Expanded Pac-10 has potential to benefit students and fans

We would hope a portion of the money generated from a bigger TV package would be used to support education.

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College football is big business. And it might get even bigger.

The Pac-10 Conference -- home to Washington State University and the University of Washington -- appear sto be on the cusp of expanding to 16 teams. It looks possible, if not likely, the Big 12 Conference will dissolve and six of its teams will join the conference populated by West Coast colleges.

Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State are poised to join the Pac-10 to make a megaconference. Colorado has already joined.

Meanwhile, the Big 10 (home to Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State) is also expanding as it will probably add Nebraska from the Big 12. It also hopes to bring Notre Dame into the fold, a move that would bring an even bigger fan base to an already popular conference.

This is all being done to make money -- lots of money. It has been estimated the new Pac-16 will garner a TV contract that would pay each of its member schools a minimum of $20 million every year.

It's difficult to say what all this will mean for the small fish, such as WSU, in this new, larger pond. But what is clear is the school could use the money for more than beefing up its athletic facilities.

Now, college athletics is important to schools and their student body. Competition with other schools creates a sense of pride and generates enthusiasm. It's a way to foster a sense of community at an institution with 20,000 or more students and keep alumni involved.

Most college sports programs don't make money. Football and basketball are the only sports that generate revenue. And football is the sport that brings in serious cash.

If this expansion plan comes to fruition, we hope steps are taken to make sure the new money generated can be used to level the playing field to give smaller schools such as WSU an opportunity to compete with football giants such as USC and Texas.

But the education piece cannot be ignored. As state government continues to cut its support for higher education, some football revenue should be put into supporting and enhancing education.

The expansion of the Pac-10 could do more than make college football exciting for fans, it could give WSU and UW some needed financial stability.

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