A recent article in The Athletic by Andy Staples outlines why the time is now for the Big 12 to raid the Pac-12 to create the Big 16.
My initial reaction to the thought of the Pac-12 disbanding was utter shock. The traditionalist in me hates this. I want to preserve the conference, west coast pride, the alliance to the Rose-Bowl, the Civil War, and other rivalry games.
But after careful consideration, would it really be that bad?
It was just ten years ago when new Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott made a power-play to raid the Big 12 of six of its members to create the Pac-16. Oregon would now be playing Texas and Oklahoma (the crown jewels of the maneuver) regularly as conference foes. The league would arguably have been the most imposing in the country, the king of college football.
Of course, it didn’t happen, Larry Scott fumbled it away as he didn’t have a contingent plan for Texas insisting on having the Longhorn Network. We fast forward to today and the Pac-12 has been transformed from the predator to the prey.
But the thing is, as the prey, as the loser, after we all simultaneously take one gigantic swallow of pride, we get the poor man’s version of essentially the same thing we lost out on a decade ago. And along with it, the strength, the cash, and the prosperity of being in the most powerful conference in college football.
Not a bad consolation prize.
The Big 16 would be led by the current Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby (the anti-Larry Scott), who has navigated the Big 12 from a national laughing stock to running just a half-step behind the Big-10 and SEC. While in that same period the Pac-12 has gone from highly respected to falling far, far behind.
The Big 16 Alignment
Per Staples, the obvious brand name picks from the Pac-12 would be USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington, while the not so obvious are Arizona and Arizona State (over Cal and Stanford). I believe he’s correct in his assertion.
The Big 16 would logically breakdown into East and West divisions. I mean, no way would poor West Virginia be expected to fly to the west coast multiple times a year. I would also presume that the eastern division would like to keep the Texas and Oklahoma schools together.
West: Washington, Oregon, USC, UCLA, Arizona, ASU, Kansas, Kansas State.
East: Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, West Virginia.
Key Concerns for Oregon
Oregon State: Scheduling in college football never seems to be as easy as it seems. But I don’t see why the Ducks and Beavers (and other broken up rivalry games) couldn’t continue on an annual basis as a non-conference game. Think Notre Dame-USC, Florida-FSU, Colorado-Colorado St, etc.. With more high-profile teams in the new conference, it makes scheduling high-profile non-conference games a little less important.
Where Would the Uninvited Go?: The Pac-12’s realignment losers would probably join a turbo-charged Mountain West or band together to start a new conference while stealing away the best of the Mountain West (Boise State, San Diego State, etc.).
In which it would be right there with the AAC as the best non-Power-4 Conference (yes, Power-4). With the inevitability of an expanded College Football Playoff to eight teams, which would guarantee a bid from a non-Power-4 conference, it could seemingly provide an easier path to the playoff then remaining in a Power conference.
Ask yourself this: Would it be easier for Oregon State to qualify for the CFP by winning or securing an at-large in the Big-16? Or by being the highest-rated qualifying non-Power-4 school?
Seeing as how they haven’t won an outright conference championship since 1956 (or partial since 2000), I say the non-Power route.
Not playing WSU, Cal, Stanford: This would be the major pain point. (With Utah and Colorado being such new additions to the Pac-12, we won’t consider them a big deal.) If the Civil War were to continue every year it would leave the Ducks with only two remaining non-conference foes. Presumably one of them would be home game against a cream-puff, and the other against a Power-4 team.
This would leave little wiggle room to slide these traditional rivals in, on even an occasional basis.
The Rose Bowl: Shouldn’t be a worry. I can’t imagine the Rose Bowl not aligning itself with the new Big 16 in place of the old Pac-12.
A Funny Thought: Poor Colorado. They jumped ship from the Big 12 ten years ago and now could be on the outside looking in regards to being in a Power conference. Well, we all know what they say about paybacks.
Again, the demise of the Pac-12 is not what any (I think) Duck fans would like. But if it happens we’ll actually be in a much stronger financial position than we were before, and with certifiable Power conference status for a long, long time. The alternative could be much worse.
Oregon fans can take pride that in this dog eat dog world of college football that the Ducks are not expendable, are in a position of strength, and will prosper. Oregon’s 40 years of growth and continual improvement on the gridiron have put them there.
The Ducks created college football cool, and with the possibility of another round of conference realignment on the horizon, without a doubt, Oregon will be included with the “cool kids.“
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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