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Sports Business

Big Ten, Pac-10 challenge overdue?

July 7, 2008

pufballThe idea of an annual Big Ten vs. Pac-10 college football showdown in a series of games—sources within each conference said—is long overdue.

But until now the idea has never been put on the table. Even today, it’s still in the fantasy stage.

The Big Ten plays an annual challenge series in basketball with the Atlantic Coast Conference. The games usually play to packed arenas and earn solid television ratings. Both conferences earn a nice paycheck from the challenge—which the ACC has won each year since it began in 1999.

ESPN was a main driver in creating the Big Ten vs. ACC basketball challenge, and a lucrative broadcast strategy would have to be formulated to get the football challenge out of the dreams of conference fans and onto the blue prints of the conferences’ athletic directors.

The basketball challenge has been successful enough to warrant a six-year contract extension between ESPN and the two participating conferences that runs through 2010.

The marquee Big Ten-ACC basketball match-ups have been tuned in by 2 million households nationwide. Sports marketers think a Big Ten-Pac-10 football challenge could do even better.

One proposal of the football version involves 10 games, with five played on the West Coast and five played in Big Ten country. The match-ups would be determined by the previous year’s conference standings, and the challenge would be used to kick-off each season during the Labor Day weekend.

The football challenge pitting the two powerhouse conferences would end the traditional practice of kicking-off the season with a non-conference cupcake. This year, Indiana opens against Western Kentucky, while Purdue plays Northern Colorado.

Do you think a Big Ten vs. Pac-10 football challenge would work?
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