My friends, we are calling an audible with our weekly schedule as Darren Perkins will be on Tuesday this week in order to publish this guest article from long-time writer and editor on this site, Mike Merrell today. Normally with guest articles-we place them where they help us the most, but this time it makes sense to publish it immediately as a different view to what was offered yesterday by our own Jon Joseph. More great pondering and discussion! Charles Fischer
For those who believe firing Larry Scott will solve all the Pac-12’s problems, here’s some very bad news: Larry Scott only comes in at No. 5 on the conference’s list of problems. And getting rid of Problem No. 5 is going to have about as much chance of solving the conference’s challenges as the No. 5 team in the BCS standings has of winning the championship.
What’s worse than Larry Scott? Let’s start with the basics.
1) The Earth rotates from East to West and football is not a morning sport.
This may sound like two problems, but neither on its own is the problem. It’s the way they work together to create “Pac-12 After Dark,” which is relegated to farther past bedtime the farther east you go. With the absence of morning football, the result is that all East Coast games are played when most of the country is awake.
Now if football games started at 9:00 a.m., it would be the East Coast that had to play when we were asleep out West. And they’d be the ones crying about being an audience only for those hardcore enough to get up before six to catch a game that wasn’t consequential enough to make prime time.
I’m not advocating morning kickoffs. The night games are too bad for those attendees who have long drives or happen to be morning-people living on the East Coast, but for fans on the West Coast who own television sets and don’t really make it out much on Saturday nights, it’s fine.
However, it doesn’t change the fact that unless the Earth starts spinning the opposite direction or football becomes a morning sport, the East is going to be asleep for a good number of West Coast games. Since everything’s about money these days, that means the television market for West Coast games is smaller by however many television sets have gone to bed as you travel through three time zones, deeper and deeper past night-night time.
I don’t know how much this means in television revenues, but I would challenge anyone to do the research and math to prove that this isn’t a bigger problem than Larry Scott. I admit to being too lazy to do it myself, so I’m just going with my gut here.
But this is a real problem, especially when you consider that…
2) The Pacific Ocean is much wider than the Atlantic Ocean.
The question here is, “How are you going to migrate from another continent to North America?” Ruling out migration from South America, you are going to cross an ocean. The hop from Europe and Africa is much, much shorter than any hop across the Pacific—outside of the Bering Strait, which through a cold twist of fate never caught on in a big way.
This is a problem for the Pac-12, because this means that the major population of the United States crossed the Atlantic and landed on the East Coast, and the West Coast was an afterthought from the start. There are many more people in the Eastern Time Zone than there are in the Pacific Time Zone. And by our standards, they go to bed early.
But here’s the double-edge sword: Those people have televisions, and they have sons who play football, especially in the part of the country that encompasses the S.E.C. More than we have out West. This gives them first crack at television money and first crack at recruits.
I’m not saying Larry Scott’s not a problem, but can you seriously believe that he’s a bigger problem for the Pac-12 than that?
If that’s not bad enough, there’s a third problem that firing Larry Scott will not do a thing to change, and that problem is…
Geography works against the Pac-12 in many ways, and there’s not a lot that Larry Scott or anyone else can do about it. I’m sure this manifests itself in ways beyond what I can imagine, but here are three.
Fan Interest. Let’s face it. The West has it all over the East, from Colorado Rocky Mountain High to Surfin’ in Californ-i-ay! There are actually things to do here besides watch football. That is only marginally true in other places.
Away games are often farther away due to the vast area the conference covers. As a consequence, visiting teams make smaller contributions to filling stadiums.
Stress on Athletes. Geography causes greater stress to athletes: longer travels and more challenging playing conditions: mile high, desert, blizzard, downpour, monsoon. The Pac-12 has it all. It can’t be easy, and it leads to:
Supersize my Home-field Advantage. If the game’s in their park, they have a home-field advantage. But if their park’s in the hot desert sun, a Pullman blizzard or an Autzen downpour (that never happens), somebody’s home-field advantage just got supersized. Because they are used to it and you are not. This is just one more hurdle to making it through a nine-game conference schedule unscathed. It is possible this kept the Pac-12 out of the national championship series this past year. Oregon lost in the desert, and Utah lost in the rain. The Mountain West could make the same point, but they’re almost part of the family.
But speaking of Oregon, the Pac-12’s next worst problem is…
4) The Oregon Ducks.
As a certified public accountant, I’ve sat across from rich people complaining about how poor they are. You just want to reach across the desk and slap them. I get the same urge when I hear Ducks fans declaring “poor us” in any way. The Oregon Ducks are in the coveted position of being a big problem for the rest of the conference, and getting rid of Larry Scott won’t change it.
Given the three problems coming in above the Oregon Ducks on this list, there probably isn’t room for too many great programs in the conference at one time. I’m thinking “one” would be a real breakthrough.
It’s unlikely the conference is going to emerge on the whole by firing Champagne Larry and moving the offices to the cheap rent district of Las Vegas or wherever. More likely, one program will break above the pack. If Oregon hasn’t done this already, the threat is there.
This flock of Ducks has hatched the most famous and successful athletic goods company in the history of the world. Oregon has rich, rich donors. It has one of the best-funded athletic departments in the nation, and is widely recognized as having some of the best—if not the best—football facilities in the country.
Phil Knight can cover Oregon’s share of any Pac-12 Networks shortfall with a percentage of his wealth that most of us carry in our front pockets. The bad news for the rest of the Pac-12 is that he does so repeatedly—and then some. For some inconceivable reason, they have no sympathy for “poor us” from Ducks fans.
Oregon has ignored time zones and geography by recruiting nationally and internationally. The Ducks have played well enough to make it to enough East Coast prime time games to become a national brand. While Utah and the others dink around with the likes of Northern Illinois, Idaho State, Montana State and BYU on Pac-12 After Dark, Oregon schedules Auburn, Georgia and Ohio State, and draws bowl games with the likes of Wisconsin. All during prime time.
One problem for the rest of the conference is that they have to play catch-up in an age where the rich get richer. Granted, higher payouts from the Pac-12 would help them improve, but Oregon would get the same amount of gravy—and probably spend it more efficiently.
The other problem for the rest of the conference is that firing Larry Scott won’t make the Oregon Ducks go away any more than it will cause the world to start spinning west to east.
Mike (Editor-in-Chief) is a 1970 graduate of the University of Oregon where he attended the Honors College and received all-conference honors as a swimmer. After college, Mike ran for the Oregon Track Club and narrowly missed qualifying for the US Olympic Trials in the marathon. He continues his involvement in sports with near-daily swimming or running workouts, occasional masters swim competition (where he has received two Top-10 World rankings), providing volunteer coaching to local triathletes and helping out with FishDuck.com.
Mike lives on 28 acres in the forest near Sandpoint, Idaho, where he has served as a certified public accountant for most of his working career. His current night job is writing novels about Abby Westminster, the only known illegitimate daughter of Britain’s finest secret agent who has to bring down arch-villains plotting dastardly deeds. And, yes, Abby is also a DUCK!
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