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PACIFIC 10 CONFERENCE IN TROUBLE : Financial Woes Cause Split in Conference : As Costs Rise and TV Revenues Decrease, Will Seven Decide to Head South?

July 06, 1986|RICHARD HOFFER | Times Staff Writer

Can The Chicken turn it around for Oregon State? Can a covered stadium do the trick for Oregon? Will UCLA bite the bullet and lop a volleyball team from its program in case the aforementioned Chicken and stadium fail to do the job?

Moreover: Does Keith Jackson know where Corvallis, Ore., is? Why doesn't it matter?

Also: What about this idea of a Pac-7 Conference, anyway? About time?

The answers later. In the meantime, in case you haven't heard, the Pac-10 Conference is in big trouble, Capital T and all that. Possibly the economic problems within the conference, where even the more successful programs routinely run up annual operating deficits of $400,000, portend problems across the country.

But for the moment, the split between the haves and have-nots in the Pac-10 is playing like a prime-time soap, the source of tension, as it is within any TV family, money.

There is not enough of it, basically. Of course, you'll hear that across the country. Ever since the Supreme Court deregulated network television's coverage of college football, the money has been slowing. There are a couple of reasons for this, one of them the fact that TV sports has become an increasingly soft market for the advertising dollar, the other that the colleges lost a lot of their leverage when they had to negotiate as conferences and individuals instead of the monolithic NCAA.

For whatever reason, college football has found that its TV money, in a time when other costs were rising, was going down, down, down. This has come as a shock, because between 1982 and 1985, the network money kept going up, up, up. In 1982, it was $58 million from the two networks. In 1983, the NCAA gathered $64 million. In the next two years, it was raised to $68 million and $72 million.

Last year, college football was paid $43 million for its TV exposure.

"Let me put it to you this way," says UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis. "In 1983 we went into Athens, (Ga.), an important game, and that was worth $1.1 million. The very next year, post-Supreme

Court decision, we play Nebraska in a similar situation. That game was worth $800,000. That's a significant hit."

And meanwhile, expenses go up. Title IX means that institutions that once had spent as little as $50,000 on women's sports are now spending up to $1.5 million. Tuition and room and board increases for the financial-aid packages go up, as well. UCLA, for example, faces an added bill of $100,000 in increased rooming charges for its scholarship athletes this year.

So it goes in college athletics. But the economics are exacerbated in the Pac-10 because there is something called revenue sharing among the 10 teams. This sounds very democratic, but in a conference that is very much divided in ability to generate revenue, it may also be unfair. Depending on whom you talk to, of course.

Oregon State, for example, was on television just once last year and has zero anticipation of being on even that much this year, a loss of up to $200,000 to its own athletic budget. Yet UCLA, which was on television seven times last season and anticipates being on six times this year, must contribute a cut of its TV money to each of its Pac-10 partners, enriching them as well each time the Bruins go on television.

Another example involves the gate money. Under a new provision, each school must hand over a minimum of $125,000 to the visiting team (it's up from the $75,000 minimum earlier this month). UCLA, USC and most of the other schools will easily make that minimum at its home games and will, in fact, probably pay more to the visitor. But in games at Oregon State, Oregon or Washington State, it can expect no more than the minimum for now.

Meaning, when all the numbers are crunched, that some schools giveth and others taketh. At least three of the Northwest schools--Oregon State, Oregon, Washington State--are being subsidized to some extent by the seven larger schools.

The three Northwest schools, not too surprisingly, argue that we're all in this together. Washington State Athletic Director Dick Young, whose program has been losing at least $500,000 a year and whose football team would have failed to produce a gate large enough to satisfy the new $125,000 minimum four times in the last two years, has argued that the member schools should "bite the bullet" as he has done and pare down expenses. Drop programs, in other words.

Otherwise, the consequences of the other schools starving "us to the point where we're no longer competitive," as he insisted at the recent Pac-10 meetings, is to "cut off their noses to spite their faces."

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