said. “We tend to see the world in similar ways. There’s a lot of cross-pollination between the two conferences.”

Dan Guerrero, UCLA’s athletic director, said the partnership made “a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.”

“It aligns two very strong athletic conferences with institutions that are about as aligned academically as there are across the country,” Guerrero said.

He added that initial talks focused on marquee-sport matchups, “but as those discussions evolved, it made sense to look at our Olympic sports as well.”

The leagues combined have more than 17,000 athletes competing on 550 teams. Delany envisions an Olympic sports challenge between the conferences and Ryder Cup-style events with the golf programs.

He even suggested a possible academic “Brain Bowl” event.

“The canvas is blank,” Delany said.

Heightened competition in football will probably not help either conference win more national championships in the computer-formula era of the Bowl Championship Series.

However, Scott and Delany said that was not a concern in developing this sports relationship.

“If that was the only goal we probably wouldn’t do this,” Scott said. “Under the current system that’s a fair observation. The best way to win the national title is to game the system. We’ve got broader goals. We think of it more holistically.”

There is also a strong possibility that the current BCS system of pairing the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a title game will no longer exist after the current contract expires in two years.

Pat Haden, USC’s athletic director, is a proponent of using strength-of-schedule as more of a factor in determining rankings. In recent seasons, the Trojans have played nonconference games against such powerhouses as Auburn, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Nebraska. They also have plans for a series against Texas.

Asked if he was concerned that a mandatory matchup against a weak Big Ten team might adversely affect the Trojans in some way, Haden said, “By the time this thing kicks in, who knows what the BCS will be like?

“We’ll have more clarity about what might happen with the BCS” before the collaboration affects the schedule.

Said Delany: “There is a lot of trust between the two conferences. We believe in a lot of the same stuff. If the only goal in everything you do is getting to the 1-2 game there’s going to be a lot of unhappiness.”

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