There's speculation in track-crazy Oregon that the Beavers may be able to revive a full track program with the additional funds. Dick Fosbury, the high jumper who created the "Fosbury Flop," is an alum. But the school dropped the sport in 1988.
Oregon State has already brought back a women's team and is building a new track. Some football players have competed in meets. But the reinstatement of a full track program won't happen until the sport can be fully endowed, Fenk said. Still, proponents are hopeful it will happen by 2014.
"Let me just say that would represent one of my happiest and proudest days with the conference, the first time a new sport gets added as a result of our work," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who brokered the TV deal. "I think ultimately that boils it all down to what this is all about. Going from a situation from where some of our sports were at risk — I think that has all changed."
Perhaps the most dramatic sign that the league's smaller schools are the big winners in the new Pac-12 is Washington State's announcement earlier this month that the Board of Regents had given final approval for an $80 million project to upgrade Martin Stadium.
The addition of premium seats and a new press box will be paid for with funds from ticket sales, donations and, of course, television revenue.
Currently, the Cougars' athletic budget is $38 million, with about $5.3 million coming from the university's general fund, athletic director Bill Moos said. Last year, the program made just $2.7 million from television revenue.
Moos said the additional funds will be used mainly for facilities and infrastructure, as well as paying off about $6 million in debt. But for Washington State, becoming totally self-sustaining isn't necessarily the goal.
"I'm not ruling it out," Moos said. "But there's a part of me that thinks that being fully self-sufficient can somewhat pull you away from truly being a component of the overall university, you could get tempted in that regard."
There are some critics who insist that the mega-deal is what's wrong with college athletics: That it's all become big business. But Scott said he hopes the new face of the Pac-12 will be a boon to the university system as a whole.
He points out that the deal has allowed the conference to develop the Pac-12 Networks, which starting next fall will provide airtime for the league's Olympic sports and even allow for non-athletic programming.
"I think it will be a win-win for everyone," Scott said.
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