Let’s continue to take a look at the state of the Pac-12 Conference, as there have been some recent developments over the past couple of weeks.
Pac-12 Officiating Strikes Again
We all know about the bashing that Pac-12 officiating has received over the years. All of it, well-deserved.
It has now been reported that Florida’s five-star defensive back recruit Chris Steele, at least in part, chose an SEC school over a Pac-12 school because of the Pac-12’s reputation for “over officiating.” In other words, making way too many ticky-tacky pass interference calls. Steele felt that SEC officiating allows for his more physical style of play.
The Oregon-Oklahoma instant replay fiasco happened in 2006. At the time, that was supposedly the straw that broke the camel’s back with Pac-12 officiating, which has seemingly always had a bad reputation. But, instead of getting better, things have continued to digress to the point that the conference is now losing top recruits because of it.
It’s just another powerful indicator that Pac-12 leadership doesn’t get it.
Pac-12 Image Team
The conference has hired one of the world’s top public relations and crisis management agencies, FleishmanHillard, to help fix the poor image of the Pac-12.
The question is, is the conference trying to sell us on the idea that everything is OK, and there’s just been one big misunderstanding? Or, is this actually part of a grand plan to start fixing the conferences real problems?
It’s not necessarily a bad idea to hire the agency as long as it’s acknowledged that things in the Pac-12 are broken, need to be fixed, and there is a plan in place to fix things. But, if this is just an ”everything is swell in Pac-12 land, there’re just been a misunderstanding,” then chalk this up to another poor decision by Larry Scott.
The Pac-12 is exploring whether or not to take on private equity investors in a bid to keep pace with the other power Power 5 conferences. The plan, presented to the conference’s presidents in November, would seek $500 million from investors in exchange for a 10-percent stake in what is tentatively being called the “Pac-12 NewCo.”
So, some presumably smart people out there do have faith in the Pac-12, and the question is: would the half-billion dollar injection of cash be worth the long-term give away of 10% of the conference?
The National Championship Game
The event has turned out to be a disaster for the conference. Having the game in Santa Clara is like having Metallica headline a Bach Festival. It’s a complete mismatch.
Of course, tone-deaf Commissioner Scott undoubtedly had some influence on Santa Clara hosting the game, most likely thinking it would be a great way to show-case the strength of the conference by hosting the title game in the backyard of the conference’s headquarters. Instead, it’s turning out to be one big reveal about how weak and out of touch the Pac-12 really is.
There was absolutely no local support for the game. It’s no secret that the bay area is not supportive of local college sports. Horrific traffic and lack of nearby hotels doesn’t help attract outside visitors. Ticket prices on secondary markets plummeted and were selling for less than face-value. Though not as miserable as the Pac-12 championship game, empty seats were visible. That’s right, empty seats at the biggest game in college football.
Only in Pac-12 country.
It was an absolutely perfect scene for the Pac-12 to play up its already suffering image. If there was still any doubt about which Power 5 Conference is the weakest, there isn’t now.
What I find arguably more puzzling than the Pac-12’s football woes is the basketball troubles. To put it bluntly, Pac-12 hoops is a complete disaster. The conference just recorded the worst December in Power 5 history and is in serious contention of only sending one team to the big dance.
(You can find a break-down of the Pac-12’s big-dance futility in this article, here)
Whereas football requires much more in the way of resources, money, good players, and time to develop a winning program; in basketball, you’re really ”only” two outstanding players away from making a run at the Final Four. Which is why I find it so baffling that the Pac-12 is so bad.
UCLA — if it hasn’t already — should have had its blue-blood card revoked long ago. As a program, the post Wooden-era Bruins are the greatest disappointment in college hoops, ever. There is no reason that UCLA shouldn’t be the Lakers of college basketball, attracting talent from across the county to the glitz and glamour of LA to play winning basketball. But, for decades now clowns have been steering the ship in Westwood.
They finally upgraded the morgue-esque Pauley Pavillion (yes, I’ve been there several times), now it’s time to step up and throw money at the best coach possible. When I heard Rick Pitino’s name floating around by some UCLA boosters, I kind of laughed, thinking, “Yeah, right; way too much baggage.”
But, then I thought, “Why not?” Let’s put aside the false-moral high ground for a moment (besides, they pissed the moral high-ground away the moment they let Lorenzo Ball step foot on campus), and hire a guy who can actually win. He’ll be under so much scrutiny that he won’t be able to get away with jay-walking, let alone anything worse. It’ll never happen, we can only dream.
Since Lute Olson retired long ago, the conference hasn’t had a marquee, big-name coach. So, it’s time to buy one. Oh oops, it goes back to that pesky lack of revenue thing. No money, no big name coaches.
Welcome to life in the Pac-12 Conference.
Top photo credit: from Video
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.
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