We were all sea-swallowed, though some cast again
(And by that destiny) to perform an act
Whereof what’s past is prologue; which to come,
In yours and my discharge.
— William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 2, Scene 1
On January 10, 2018, I posted an article titled “Oregon and the Pac-12: Is it TIME TO ABANDON SHIP?“
Said title appeared below a photo of the “unsinkable” Titanic on her way to meet Davy Jones.
Knowing that no man can be a prophet in his own land, and also knowing that I am not the mythological Cassandra (a woman cursed to utter true prophecies and never be believed), I nevertheless decided to re-visit my scribbling to see if what I writ in the past was indeed what was to come.
Of course, one did not have to be all that prescient back on January 10, 2018 to recognize that Captain Larry had the good ship Pac-12 going full speed ahead in the direction of a large iceberg. This, as the Captain’s learned overseers were having tea and crumpets in the first-class lounge.
I can imagine these good folks’ conversation: “It’s Captain Larry, the best-compensated captain on the Power 5 seas. What could go wrong? Pass the sugar, please.”
So, let’s see if the not-too-distant past was indeed prologue …
Then and Now
Then: “The conference just set a record for bowl game futility, going 1-8. The offensive line play from conference champ USC brought new meaning to the word ”sieve,” while the conference’s best defense gave up 545 yards to Penn State.”
Now: A 3-4 record in 2019 is an improvement, but having seven, and not nine, schools bowling is not. Iowa showed that the USC sieve has yet to be patched. Utah was last seen being Bevo’d out of San Antonio. The Air Force Academy shot down the Pirate’s air raid. And, like 2018, out west the college football (CFB) Playoff was nothing more than a rumor.
Then: “CFB’s early signing period saw the conference secure the last place among the Power 5 conferences.”
Now: Ditto. Although, it should be noted that USC went all out and finished at a historically low 66 in the recruiting rankings, two spots below Rutgers and its prodigal son, Greg Schiano.
I also note that since last January, Larry, at a breakfast meeting held in Portland and after reminding all present that he was the tennis captain at Harvard, took no responsibility for lousy Pac-12 Network (PN) viewership and game times being detrimental to recruiting. Instead, he blamed the head coaches of the conference’s basketball and football teams. Apparently, the buck does not stop in San Francisco. If only a buck, other than one being handed to Larry, could find its way there.
Then: “The PN is an abject failure, as projected income distribution to member schools has fallen far short of earlier projections. If the conference was managed by business people and not academics, Larry Scott would be long gone.”
Now: Ditto. In a recent interview, ASU president, Michael M. Crow, opined that he is 100% behind Larry Scott and that the Pac-12 Network is “perfectly positioned.” Yeah, Mike, just like the leaning tower of Pisa, right?
I am not an ornithologist, but I expect the average crow likely possesses greater intelligence than does this bird brain.
Then: “The B1G and SEC networks had extensive coverage of early signing day. The Pac-12? Zip.”
Now: After being shamed, the PN now does cover signing days. But if a tree falls in the forest … ?
In season, the B1G has a daily hour- to two-hour-long program dedicated to CFB. And in addition to the SEC Network’s daily CFB programming, Paul Feinbaum is on four hours a day.
This spring, the PN will have a full, on-site broadcast of one spring football game, the Oregon game. Employees leaving the PN are not being replaced. This includes eight advertising salespeople.
When a business stops selling its own product, is it not “perfectly positioned” to file for bankruptcy?
Then: “Our friend Willie hopped on the bus to FSU.”
Now: Thank you, Seminoles!
Then: Wazzu’s D coordinator Alex Grinch, who greatly improved the D on the Palouse, is off to greener pastures at Ohio State.
Now: Grinch is the DC at Oklahoma. The Pirate recently bolted to the land of cowbells: Starkville, Mississippi.
Post 2020 signing day, Mel Tucker said, “CU later. I’m off to East Lansing for bigger poached eggs. To all you kids whom I seduced to come to Boulder? Never forget that the Spartans threw their unwanted children off the side of a cliff.”
At least the Grinch was stolen by a school that, more often than not, wins.
Last season, Michigan State collected $50M from conference coffers. Mississippi State, $45M. After 2025 when the new B1G and SEC media deals are re-negotiated, it will be $60M+ per annum for B1G and SEC schools. Best realistic case for the Pac-12? $40M … maybe.
Then: “The soul of the conference, the Rose Bowl, was bartered away for trinkets.”
Now: In 2020, the Rose Bowl is a semi-final CFB Playoff site. The Pac-12 champ (which should be the Ducks again) is likely to be facing the B1G runner-up in the Fiesta Bowl? In fairness, the conference will be paid $30M for ceding the Rose Bowl to the CFB Playoff mix instead of $60M or so for actually playing in Pasadena on 1/1/21.
Was Larry not aware of how the Ducks were trashed by the BCS in 2001? When the Ducks were undeservedly sent to the Fiesta Bowl to play Colorado, a team Oregon destroyed. This was only after CU had destroyed Nebraska, the “second best team in the country,” which was sent to play Miami in the Rose Bowl, the BCS Championship Game.
But it’s all good. Let’s throw the Rose Bowl back into a four-team playoff, where we have five conferences (sorry G5) and Notre Dame competing for four spots.
What could go wrong?
Then: “Under the current business model, I simply cannot see a scenario in which the Pac-12 Conference can pull out of this financial downturn. Sure, for the sake of tradition Oregon can remain in an as-is Pac-12. And I am certain that many will argue that Oregon, sink or swim, should remain a loyal conference member.
But in my view, a well-capitalized Oregon and the six West Coast big market teams should head for the lifeboats before the good ship Pac-12 sinks or floats into the sunset as a lesser vessel, The Ivy League II.“
Now: That you, Cassandra?
Top Photo by Eugene Johnson
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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