Pac-12 Revisits Neutral Site Games, Works Them To Their Advantage

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03: A general view of play between the Oregon Ducks and the LSU Tigers at Cowboys Stadium on September 3, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

LSU and Oregon was a pretty kickass way to start the 2011 college football season for the Pac-12 on a grand stage. It fulfilled the classic matchup of offense versus defense that most of the nation coveted between two of the best teams college football had to offer. And the result was pretty fun for everyone but the Pac-12, who saw their flagship team of the year make mistake after mistake on their way out the door in Dallas.

Regardless, the game was a spectacle. It gave the conference enormous pub it wouldn't have normally enjoyed from a non-USC matchup.

Now? It probably won't happen again. Not the way it happened that opening night in 2011. Bryan Fischer of CBS Sports reports.

The Pac-12's continuing push into the media business with an upcoming conference network and digital platform will have a lasting effect on member schools' football schedules. According to the league's updated executive regulations, non-conference neutral site football games will no longer be permitted unless the conference gets their cut of the media rights:

No member institution shall enter into an agreement to play a neutral-site football game (except in circumstances where such neutral-site game is the away leg of a home-and-home series) unless such agreement provides the Conference with the exclusive broadcast rights and digital rights in all media, and copyright to such neutral-site game.

This makes sense for numerous reasons for the conference. For one, neutral site games are not usually well-attended. Fans of the conference do travel, but not in great numbers (bowl attendance should tell you that the Pac-12 lags a bit if it isn't one of the top two or three matchups). So Scott and the Pac-12 would like to minimize the number of contests unless they have something to gain. If the Pac-12 is to agree to such contests and increase their probability of winning future contests, they must be content to let these current stragglers go.

In general from a financial viewpoint, it's beneficial for the Pac-12 Network to ensure that they get as much profit as they can from these neutral site contests. Games like Cal-Fresno State in Candlestick or Colorado-Colorado State in Denver would be considered premium content for the network, and would provide marquee regional matchups that would be worth quite a lot to the conference. Best to garner as much income from these games as possible to ensure the network is maximizing on all potential TV opportunities.

Finally, location-wise, almost all neutral site games between major conference foes will be at a distinct disadvantage to the Pac-12. The majority of locations chosen for these neutral site contests are Midwest/East Coast locations like Dallas, Atlanta, New York, and Washington DC. Thus, these "neutral" games are pretty much masquerading as road contests for the conference. For example, LSU-Oregon was a neutral-site contest in only the strictest sense of the word. The Tigers drew nearly three times the fans, and considering the distance each fanbase had to travel to Dallas, it's hardly a surprise the breakdown occurred as it did. There needs to be some balance--namely, a second "neutral site" game that would geographically benefit Oregon.

In other words, don't expect an LSU-Oregon matchup to go down in Dallas unless you expect a return visit a year later to a "neutral" site in Seattle or San Francisco or Phoenix or Denver. The Ducks would get their chance at revenge on the field of their choice that benefits their own neutrality, maximizing the return for both schools and maintaining competitive balance.

These are the sort of things a typical college commissioner wouldn't think too much about. But Larry Scott and his new braintrust is anything but typical.

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