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Pacific 12 Conference won't expand for now

Commissioner Larry Scott puts to rest speculation that the league would soon become a 16-team super conference, saying that it was in 'the best interest of our member institutions.'

September 20, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Pacific 12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott says the conference will not expand even though some schools have expressed interest in joining the conference.
Pacific 12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott says the conference will… (Ed Andrieski / Associated…)

The Pacific 12 Conference has decided 12 schools are enough — for now.

The league, with a short news release Tuesday night, put to rest swirling speculation it would soon become a 16-team super conference.

"After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference," Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement.

The Pac-12 made the announcement shortly after Scott convened with school presidents and chancellors. Scott did not have any further comment.

Oklahoma and Texas had openly expressed interest in leaving the Big 12 Conference for the Pac-12. Both schools were seeking security in a vastly changing college landscape. There was speculation Oklahoma State and Texas Tech would join Texas and Oklahoma in the new Pac-16.

The Big 12 was already down to 10 schools after losing Nebraska and Colorado to the Big Ten Conference and Pac-12.

In recent weeks, Texas A&M was accepted for membership in the Southeastern Conference, a move that has been held up by potential legal issues involving remaining Big 12 schools.

Over the weekend, Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced they were leaving the Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said he was trying to act proactively for what he believed was the next wave of expansion.

Scott attempted to create a super league last year when he tried to lure six Big 12 schools, including Texas and Oklahoma, to the Pac-10.

That deal collapsed at the last minute, with Scott adding only Utah and Colorado.

Scott used the Pac-12 format to secure a $3-billion television contract with Fox and ESPN.

There was a growing sense in the latest round of talks that the climate for expansion, at least in the Pac-12, had changed.

League presidents and athletic directors were very happy with the present format and unwilling to expand unless it made financial, academic and logistical sense.

Bigger, the Pac-12 decided, was not necessarily better.

"We went from 10 to 12 to be relevant and I think we still are even if there are some 16-team conferences," USC Athletic Director Pat Haden said after Tuesday's announcement. "With the Rose Bowl and the chance to play in BCS games the Pac-12 will always be relevant."

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero released a statement that read in part: "We feel this is the correct decision for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which are the stability of a 12-team conference format, the overall welfare of our student-athletes and the ability to maintain the traditional rivalries that have existed from our conference's inception."

A sticking point with Texas in the latest expansion talks was the recently created Longhorn Network, a multimillion-dollar joint venture with ESPN.

The Pac-12 was adamant all league revenue must be split equally.

"It's one of the hallmarks of a stable conference," Scott said at the Rose Bowl before Saturday's Texas-UCLA game.

There was speculation the Pac-12 might add only Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but the presidents obviously decided otherwise.

"While we have great respect for all the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve," Scott said in the Pac-12 statement. "With new landmark TV agreements and plans to launch our innovative television networks, we are going to focus solely on these great assets, our strong heritage and the bright future in front of us."

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

Times staff writers Gary Klein and Chris Foster contributed to this report.

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