Change was in the air as the University of Colorado Alumni Association held a gathering with speakers Philip DiStefano, the schools chancellor, and Mike Bohn, the Buffaloes athletic director.
The topic of discussion?
The forthcoming move west.
The gathering took place at the Strater Hotel on Friday, giving the chancellor and athletic director a chance to explain the motives behind CUs move to the Pac-10 Conference and allow alumni and interested parties to ask questions about the shift.
Its a move that still doesnt have an exact timetable. Colorado gave the Big 12 Conference a two-year notice originally, which would allow the school to jump in 2012. However, Nebraska is set to join the Big Ten Conference in 2011, which would leave the Big 12 with an awkward 11-team setup for one season. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe publicly has stated his preference for an even-numbered league, giving Bohn hope that the possibility of an earlier switch could become reality, with a decision expected soon.
Our goal is to have it resolved by October, Bohn said.
The move to the soon-to-be-renamed Pac-12 was approved unanimously by the universitys Board of Regents in June. As far as graduates of the school are concerned, Bohn said the alumni hes spoken too are almost as convinced as the regents.
This is an election year, Bohn said to the crowd. I think were running, gang, about a 96 percent approval rating on that move.
Duane Smith, a CU alumnus, Fort Lewis College professor and columnist for The Durango Herald, is among the supporters. He said he thinks the Pac-10 will put CU in a more highly esteemed academic conference and help recruiting across the board.
Think about it would you rather travel to play in Norman, Okla., or Tuscon, Ariz.? he said.
Both DiStefano and Bohn pointed out the fact that the shift in conference ties allows Colorado to play in front of more graduates than in the past. According to DiStefano, roughly 15,000 alumni live in Big 12 states (Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri), while roughly 50,000 live in Pac-10 states (California, Oregon, Arizona and Washington), including 23,000 in California.
Bohn also touched on the buyout fee the Buffaloes will have to pay to cut their current ties to the Big 12 to facilitate the move. While not delving into specific dollar amounts, Bohn told the gathering the money wont be paid up front but rather from future revenues secured after the move.
And money perhaps was one of the biggest reasons for the switch. A school such as Texas, which generally fields strong teams and thus appears on television quite often, reaps a greater amount of the windfall from the Big 12s television contract than schools such as Colorado.
According to Bohn, television deals secured by both the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference generate an average of $8 million more per year per school than those in the Big 12, thus skewing the balance between middle-to-lower revenue-earning Big 12 schools and their nonconference counterparts.
Competitive disadvantage or advantage (for SEC schools)? Bohn said. Advantage. Big one.
According to TheSeattle Times, rumblings around the Pac-10 recently have sparked conversation about possible changes to the leagues revenue sharing. According to the current agreement, signed in 1986, participants in a televised Pac-10 game split 55 percent of the TV haul, and all 10 teams equally divide the remaining 45 percent.
With Southern California the leagues TV darling, the Trojans pull in a bit more from the television side of things than their counterparts. Which makes possible future division alignments all the more interesting.
If CU ends up paired with USC, they likely would stand to benefit by playing USC on TV. Bohn said the school has been active in terms of divisional discussions and revenue sharing, convinced the revenue situation will better itself in the future.
You start looking at the Pac-12, saying, Well, we can get together, he said. Two schools from the mountain time zone with 2.5 million more households to add to your TV package. ... (The money) isnt going to be there initially, ... but in three or four years, we can catch up to that.
As for the possible final year in the Big 12, Bohn said his dealings with fellow Big 12 athletic directors has been nothing but professional, adding that his goal for this season is for as many teams as possible to leave the Big 12 on top.
Exiting the league with a strong finish may be imperative for beleagured football coach Dan Hawkins. Coming off last seasons 3-9 campaign, Hawkins may need a strong finish to ensure his move to the Pac-10 with Colorado. While noncommittal, Bohn said the coach understands the importance of the 2010 campaign, and Bohn expects big things.
Its a big year for Dan, he said. He knows that. But this year, hes going to have his most talented, experienced and the most synergy in a team than hes had.
The one potential sticking point to the move could have been the loss of the Buffaloes rivalry with Nebraska. Bohn said he had spoken with Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne about reviving the game periodically.
Smith, true to his CU roots, said he wasnt worried since the Cornhuskers were headed to the Big Ten anyway, and he bid the hated rivals good riddance.
(I wont miss it.) Not in the least, he said. I hated the Big Red. Hated it when I was up there. There were too many Nebraska fans up there that give you fits.