Utah football: It's official, Utes land in Pac-12 South Division

Published: Thursday, Oct. 21 2010 12:00 p.m. MDT

Utah players sing "Utah Man" after the Utes defeated New Mexico 56-14 on September 18, 2010.

Tyler Cobb, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Utes are headed south.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott made the announcement Thursday morning after a meeting of the conference's presidents and chancellors.

Utah and Colorado, which both will join the league on July 1, 2011, have been assigned to the soon-to-be-dubbed Pac-12's South Division in football along with Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC. The North Division will be composed of California, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.

Top finishers in each division will square off in a Pac-12 Championship Game each December at the home of the conference's top-ranked team.

Teams will play everyone in their division once each year plus four teams from the other grouping. A compromise was reached to assure that the four California schools meet on an annual basis. A rotation also will be established to ensure that every school in the North will play in Los Angeles at least every other year.

The football plan was one of several announcements Scott made at a press conference in San Francisco following a meeting of the league's governing body, and the university presidents and chancellors.

Arizona State president Michael Crow, chairman of the Pac-10 CEO Group, said all votes were unanimous.

"This has been a very thorough process that created a lot of discussion and has delivered results that we are all very excited about," Crow said in a released statement. "The engagement we have received from all 12 member institutions and their presidents and chancellors has been tremendous. We have an ambitious plan for the future of our conference, and all of that input was vital in allowing us to take these transformational steps."

Utah athletics director Chris Hill, who communicated with university President Michael Young before and after the gathering, said things turned out well.

"We're very pleased with the outcome of the meeting and think it's a great day for the league," Hill explained.

Schedules for the 2011 football season are expected to be released in the next 30 to 45 days. Utah, however, has already been assured that five of its nine Pac-12 games next fall will take place at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

When asked if he would comment on the announcements when they were made, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham maintained his stance to not discuss the future until this season was complete.

"Nothing. Nothing. Zero. Zip," he said following practice on Wednesday.

Earlier that day as a guest on "Jim Rome is Burning," Whittingham explained his silence on the matter.

"You don't say Pac-10 in this building," he said. "Right now it's all about the Mountain West, and as soon as this season is over we'll make that transition."

Switching conferences will bring about several other changes.

The Pac-10's presidents and chancellors also approved revenue sharing and scheduling plans for sports other than football.

"Our key objective was to transform the Pac-10 to a modern 12-team conference that has long-term strength, increased value, competitive balance and is fan-friendly, and we have done that with these monumental decisions today," Scott said in making the announcement. "By unanimously adopting a plan for equal revenue sharing, we have created a conference with a strong foundation for long-term success. It's an exciting day for the Pac-12 and all of our fans."

Media revenue will be shared equally by all 12 schools.

For the next five years, however, there's a clause that would compensate UCLA and USC if revenues fall short of $170 million. Both the Bruins and Trojans benefit from the current deal, which is based on television appearances. Under the new arrangement, both schools would receive an additional $2 million a year if the $170 million isn't reached.

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