The news Wednesday that the Big Ten and Pac-12 would begin an extensive partnership of resource sharing and on-field competition is another reason to be excited about the future of Arizona football.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has had a brief run in charge of the conference, but his determination to establish the league both competitively and economically as the nation's best is paying immediate dividends. He was the driving force behind the conference's record-setting TV deal, and the formation of a coalition with the Big Ten ensures the Pac has the national identity to match its bank ledger.
Scott amplified the conference's prominence twelve-fold, and formed a super conference without sacrificing its identity. A 16-team league with an 8-game schedule would have meant recruiting classes going an entire tenure without getting to travel to certain schools. The Pac and Big Ten maintain their tradition and regional influence, yet become truly national conferences.
Everyone involved should benefit in some ways, but it's up to each individual university to capitalize to the fullest. Greg Byrne has so resolve similar to Scott in his quest to establish a winner.
UA receives an equal share of the television revenue split, a 1/12 distribution among each athletic program. The divvying up of dollars is merely a foundation on which each of the 12 member athletic programs can build, but athletic director Greg Byrne has been putting together the framework for a house on that foundation.
The obvious has to be stated up front: the 12-on-12, cross-conference football series slated to begin in 2017 presents the possibility of new head coach Rich Rodriguez getting the shot at former employer Michigan he reportedly wants early into his tenure. And as exciting a prospect as Wilbur leading the team on the field before over 110,000 at the Big House is, this partnership means so much more than one game.
For both conferences, the partnership brings them to the forefront of college sports without having to kiss the proverbial ring of Disney Corp. For UA specifically, a guaranteed game with the Big Ten's football-obsessed fan bases of the Big Ten will increase the national scope of its visibility.
Some of the Wildcats' most memorable games in recent seasons have come against the Big Ten, including the Hurricane Game vs. Wisconsin in 2004 and the 2010 season's pinnacle win over Iowa. An opportunity to create lasting memories on that premiere stage would establish tradition Wildcat football sorely lacks.
And the establishment of visibility and tradition translates into one of the core principles for winning: recruiting.
The university has a longstanding connection to the Chicago area for the general student body, but UA football's presence in the Midwest lacks. Look no further than just down Cherry Street from Arizona Stadium for the importance of a national profile in recruiting. Since gaining national prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s and growing into a nationally-recognized program, Wildcat basketball's recruiting base expanded across the continent.
Past stars like Andre Iguodala and Michael Wright came from the heart of Big Ten country. Planting a red-white-and-blue flag in the talent-rich regions that make up the Big Ten should pique more than a few signees' interest. After all, how much more inviting is the prospect of a November victory celebration poolside than braving sub-zero temperatures in West Lafayette?