CU migrates from Big 12 to Pac-10 conference

The University of Colorado is joining the Pacific-10 conference, but CU officials are hoping that switch will do more than just showcase its football program.

CU Regents Chairman Steve Bosley confirmed the news Thursday that the university is leaving the Big 12 Conference to play against such teams as the Southern California Trojans, Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies.

His focus wasn’t just on how CU might fare in sporting events, but in research grants and student recruitment.

“This is a good fit with academics and athletics,” Bosley said. “We have a lot of alumni from the West Coast, and we have about $750 million of research going on at the University of Colorado, and a fair amount of that is affiliated with Pac-10 schools. We think it will work to our benefit for more research dollars.”

Bosley said student recruitment also would be boosted, particularly as would-be applicants from Western states watch CU playing football or basketball over the next few years.

Details of the transition are to come today, when Bosley, CU President Bruce Benson and other CU officials join Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott at a news conference this morning to discuss the move.

The switch is part of conference moves expected to occur elsewhere in the region that could lead to a breakup of the Big 12 Conference, which has been home to schools such as Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

When everything plays out, the Pac-10 conference could swell to as many as 16 teams if other Big 12 schools in Texas and Oklahoma end up following CU’s lead. This year’s football schedule has already been set, so the switch isn’t likely to occur for a year or two.

Some CU fans said they thought the move would be a good one.

Rich Baca, office manager for U.S. Rep. John Salazar’s Grand Junction office and a CU grad, said he was excited about the news, saying the switch will help boost CU’s national profile in sports and in the classroom.

Baca said he will miss the old rivalries with such schools as Nebraska or Oklahoma, but the time has come to create new ones.

“It just seems to be a better fit, partly because we don’t get a lot of students from the Midwest, but there’s a lot of recruitment from the West Coast,” Baca said. “It’s probably because of sort of a Cal-Berkeley persona, CU is seen as a bit more liberal, so I think the academics melds well with that. I think it’ll be a boost for CU on a national level. It’ll be able to stand out more.”

Gov. Bill Ritter said he hadn’t been briefed as of Thursday afternoon about the details of the move or its financial implications, but he said it seems to be the right decision.

Still, Ritter said he would miss the old rivalries.

“This is a fresh and exciting move for the CU football team,” said Ritter, a graduate of the CU School of Law.

“I’ve very much appreciated the long-standing rivalries we’ve had with other members of the Big 12, but at the same time I think it’s going to be very exciting to play the teams in the Pac-10. It could really inspire the CU program.”

NOT EVERYONE CONVINCED

Not everyone was convinced the move was the best one for CU to make.

Mesa State College President Tim Foster said he wanted to know if it’s cost-effective for CU to switch, in part, because it’s more expensive to compete in West Coast games than with the closer Midwest schools.

Travel costs alone at a time of financial uncertainty for Colorado schools could lead to budget problems later, he said.

Foster said CU might have been better off joining the seven-school Mountain West Conference, which includes such colleges as Utah, BYU and Air Force.

“I like (NCAA) Division II and Division III athletics,” Foster said. “I love to watch Division I, but I just prefer the student- athlete nature of what we do.”

Grand Junction resident Arch Archuleta, a CU graduate who was instrumental in getting the joint CU-Mesa State engineering program started two years ago, said he didn’t care as much for the school’s switch to a new conference as he does seeing CU’s academic status maintained and improved.

Archuleta said CU’s move will make little difference because the college already is one of the top-ranked schools nationally in academics.

“CU aligns more academically with the West Coast ... but I would give up all the big-time sports in favor of high academic standards,” he said.

“I don’t think this move will change much of anything. The additional money they might get from contracts won’t matter, because the more money you get into sports is used for sports. You don’t build another biology building with money you got from higher TV contracts to watch football games.”

While that may be true for the university, area sports bars are expecting to see more patrons during CU games.

Tammy Erkhart, assistant manager of Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, 2402 F Road, said she sees far more West Coast college fans than Midwest ones.

As a result, when CU faces Arizona or Oregon, she’s expecting to see an increase on game days.

“We get packs of people in for college football,” she said. “With all the California people we have out here, I can’t see how this will hurt. But it won’t be good for my boss. He’s a Nebraska fan.”


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