Pac 12 Cooler

Pac 12 Cooler Proposal

How the Pac-12 should be split

Current thoughts on the Pac-12 split

There are many AD’s that are not going to like the way that the Pac-12 is split. This is becoming a contentious issue. The Northwest schools are trying to make sure that they retain exposure to the lucrative LA-area recruiting base. The California schools are trying to somehow stay together. Colorado believes that it was promised access to LA. The whole conference wants to maintain regional rivalries. And on top of all this, a zipper must address near-regional rivalries, such as Oregon-Washington.

The most common system to be suggested are a North/South split with Washington, WSU, Oregon, OSU, Cal, and Stanford in the North, but it has also been suggested with Utah and Colorado in the North instead. Utah and Colorado are farther north, and it would help to keep the California schools together, but it would also cut off access to the California market for those teams. With Cal and Stanford in the North, it could also easily be called a West/East split as well as a rainy-green region and a sunny-brown region.

Another suggested split is the zipper-split. This is similar to the ACC split. There are many problems with the ACC split, but they are not problems that couldn’t be overcome. The main advantage of using a zipper system is that it allows all teams to play in all regions of the Pac-12. The big fear however, is that it would ruin rivalries and would make it too complicated to figure out the divisions.

The best split would invariably then come from the compromise, taking the best aspects of each suggestion. It would combine the zipper with the regional matchups.

The “Pac 12 Cooler Proposal”

This proposal is based on the zipper system. The only way that the Northwest schools are going to sign off on an alignment is if they get access to Southern California. In a zipper alignment, one team from each natural-rivalry is put in each division. So Oregon is in a different division than Oregon State and so on. There are now 6 natural rivalries, with Colorado and Utah forming the newest one.

This zipper seeks to put near-natural rivals together as well, placing Oregon and Washington in the same division and UCLA and Cal in the same division, among others. Additionally, there will be cross-division staples to keep the geographic rivalries intact.

The proposed alignment is (with the divisions on the left and right):

Teams would always play their side of the graphic, PLUS the teams in their row every season. Then they would play 2 of the remaining 4 teams. This results in every team playing every other team twice out of every four years, and at least once in each stadium over a four-year college career. All teams would have exposure to each region of the Pac-10 every year and would also play all their regional rivals.


Washington always plays (Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Cal, UCLA, Arizona, and Colorado) and two of (Stanford, USC, ASU, Utah)

USC always plays (Cal, Stanford, UCLA, Oregon State, Washington State, Arizona State, and Utah) and two of (Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado)

Colorado always plays (Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Cal, UCLA) and two of (Stanford, USC, Washington State, Oregon State).

Making sense of the divisions

Teams play their local rivals, they also play their near-local rivals (UCLA-Cal, UW-UO…), they also all get exposure to every region of the Pac-12, and the league is broken up so that teams on the left side will be happy with their division and the teams on the right side will be happy with their division (with the possible exception of USC, which may feel it does not bring in as many big names anymore, but will be rewarded with an easier path (traditionally) to the championship game. Additionally, as the image suggests, there will be some ease in figuring out which team is in which division, unlike the ACC, in that all the “State” schools and all the private schools are grouped with the new-to-AQ member, and all the teams without those modifiers are in the other division. Additionally, all the teams that lean more towards the warm colors are in one division and all the teams that lean towards the cool colors are in the other. Strangely enough, the left side tends to lean left politically (and blue is a cool color) and the right side tends to lean right (and red is a warm color). Using this graphic, it looks like the teams should be split up this way. The competition is balanced with USC on the right half and the combination of the minor powers in the left half.

Historically the left half of this division is has 53 Pac-10 championships (UCLA=17, UW=15, Cal=13, Oregon=7, Arizona=1, Colorado=0), while the right half of this division has 56 championships (USC=32, Stanford=12, OSU=5, WSU=4, ASU=3, Utah=0). So the competitive balance appears to be in place with this split, with respect to conference champions. 

Rivalries and Analysis

It has been suggested that there are problems with, for example, Oregon not playing USC every year. They would, however, play two of every four years and at least once in each other’s stadium during each four-year college career. Additionally, with this setup, it is more likely that if USC is playing really well, then missing USC for Oregon will result in an easier road to the championship game, where they will face USC. It also means that matches like Oregon-Washington will have increased value in the division and conference races.

Some rivalries will have to be broken no matter what, barring an 11-game conference schedule. This is likely the least upsetting of the alignments. It satisfies almost all of the potential complaints about the way the Pac-12 could be split up, while making the divisions at least pass the look test for competitiveness. The only other issue would be repeat games, with rivals playing each other in the final week and then also in the championship game. This could be easily solved by making the rule that only the winner of the natural-rivalry can play in the conference championship game, if both are slated to make it there. 

The only problem with these divisions is that they need to have names. 

Updated: New visual aids for the divisions

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