“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things.
Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, of cabbages … and Kings.”
Alice In Wonderland
Apparently, Arizona State (ASU) President, Michael M. Crow heard the call of the Walrus. (The Walrus, by the way, was the symbol of death for many Norse cultures and also for the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album.) On January 14, 2019, in an interview with the Arizona Republic, this was the Chief Devil’s response when asked his opinion on the state of the Pac-12 Conference. (The following is his reply with my comments inserted.)
“By my standard, we’re on track. [Hell of a standard!] We’re doing well; [At what; certainly not in college football (CFB) and men’s college basketball (CBB)?] we’re making progress, [Echoes of Baghdad Bob?] and we are positioned for greatness going forward.” [Compared to what? The Sun Belt or the MAC?]
What else can we expect one of those who hired Larry Scott, and is one of his big-time supporters, to say?
“We screwed up, and Livin’-Large Larry must go?”
President Crow also noted that owning the Pac-12 Network 100%, without a media equity partner, gives the Pac-12 a significant advantage when it comes to future earnings and with scheduling. No need to pile on the rank stupidity of this statement. Simply refer to John Canzano’s four-part analysis of the (sorry) state of the Pac-12 in The Oregonian. (Additional information for this article courtesy of John Wilner.) Compared to the B1G Network and the SEC Network, the Pac-12 Network is a kid’s lemonade stand.
As for scheduling, the Pac-12, in both CBB and CFB, takes a back seat to both ESPN and FOX. Truck races trump football games. And tailgating in the daylight is a lost art.
The Pac-12’s new media rights deal does not come up for negotiation until 2024-2025. By then, the B1G and SEC both will have locked up new deals. What is going to be left over for the Conference of Champions? Scott has 10 percent of the “Pac-12 Enterprise” up for sale for $500 million (via Canzano and The Oregonian.) This means, of course, that the good ship Enterprise is worth $5 billion, right? Riiiiiiiiiiight?
The Pac-12 is a sinking ship, full of cabbages and nowhere close to the days when it was a king. And the presidents, in their collective wisdom, have put their respective wax seals on Scott’s woeful leadership and business decisions. They continue to stand in the shoes of folks who do not understand that the ship has already hit the shoals, and Oregon will be left without a lifeboat.
The Mountain West had more of its football teams, (Boise State, Fresno State and Utah State) finish in the final 2018 AP Poll than the Pac-12 did, with only the two Washington schools included in the top 25. No Pac-12 CBB team is currently ranked in the AP Poll as of Monday morning. Noted NFL guy Dane Brugler has a mere five Pac-12 players in his top-50 draft prospects, posted on The Athletic. There are no Pac-12 QBs or RBs, and only one WR, ASU’s N’Keal Harry.
Is there a solution?
Go independent in football and join the Mountain West for all other sports? This is a non-starter.
Oregon does not have the historic cache of a Notre Dame and will not be given a seat at the playoff table unless it is a member of the Pac-12. And “The Matt” already has trouble selling out. Maybe the fans would show up for Nevada, but would they for San Jose Sate?
And Oregon, unlike BYU, does not have a national and international group of the faithful to call upon. The Ducks would not get a deal from ESPN like the Cougars have. And scheduling for football would be extremely difficult.
How about this ploy? Washignton (UW), Oregon, Stanford, USC, ASU and Colorado (CU), the breakaway 6, join the BIG XII. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State join these six teams to form the West Division of the Big-16 (B-16). ESPN stays on as the owner of The Longhorn Network (LHN), and it becomes the B-16 Network.
This realignment would bring in the majority of the major “left coast” metro areas, and also the cities where the NFL has a presence. With a CFB media cartel as the owner of the B-16 Network, it would be available on all cable carriers coast to coast, and the conference would not be merely a blip on the radar in Bristol, Connecticut.
Based on the current AP men’s CBB rankings and the final AP CFB rankings, the breakaway 6 would be stepping up and back into CBB and CFB relevance. The BIG XII, without a conference network, has distributed more money to its member schools in the last two years than the Pac-12.
As private schools, Stanford and USC would not need legislative approval. ASU, CU, Oregon and UW are all “big brothers” in their respective states, with more influence on the legislative powers that be. With three out-of-conference games, all of the traditional Pac-12 rivalry games could still be played. The Mountain West would be delighted to take in the six Pac-12 teams left behind.
“But I see no impetus for this, and I see no drummer among the breakaway 6 who would even attempt to initiate such a departure.”
Here is my only suggestion that has a scintilla at best, of a chance of happening. It will only happen if the powers that be in the BIG XII and the Pac-12 recognize that CFB west of the Mississippi is being left behind.
Form the Western Football Alliance (WFA) by “merging” the BIG XII and the Pac-12 for scheduling purposes. The LHN becomes the WFA Network. CU is added to the BIG XII to form the WFA East Division. One game out-of-conference. Two cross-over games. Nine division games.
Sigh, but why would the BIG XII agree to this? Why would Texas and Oklahoma, poised to join the SEC when, not if, asked, go for this set up?
So, my dear Ducks friends, I believe we are stuck in West Coast Wonderland. Where, but for the results on the field and on the court, it’s all good — stuck behind the decision making of twelve Mad Kings and Queens. If someone out there has a solution beyond the rubric of, “it’s cyclical,” please chime in. The flow of money is not guaranteed and is not cyclical.
From the San Francisco headquarters of the former Pac-12, and soon to be the newest Conference Group of 6 member, … to all of you I wish A Very Merry Un-Birthday!
Georgetown, Texas Top Photo by AwfulAnnouncing.com
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in digital marketing in Chicago, Illinois.
Jon Joseph grew up in Boston, Massachusetts but has been blessed to have lived long enough in the west to have exorcised all east coast bias. He played football in college and has passionately followed the game for seven decades. A retired corporate attorney Jon has lectured across the country and published numerous articles on banking and gaming law. Now a resident of Aiken South Carolina, Jon follows college football across the nation with a focus on the Conference of Champions and the Ducks.
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