A lot of noise has been made about the ineptitude of the conference in which the Oregon Ducks play. From some random guy deciding when penalties should stand, to bowl game opt-outs and criminally poor refereeing in all sports, the Pac-12 has long been the worst that the Power Five has to offer.
The conference took their first step toward relevancy when they made plans to part ways with much maligned commissioner, Larry Scott. Undoing the decade of damage Scott has inflicted, not just on the perception of the conference, but on the individual schools therein, is going to take a significant amount of time and effort.
Helping the Schools
The Pac-12 is behind the curve. The schools are receiving millions of dollars less than their counterparts in other conferences, and it shows. Mid-tier schools from other conferences have been poaching coaches from the Pac-12, stealing recruits from the umbrella of the conference and just generally outperforming all but one Pac-12 team.
Getting rid of their insanely expensive conference headquarters and disbanding the Pac-12 network in favor of actually getting money for games being broadcast to the entire country should be the first priorities of the new commissioner. The Pac-12 isn’t making as much money as the other Power Five schools, that money shouldn’t be spent on a massive space in one of the most expensive cities on earth, or propping up a TV network that only half of the country can watch.
The new commissioner needs to take a smaller salary than Scott had as well. While it won’t free up much money, there is a correlation between conferences paying their commissioners less money, and having teams win the national championship. The SEC(!) has the lowest paid commissioner, making less than half of what Scott makes. The ACC commissioner has the second lowest salary, and look how good Clemson has played the last decade.
Sure, paying the commissioner less isn’t going to distribute an amount of money to Pac-12 schools that matters, 3.2 million dollars distributed to 12 schools isn’t much at all. But why should the commissioner of the worst conference have the second highest salary among the other commissioners?
Redistributing the funds from the above mentioned changes should be enough to make the conference significantly more competitive. Whether the schools use the funds to increase the pay of coaches to prevent them from being stolen, or to build a more robust recruiting program, an increase in revenue will do nothing but help the conference.
Reimaging the Conference
The image of the Pac-12 is broken. Out-recruiting a school out West is easy, they are working on their sixth year without going to the playoff and they get the snot beat out of them in bowl games on a regular basis. The Pac-12 has fewer players taken in the draft, they play their games in the middle of the night and the best team from their conference would be the third or fourth best team any given year in the SEC.
No recruit wants to go play for a team that can’t win, and there are basically no teams in the Pac-12 that have been winning recently.
Teams rejoice every offseason when USC doesn’t fire Clay Helton, but the fact of the matter is that the conference needs the Trojans to be better. Right now Helton is a good coach at the wrong program. Washington is currently working on moving back to irrelevance. The Huskies are going to finish the 2021 recruiting cycle in the mid 30’s, and they just promoted their worst recruiter, and the coach of the worst position group on their defense, to defensive coordinator. Sadly, the conference needs UW to be better as well.
The first thing that the conference needs to do to fix their image is to fix the awful officiating in all sports. Bad ball spots that decide games (and potentially seasons) shouldn’t be happening at this point. Any conference willing to make their head of officiating someone without any experience officiating at the Power Five level is going to put a poor product on the field. The conference cannot have the mistakes by referees that seemingly determine the outcome of every game in every sport.
Additionally, the conference needs to put football minds in positions of power. Having Woodie Dixon, someone with no football experience at any level, as a supervisor of anything to do with football inevitably resulted in a scandal.
The next commissioner needs to be a football guy. Football is the lifeblood of college sports and putting Scott, former chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, in charge of a sport he clearly doesn’t understand set the conference back in a way they may never recover from.
The Pac-12 is in a bad way. They look bad, they are bad and recruits think they’re going to keep being bad. That compounds to set the conference more and more behind with each passing season.
Creating a talented but balanced conference is the only way for Oregon to find success. The last thing that any fan should want is for the Ducks to boat race an awful conference, go undefeated, and then get 70 points dropped on them by Alabama. That is what would’ve happened had the Ducks squeezed out wins against Cal and OSU this year. They would have been annihilated against Alabama. They couldn’t stop the run all year, they struggled to stop the pass and their offense had a hard time against the better defenses they faced.
Iron sharpens iron, as Mario Cristobal likes to say, but right now the Pac-12 is a conference full of wood.
Top Photo By: Eugene Johnson
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Ryan Robertson is a defense contractor for the United States Marine Corps. A lifelong Duck fan from Grants Pass, he joined the Army out of high school. After four years as an Intelligence Analyst he decided it was time to further his education and pay more attention to his Ducks. One of Ryan’s first memories is of watching the Ducks, led by Joey Harrington, beating up on the Utah Utes in 2001. His grandfather ran track at Oregon in the ‘50s. He loves the Ducks, and has a passionate interest in reading every scrap of analysis centered around the football team.
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