The Pac-10 officially announced the Pac-12 football divisions Thursday.
The South Division will comprise Arizona, Arizona State, USC, UCLA, Colorado and Utah. The North Division has Cal, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State. The divisions will be used for football only, and will begin in the 2011 football season.
The conference also announced that the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game, to be played at the conclusion of the 2011 football regular season, will be held at the stadium of the team with the best conference record.
What does this mean for Arizona football?
Well, the Wildcats will be guaranteed a trip to Los Angeles each season, which has a large impact on recruiting. Many Arizona players hail from California, and the ability to promise recruits road games near their families and home towns is a big plus.
Arizona also will play the Northwest schools much more sparingly, which is an unfortunate side affect of the larger conference. The Cats do not have any traditional rivalry with the Oregons or Washingtons, but there have been definitely been some great conference games against the Ducks, Beavers and Huskies as of late.
The possibility of an extra home game in 2011 if Arizona hosts the Pac-12 Championship game is a benefit. The added revenue from ticket sales, and general exposure for the program would be huge. USC's two year post-season ban also includes any potential conference championship game, at least to my knowledge. That makes the Pac-12 South a de facto five team conference next season, at least in terms of the race to the conference championship game.
Colorado and Utah become instant division "rivals." It may take a few seasons for any animosity and bad-blood to form between Arizona and its new division-mates, especially as Colorado figures to be projected at the bottom end of the Pac-12 next season. While we are at it, I'm sure Utes fans will vehemently disagree, but the Mountain West regular season is nothing like what they are stepping into next year.
USC and UCLA rivalries will grow exponentially. I know that Arizona has won in the Coliseum once in the past 30,000 attempts. And, even though it was last year, no one has been accusing Arizona as a program of being on the same level as SC. But, this year, the top of the Pac-10 is decidedly much less crimson and gold. The games against the Trojans and the Bruins will now hold much more significance with Pac-12 title game hopes on the line. Look for the regional rivalry to grow.
Money. The new Pac-12 paves the way for the aforementioned conference title game and a sweet new television deal, and possibly a television network. Arizona's athletic facilities are in desperate need of repair/upgrade/demolition. The new coin landing in Tucson will bring about some long overdue projects for the entire athletic department.
Overall, a monumental day for the conference, and for Arizona athletics.