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UCLA, USC To Split From Bay Area Schools Starting Next Year

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Brad Gold/CBS

Brad Gold/CBS

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SAN FRANCISCO — The new Pac-12 Conference approved football divisions that will split the California schools and adopted an equal revenue-sharing plan Thursday as the conference presidents and chancellors hashed out the important issues that arose because of recent expansion.

Colorado and Utah recently accepted invitations to join the Pac-10 in the conference’s first expansion since 1978, necessitating many changes for when the league becomes a 12-team conference next July 1.

The most anticipated decision was the division alignment. The league decided to split the California schools, with Stanford and Cal playing in the North Division with Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State. UCLA and Southern California will be in the South with Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado.

But the conference did vote to keep the historic California rivalries. The Bay Area schools have played the Los Angeles schools every year since 1946 in rivalries that started long before that. Cal and Stanford will each play UCLA and USC every year in football.

The other cross-divisional games in the nine-game conference schedule will rotate, with the Oregon and Washington schools most likely playing in Los Angeles every other year as opposed to the current annual trips.

The more important decision came in regards to revenue sharing. The conference will switch from an appearance-based model where the Los Angeles schools traditionally earned more money to an equal sharing of football television revenues when a new TV deal kicks in starting in September 2012.

USC and UCLA got some protection as both schools will get a $2 million bonus if the conference media revenues fall below $170 million. The conference currently generates about $60 million a year in television revenues, but that is expected to rise significantly when a new television deal is negotiated.

“There was robust, spirited dialogue about all of these things,” commissioner Larry Scott said. “These are very important matters that we were dealing with. I’m just really pleased with the way everyone came together and realized we’re building an enterprise that’s about to scale in a way these schools have never been part of. It wasn’t hard to get people to agree. The fact they agreed unanimously was a very strong statement.”

The conference also formally approved a football championship game with the start of division play. NCAA rules require 12 teams and two divisions to stage a lucrative championship game. The Pac-12 will hold its game at the campus site of the division champion with the best conference record.

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