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Under new Pac-16 schedule, travel to West Coast would be limited

Take a trek to Lawrence, Kan., and replace it with Los Angeles. Trade a weekend in Ames, Iowa, for one in Eugene, Ore.

The travel concerns raised by the potential jump of five Big 12 South schools to the Pac-10 aren't about upgrades in hip destinations or aesthetic appeal, but they do involve questions of increased cost for schools and fans, along with potentially more missed class time for athletes.

In order to minimize the downsides of the expansion that would form a conference stretching from College Station to Seattle, most travel would be restricted to divisional competition among two, eight-school divisions or some variation depending on the sport, according to a person familiar with potential expansion models.

In a 16-member conference scenario involving Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma St., the Big 12 South schools would join Arizona and Arizona St. and newly official Pac-10 member Colorado in one division.

Clearly, that's a wider geographical swath to cover than the current Big 12 South, but interdivisional trips to the West Coast and its two-hour time difference would be limited.

Football, played traditionally on Saturdays, would probably be most manageable. The Texas schools would travel to the West Coast once a year for a regular-season game.

For example, Texas A&M could play at USC and host Oregon St. one season and host UCLA and travel to Oregon the next.

This hypothetical scheduling format -- which would still need vetting by athletic directors if this expansion indeed takes place -- would feature three Non-conf games, seven divisional games, the two, rotating interdivisional conference games and a championship game.

Efforts would be made in scheduling, the source said, to take into account long-standing traditions, such as Texas-OU at the Cotton Bowl during the St. Fair and Texas-Texas A&M on Thanksgiving.

Men's and women's basketball, in the same hypothetical model as football, would rotate between annual trips to California and the Northwest, though the trips would feature two games. Basketball scheduling could also be more vulnerable to what a new TV contract requires.

But it's feasible that the schedule would allow for games -- say on a Thursday and a Saturday -- against California and Stanford on the same Western swing, or Oregon and Oregon St. The traditional Pac-10 members are geographically well-suited to providing two games for one trip.

Basketball teams could play a 14-game set of round robin divisional play, along with a single round robin against four interdivisional opponents, creating an 18-game league slate.

In some sports, all regular-season competition could be limited to divisional play. Baseball teams could be broken into three, five-team divisions (Colorado doesn't have a baseball team). Texas, for example, in the East division, would never meet Stanford, in the South division, until the league's postseason.

An expanded Pac-10 could also stage some major, festival-like events surrounding single-event championships, such as track and field.

© 2010, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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