BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 11/21/2012

Thiel: Pac-12, how can you be so careless?

The Apple Cup on the day after Thanksgiving, when WSU is closed, is a slap to 104 years of tradition. Please feel free, Steve Sarkisian and many others, to tell Pac-12 Network to drop dead.

A Husky Stadium crowd watches the end of the 2007 Apple Cup, won by Washington State 41-35. / Wiki Commons

The same person who thought that playing the Apple Cup in Pullman at noon the day after Thanksgiving was a good idea, had to be the same one who invented burlap underwear.

How oblivious, dimwitted, insensitive, reckless and addled. How did this person avoid being in the field for the Republican presidential nomination?

In the 104 previous meetings between Washington and Washington State, there have been moments glorious and grotesque (I’m thinking here of ex-UW athletic director Barbara Hedges being beaned by airborne dog poop), words profound and profane, and lots of splutter and fulmination.

But never in the state’s longest-running cultural tradition (admittedly a modest list) has there been a planned idea so devoid of even a sub-atomic particle of sense.


Back to lower case. I realize that the safety and comfort of fans who enjoy supporting the state’s biggest, best annual event with their their ticket-buying money and their full-throated passion in the stands are of minuscule concern relative to financial majesty of the Pac-12 Network, the demon spawn of the unholy alliance between big-time colleges and big-time sports networks.

So . . . why not just turn the game into arena football? Play it indoors in August, midweek, 5,000 seats at $1,000 per, and 67-56 final scores (oh, wait, that was the Alamo Bowl last year; but you get the point). The nets need the filler, y’know?

Look, I get the part about the value of the windfall that came to the Pac-12 this year — $3 billion over 12 years, mostly from ESPN and Fox, the latter of which will televise the Apple Cup nationally. That’s more than $20 million per year per school at a time of financial crisis for many schools, plus the exposure. I get it.

But that doesn’t have to mean EVERYTHING gets surrendered to the nets that dictate to the conference office. Much deserved praise has come the way of Commissioner Larry Scott for the deal’s significance. But, fergawdsakes, he didn’t have to give away Grandma and the dog.

I hope WSU AD Bill Moos and his UW counterpart, Scott Woodward, privately waged a ferocious battle to avoid the sellout, and remain silent only because the code of omerta bears upon them when joining a gang, mob or cartel. I doubt they battled much, but I can’t expect them to accept the risk of a bloody mascot head in their bedsheets.

But when asked about the sellout, everyone around both schools just seems to shrug: “It’s what the network wants.” Well, wait a minute. Each school’s president, board, and athletic director agreed to terms and conditions. The deal wasn’t the imposition of Shari’a law by the Taliban.

I asked Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian this week if, after the season, he was sufficiently annoyed — and he is annoyed — with the dictates of TV that he would offer his opinion that something needs to be changed.

“I don’t know what I get out of doing that,” he said.  “I can control what we do, the way we practice, the way we prepare and I guess what we wear. I can’t control what time we play, where we play, who the officials are. I can’t control that stuff. And so I try not to waste too much time or my energy.”

I understand that, but I don’t agree with it. I imagine every one of his Pac-12 coaching colleagues (except Jeff Tedford at Cal, who doesn’t have to care any more) is privately steamed. If, instead of rolling over, all 11 took a stand, it would get a sports nation’s worth of attention.

It might have the added benefit of igniting a fire of consumer complaints over unpredictable starting times of games, in which the TV ministers sometimes provide less than a week out. For die-hard long-timers (read: Rich donors) who pick among the six or seven fall Saturdays to buy plane tickets, reserve rooms, cars, RVs and boats and plot reunions, not knowing until the Monday before is beyond rude.

I understand that things change, and that the traditional era of a full season of 12:30 p.m. starts is over. I also understand that after the first year of any good partnership, both sides look at what went right and what went wrong, and often agree to make changes.

Instead of taking the slap, Sark, feel free to take offense. As a guy who repeatedly says he loves the pageantry and tradition of college football, here’s one in your wheelhouse.



  • Lorenzo

    I think the “person who thought that playing the Apple Cup in Pullman at noon the day after Thanksgiving was a good Idea… How oblivious, dimwitted, insensitive, reckless and addled. How did this person avoid being in the field for the Republican presidential nomination?” This must be the same person who hired you as a sports writer. And why wasn’t this person in the field for the Republican presidential nomination? Simple this is the same person who invested millions of taxpayers dollars in Solyndra he’s You a smarta** elitist democrat posing as a sports writer.

    • sportspressnw

      There’s always someone who gets upset by the most insignificant part of the column.

      • art thiel

        Let’s talk Apple Cup, shall we, Lorenzo?

  • Joe Fan

    Really Lorenzo? Art was joking…please don’t make this into a political statement.

    • foulkeyu

      There certainly was no political statement being made by Thiel’s “joke,” was there? If there were more than 10 people reading this article, I’d care a bit more.

      • art thiel

        I believe it’s 12 now, with you. Thanks for participating.

        Is it possible to mske a pop culture joke about politics without being political?

        • Tian Biao

          13 including me, and 14 because my mom reads it every day. and sometimes my brother reads, so that’s 15 . . . .oh and Art, you already know the answer to your question. if not, I’m sure Lorenzo would be happy to send another blast of vitriol your way.

    • lorenzo

      You are right Art was joking. But if he would have said “oblivious, dimwitted, insensitive, reckless and addled” when did that burlap underwearing Nancy Pelsoi become the PAC12 schedule maker? Now that would have been funny and we could all had a big laugh.

      • art thiel

        Oh, you’re right. Lorenzo. I forgot. Nobody can laugh at themselves or their politics anymore. Thanks for the reminder.

    • art thiel

      Glad you’re out there, Joe? I believe I wad writing about the Apple Cup.

  • Brett

    The ADs and coaches can raise hell all they want, Art, but it won’t make a hill bean’s of difference. This is what the conference agreed to with the networks: in exchange for a boatload of money, we will control all programming. The deal they got would not have been as lucrative without that stipulation. Sark is absolutely right. It’d be a waste of his time and energy to raise a stink about it. As for tradition, that went out the window in college football the moment the conference realignment arms race began.

    • art thiel

      Brett, you miss a key point. The coaches and ADs are part of the conference, not independent of it. I realize the chase for the buck is paramount, but if Scott had been told by members schools that on certain things, no means no, the outcome could have been different. Apparently nobody had the guts to ask for more control and a little less money.

  • Jamo57

    Thanks Art! I for one missed the Oregon State game as my son, at the last minute, couldn’t make it and I couldn’t find anyone willing to do a Saturday night game in Seattle. I decided it was easier just to stay home and watch it rather than doing the game solo. And each time the game is announced at 730, we discuss whether to go or not. A buddy missed it as well for the same reasons.

    As to getting the Pac-12 more tv exposure (in order to give us help in the polls the argument goes) how many voters on the east coast are going to watch a game starting at 10:30 PM and ending at close to 2 AM eastern time? I’m sure a Utah-AZ game (or UW vs either of those teams for that matter) really resonates in Boston or NY!

    • art thiel

      The night start times have supporters, particularly among younger families who can use Saturday to watch kids’ games and the night to watch UW or whomever. But I don’t think people at UW or its fan base anticipated so many night games, and certainly not the late notice.

      I think the east coast bias is fading. With so many ways on the web to get information, the voters can get plenty of info without having to watch a game on TV until 2a ET.

  • Roslyndawg

    Excellent jab at the Republicans, Art. They deserve it!

    • art thiel

      I pine, perhaps foolishly, for a return to the day when we look at all things through the prism of life and not just politics.

  • Mckoosa

    Art – Was Babs really knocked in the cocoanut with Dog Feces?…Do tell, please….:)