BY SPNW Staff 03:41PM 09/21/2011

Pac-12 made right choice in nixing expansion

For a few days this week it seemed inevitable that the Pac-12 Conference would add a minimum of two and a maximum of four new members. But on Tuesday night, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott officially squashed a potential Pac-16, explaining that conference presidents and chancellors are happy with the current league alignment.

“After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference,” said Scott, who did not preclude the Pac-12 adding more members at a later date.

Had Pac-12 presidents voted to expand, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State probably would have become the conference’s 13th and 14th members. Had Texas, the drama queen in this soap, been willing to fold the Longhorn Network into the Pac-12′s regional television structure and share revenue equally with all members of the conference, the Longhorns and Texas Tech would have given the conference its 15th and 16th teams.

According to the best available intelligence, a Pac-16 would have been diced into four divisions, or “pods,” based principally on geography.

Washington would have been placed in a four-school, Northwest pod along with Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State. The schools in each pod would have (as now) played each other every year, and all Pac-16 members would have played nine league games per season.

The Longhorns wouldn’t — or couldn’t — fold their network, reportedly worth $300 million, into the Pac-12′s, or Pac-12 officials couldn’t abide the terms of the proposed absorption.

Such a consolidation would have been complicated in any event, given that the Longhorn Network essentially is a tangled financial partnership between the University of Texas, ESPN and IMG College, a conglomerate that holds licensing rights to more than 150 colleges and universities, nine collegiate conferences and 15 bowl games.

A bloated Pac-16 would certainly have ensured larger slices of a bigger financial pie for all conference members, who will have to content themselves with splitting $3 billion over a 12-year period beginning in 2012, when the Pac-12 Network makes its debut.

But the extra cash would have come at a price: a competitive setback for all conference schools (and their fans) not named USC, Texas or Oklahoma. The remaining 13 members, including Washington and Washington State, would, in our view, have been relegated to the equivalent of a doggie toy for the Trojans, Longhorns and Sooners.

In a league with nine other league members, Washington hasn’t won a conference football title since 2000, when the Huskies tied for first. UW hasn’t won a title outright since the last century, 1992, when Don James hovered in his practice tower.

Had Texas and Oklahoma joined USC in a souped-up Pac-16, the new league would bow down to Washington about as often as something smart emerges from the mouth of Pat Robertson.

Washington won its first league title, in the old Pacific Coast Conference, back in 1916, when Gil Dobie put the finishing touches on a 58-0-3 career deemed not good enough for him to retain his job. The Huskies didn’t win another league title until 1925.

UW fans had to languish another 11 years before a third, in 1936, and 23 more years until Jim Owens produced a fourth, in 1959. Fourteen more years elapsed between Owens’ last conference title (1963) and the first by James (1977).

Washington has won or tied for 15 conference titles in 121 years, meaning that the Huskies float to the top every 8.07 years. But three of the 15 titles occurred in a five-year burst under Owens and six others in a 15-year span under James.

Eliminate the James era and Washington has won nine titles in 103 years, or one every 11.4 seasons. With Texas and Oklahoma added to the mix, Washington might be looking at an outright championship every 111.4 seasons.

That’s not much of an incentive to tailgate, contribute to a stadium upgrade, or stock up on purple and gold face paint.

Had the Pac-16 become a reality, the league would have devolved into the modern equivalent of the old Big 10, in which Woody Hayes of Ohio State and Bo Schembechler of Michigan made sure almost annually that the remaining eight conference members amounted to little more than fodder.

In 2003, then-UW coach Rick Neuheisel, burdened with a team that couldn’t contend for a Pac-10 title, advanced the quaint idea that the Huskies would instead play for something he dubbed the “Northwest Championship.”

Most thought Neuheisel’s idea laughable. But with a Pac-16, a “Northwest Championship” wouldn’t be so funny. Most years, it would be all that Washington could realistically hope to win.


YourThoughts

  • crumudgeon

    Thank God for Long Horn greed.  All this realignment crap is just another burden for the average fan to bare.  A lot of nice regional rivalries with decades of history and patronage have been tossed out with the bath water for the sake of squeezing more money out of the public.  It’s stupid.  No matter how they end up carving things up, a college football tournament will never satisfy everyone.  But I regress — that is not the real reason all this change is being crammed down Americas’ throat — it is greed and always has been.

  • crumudgeon

    Thank God for Long Horn greed.  All this realignment crap is just another burden for the average fan to bare.  A lot of nice regional rivalries with decades of history and patronage have been tossed out with the bath water for the sake of squeezing more money out of the public.  It’s stupid.  No matter how they end up carving things up, a college football tournament will never satisfy everyone.  But I regress — that is not the real reason all this change is being crammed down Americas’ throat — it is greed and always has been.

  • Soggyblogger

    I disagree. A rising tide raises all boats (that aren’t sinking). Though the problem of the Longhorn Network may be insurmountable, I think a super conference would have made recruiting easier and given more exposure to all the conference teams. Right NOW, we compete with the SEC for the really talented recruits because the SEC is (perceived as) the dominant conference. With Texas and Oklahoma added the upgrade is obvious (otherwise why would you predict such a dismal future for the dawgs?) Afraid we can’t compete? That is sad. James’ teams competed fine. Coaching makes the biggest difference.

    In past comments I have made suggestions to upgrade this site, and all have been ignored. This site has some good writers, but no one here seems to understand the internet. So now when I come here it takes me a few seconds to determine if a new story has been written in which I am interested, and if not, away I go. Unlike the good old days when you guys first started off (about 11 months ago?) now there seems to be near zero comments to any of your stories…..when what you should be TRYING to do is become the sports version of “The Huffington Post.” A friendly place to visit, and get interesting articles from all over the internet. Instead, you have downgraded to a mother’s basement blog type of site.

    My earlier suggestions were more kindly put than these today, but I didn’t hear back on any of them, nor see any real interest in suggestions – another example demonstrating that being a good writer doesn’t make you a good business person because even back in the fifties businesses knew about suggestion boxes.

    In your very first article introducing this site, you asked that we (the readers) not criticize or hug you too strongly (a paraphrase from memory)  but from what I can tell about this site, you guys are being largely ignored and ought to be frantic for some suggestions.

    @2dd4311e0c0a05d06e9a82d10970f3a2:disqus
    : Read some A. Rand. Greed isn’t the devil. The Pac 12 NEGOTIATED a $3 Billion dollar deal with some network…..who was the greedy party? The network? The conference? How would such a negotiation work in a non-greedy world? Would the network offer $5 billion for the same contract, and the conference say, “Oh! $5 billion is too much! We’re not good enough to be worth that much. Please give us a contract for $3 billion.” and THAT’S how the figure should have been arrived at? Steve Kelly just wrote an article (a few days after EVERY OTHER SPORTS WRITER HAD WRITTEN ON THE SAME SUBJECT) and threw out the CORRUPTUON accusation without a scrap of analytical foundation other than the fact that plenty of programs have been caught in violations of NCAA rules. Every team joins a conference for greedy reasons. We added Colorado and Utah for greedy reasons – which could also be stated as enlightened self-interest. Or at least, the best attempt at enlightened self-interest. Meaning schools may have their priorities straight or they might not. Or they may or may not accurately see the future. After all, who wouldn’t have invested in Microsoft back before it split 100 to 1 if they could see the future?

    Bringing up the point that if the Pac 12 could see a future where OK and TX are forced into an even bigger SEC, and loses relative market share – they might have made a different choice. A choice which at least kept negotiating with OK and Texas. Those two schools will go SOMEWHERE and wherever that is, apparently it won’t be joining OUR conference. I for one lament that loss.

    Getting back to the above article: Thiel’s chief reason for opposing a larger and stronger Pac 16 is that the ” the extra cash would have come at a price: a competitive setback for
    all conference schools (and their fans) not named USC, Texas or
    Oklahoma. The remaining 13 members, including Washington …….” would …  “….amount(ed) to little more than fodder….” for those three elite schools. I disagree. Probably, Oregon fans disagree. Same with Stanford fans. And UCLA, Arizona and maybe Cal fans disagree. Each of us has expectations to return to dominance. Maybe some fans share Art’s defeatist attitude, but plenty would have welcomed the added competition.

  • Soggyblogger

    I disagree. A rising tide raises all boats (that aren’t sinking). Though the problem of the Longhorn Network may be insurmountable, I think a super conference would have made recruiting easier and given more exposure to all the conference teams. Right NOW, we compete with the SEC for the really talented recruits because the SEC is (perceived as) the dominant conference. With Texas and Oklahoma added the upgrade is obvious (otherwise why would you predict such a dismal future for the dawgs?) Afraid we can’t compete? That is sad. James’ teams competed fine. Coaching makes the biggest difference.

    In past comments I have made suggestions to upgrade this site, and all have been ignored. This site has some good writers, but no one here seems to understand the internet. So now when I come here it takes me a few seconds to determine if a new story has been written in which I am interested, and if not, away I go. Unlike the good old days when you guys first started off (about 11 months ago?) now there seems to be near zero comments to any of your stories…..when what you should be TRYING to do is become the sports version of “The Huffington Post.” A friendly place to visit, and get interesting articles from all over the internet. Instead, you have downgraded to a mother’s basement blog type of site.

    My earlier suggestions were more kindly put than these today, but I didn’t hear back on any of them, nor see any real interest in suggestions – another example demonstrating that being a good writer doesn’t make you a good business person because even back in the fifties businesses knew about suggestion boxes.

    In your very first article introducing this site, you asked that we (the readers) not criticize or hug you too strongly (a paraphrase from memory)  but from what I can tell about this site, you guys are being largely ignored and ought to be frantic for some suggestions.

    @2dd4311e0c0a05d06e9a82d10970f3a2:disqus
    : Read some A. Rand. Greed isn’t the devil. The Pac 12 NEGOTIATED a $3 Billion dollar deal with some network…..who was the greedy party? The network? The conference? How would such a negotiation work in a non-greedy world? Would the network offer $5 billion for the same contract, and the conference say, “Oh! $5 billion is too much! We’re not good enough to be worth that much. Please give us a contract for $3 billion.” and THAT’S how the figure should have been arrived at? Steve Kelly just wrote an article (a few days after EVERY OTHER SPORTS WRITER HAD WRITTEN ON THE SAME SUBJECT) and threw out the CORRUPTUON accusation without a scrap of analytical foundation other than the fact that plenty of programs have been caught in violations of NCAA rules. Every team joins a conference for greedy reasons. We added Colorado and Utah for greedy reasons – which could also be stated as enlightened self-interest. Or at least, the best attempt at enlightened self-interest. Meaning schools may have their priorities straight or they might not. Or they may or may not accurately see the future. After all, who wouldn’t have invested in Microsoft back before it split 100 to 1 if they could see the future?

    Bringing up the point that if the Pac 12 could see a future where OK and TX are forced into an even bigger SEC, and loses relative market share – they might have made a different choice. A choice which at least kept negotiating with OK and Texas. Those two schools will go SOMEWHERE and wherever that is, apparently it won’t be joining OUR conference. I for one lament that loss.

    Getting back to the above article: Thiel’s chief reason for opposing a larger and stronger Pac 16 is that the ” the extra cash would have come at a price: a competitive setback for
    all conference schools (and their fans) not named USC, Texas or
    Oklahoma. The remaining 13 members, including Washington …….” would …  “….amount(ed) to little more than fodder….” for those three elite schools. I disagree. Probably, Oregon fans disagree. Same with Stanford fans. And UCLA, Arizona and maybe Cal fans disagree. Each of us has expectations to return to dominance. Maybe some fans share Art’s defeatist attitude, but plenty would have welcomed the added competition.