In the aftermath of an atrocious bowl season, I have been sensing from many Oregon fans that the Pac-12 is doomed.
Many fans feel the conference missed the boat by not expanding with the remaining Big 12 teams after Texas and Oklahoma bolted for the SEC. Some think that it is only a matter of time before USC and Oregon and maybe a couple other schools leave the Pac-12 for greener pastures, while still others believe that the conference should dump the “dead weight” that is the likes of Oregon State, Washington State and Cal.
That is some pretty heavy stuff. But, I think the answer to conference relevance is fairly simple.
But first, let’s go back to the 2000s when the then Pac-10 was not very good. The conference had a dominant USC and that was it. After USC, there was not a second national contending football program and the basketball title drought was the same as it is now, just much younger. But, since the Pac-10 did have one continually contending football team that had won two national championships, the perception was that the Pac-10 was OK. And as they say, perception is reality.
The reality is that if a conference has just one College Football Playoff-quality football team, then that conference is doing OK.
If the ACC gets another sub-CFP level performance from Clemson, then no doubt there will be increased scrutiny on the health of that conference. The ACC is a strong basketball conference and has the built-in advantage of being on the east coast, so the criticism will not be as strong as with the Pac-12, but there will be those piling on the ACC’s football relevance, and perhaps even suggesting the Tigers should jump off the sinking ACC ship and swim over to the SEC.
But, let us pump the brakes on anybody jumping to a new conference, or expansion, or addition by retraction, etc., etc. The return to relevance for the Pac-12 might be much easier than you think. In fact, the corrections have already taken place and what is now needed is patience. For the best way for the Pac-12 to get back to respectability is literally as easy as 1-2-3.
And in this order:
1) USC: The Pac-12’s sole blue blood. After a decade of mismanagement, the Trojans have finally hired a top-notch Athletic Director who then stole a top-tier, CFP-quality coach.
2) New Commissioner: Of course, anyone was an improvement over Larry Scott. But, George Kliavkoff so far has proven to be just what the conference needed. He appears to be on the way to reducing the conference games from 9 to 8 to set up high-profile, non-conference, money-making, interconference games within the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 alliance.
This was the right move instead of rashly adding Big-12 leftovers after the SEC stole Texas and Oklahoma. Expansion is about quality, not quantity, and having more mediocre mouths to feed would only hurt the Pac-12. There is a reason the SEC only invited Texas and Oklahoma.
3) Oregon: The Pac-12’s “new blood” and No. 2 brand, the Ducks also upgraded at head coach. The Ducks should have been in the CFP this year (also in 2019) but Mario Cristobal’s lack of coaching ability once again cost the Ducks and the conference.
Simply put, the Pac-12 needs better production from those at the top. As far as the conference leader, early returns are that Kliavkoff is providing that, and USC and Oregon are on their way to playing better, more talented, CFP quality football. The harsh reality of the 2021 season is that it was our very own beloved Oregon Ducks who blew it for the Pac-12.
But with a bright young coach, one who will recruit well and coach well, will bring about an improved Oregon which in turn provides for an improved Pac-12 conference.
Top photo credit: Tom Corno
Darren Perkins is a sales professional and 1997 Oregon graduate. After finishing school, he escaped the rain and moved to sunny Southern California where he studied screenwriting for two years at UCLA. Darren grew up in Eugene and in 1980, at the tender age of five, he attended his first Oregon football game. His lasting memory from that experience was an enthusiastic Don Essig announcing to the crowd: “Reggie Ogburn, completes a pass to… Reggie Ogburn.” Captivated by such a thrilling play, Darren’s been hooked on Oregon football ever since. Currently living in Spokane, Darren enjoys flaunting his yellow and green superiority complex over friends and family in Cougar country.
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