Given the rotating nature of the Pac-12 conference schedule, the Arizona Wildcats will not be hosting UCLA or USC next season, and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is not too fond of that.
“Certainly, when you have Arizona and UCLA not playing each other twice in a given year, it highlights one of the weaknesses (of our 18-game schedule),” he said in September.
That never happened when the Pac-12 was the Pac-10 since everybody played everybody twice, but there is a way to remedy it.
Add more conference games.
Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports reported Tuesday that the Pac-12 is considering moving to a 20-game conference schedule.
“No decision is imminent, but the topic is expected to be heavily discussed among the league’s head coaches next week at the Pac-12 conference meetings in Phoenix,” Rothstein wrote.
This isn’t exactly a new development, though, as Scott said in Tucson in September that that was on the table.
“I’ve always been a fan — whether it’s our football schedule, basketball schedule, or anything else — to get more high-quality games and part of that is more conference games,” he said.
Other conferences are doing it. The Big Ten is shifting to a 20-game conference schedule next season, while the ACC is set to make the change in 2019-20.
“It’s the way the sport is going,’’ Arizona coach Sean Miller said (via Jon Wilner the Mercury News). “We don’t want to be the conference that needs a couple years to catch up.”
Wilner noted some changes that a 20-game conference schedule would bring to the Pac-12:
Each team would add one home and one road game, for a total of 10 each.
The expanded schedule would require teams to play two conference games in the middle of December.
The expanded round-robin schedule would reduce the misses — there would be much less chance of the Arizona schools not playing in Los Angeles, which is the unfortunate case (last) season
There are other things like improved ticket sales and better NCAA Tournament resumes (higher RPI and strength of schedule) that could result from a 20-game conference schedule.
Having more conference games is also important because scheduling quality non-conference games is tough — and getting tougher, especially home-and-home series which are being replaced by neutral-site games.
“If you just look at it from a math perspective, some of the conferences that are playing 20 games don’t have just 12 teams, they have 16 teams,” Miller said in January. “That’s 16 teams that, instead of playing 18 games against each other, they’re now playing 20 games against each other. That takes away a lot of non-conference opportunities away.”
But even if the Pac-12 does decide to move to a 20-game conference schedule, it could take a while to implement.
Rothstein reports that the earliest the Pac-12 would make the change is the 2019-20 season, though the conference’s current 10-year schedule rotation runs through 2020-21, so it’s possible it wouldn’t happen until then.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire