BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 01/09/2018

Thiel: These are not happy times for the Pac-12

From international shoplifting to federal felony indictments to bad bowl play, the Pac-12 has taken a pounding. Now a hoops coach is being unkind to his lodge brother.

Penn State RB Saquon Barkley at the Fiesta Bowl was one of many opponents to run over the Pac-12 during the bowl season. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The college football season ended Monday night in Atlanta with Alabama’s 26-23 victory over Georgia for the national title. Fun game. But for denizens of the Pac-12 Conference, they wished the season had ended right after the regular season.

That way, the critics could only speculate on the dubious competitive worth of Pac-12 football in 2017, instead of having it confirmed across the fruited plain by a 1-8 bowl record.

Sylvester the Cat had a better record against Tweety Bird.

Utah, 3-6 in conference play, was the lone victor, beating, I believe, the Trump University Geniuses 7-4 in double OT in the Underwhelm Bowl.

In setting the worst bowl mark for a Power 5 conference (the Big Ten went 1-6 in 2008), the Pac-12 was outscored by a combined 87 points in the nine games.

Washington State’s 25-point loss to Michigan State was the worst of the worst, while Stanford and Arizona lost by two and three points respectively. Arizona State, UCLA  and USC lost by 21, 18 and 17 points.

The 12th-ranked Washington Huskies’ 35-28 loss loss to ninth-ranked Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl looks respectable in the record book, but closer examination reveals the Huskies 10 days later are still picking rocks and sand from their flesh after being road-rashed into the desert floor in Arizona.

Earlier in the otherwise commendable 10-3 season, the Huskies burped up some unpleasantness when coach Chris Petersen’s unprompted complaints about so many night games drew mockery and scolding from ESPN broadcasters, who normally are shills for everything and everyone in the industry it virtually owns.

The dope-slapping from TV personalities Kirk Herbstreit (“they should be thanking us”) and Chris Fowler doesn’t happen to the other conferences. But three times zones away from Bristol apparently is the minimum safe distance for igniting oral ordnance on the left coasters.

Coupled with the episode in which the telecast of Washington’s large game at Stanford didn’t begin until the second quarter because FS1 wasn’t done showcasing a sparsely attended NASCAR truck race, and the league suddenly appears to outsiders as if it operates out of the trunk of a 1958 Buick Bulgemobile.

But football wasn’t the only reason 2017 was, for the Pac-12, dismal.

Men’s hoops provided a shiner in October when three UCLA players were busted in China for a shoplifting spree that became an embarrassing international incident.

Commissioner Larry Scott loves the Pac-12’s forays into China because it looks like progressive 21st-century branding. But when the host nation speculates that the five-finger discount is a degree program at American colleges, Scott looks like he’s taking marketing lessons from United Airlines’ passenger-dragging department.

On a much higher (lower?) level in September, the Pac-12 found itself deep into the scandal of the sports year — the FBI investigation that uncovered mass corruption, bribery and wire fraud among top college hoops programs engaging with shoe-company goombahs. Federal charges were brought against assistant coaches in four big-time programs, including Arizona and USC.

Thus the Pac-12 had half the field in the Penal Four.

An explainer, via, of the charges and indicted individuals can be found here.

Naturally, the head coaches in all four programs claim innocence, ignorance and disbelief at what has gone on at the hoops casinos on their watches. But that doesn’t mean their Pac-12 rivals aren’t using the pending cases to their advantage.

Saturday in Boulder, 10-6 Colorado upset 14th-ranked Arizona 80-77. After the game, Buffs coach Tad Boyle was remarkably candid in his delight at sticking it to the alleged outlaws from Tombstone.

Asked if he took extra satisfaction in beating Arizona as the scandal hangs over the program, Boyle said,  “Absolutely. It’s ironic we’re playing Arizona. I’ve got great respect for (head coach) Sean Miller and the type of coach he is. They recruit very, very well. USC has recruited very, very well. The two most talented teams in our league from top to bottom are USC and Arizona.

“So, hell yes, there’s extra satisfaction. I’ve got great respect for Sean, helluva coach. I’ve got great respect for Andy Enfield. But to answer your question: Hell. Yes.”

Boyle’s boldness is certainly admirable, but Scott has to be shocked that one of the lodge brothers has gone rogue on the premier hoops program that is already hip deep in federales.

The breadth and depth of the FBI investigation suggests that a whole lot more programs than the four so far identified are at risk of discovery for similar misdeeds. Scott and Boyle both have to hope there’s no funny shoe money being passed to recruits in Boulder.

But at least Boyle’s indiscreet contempt will make for some compelling theater at the rematch in Tucson Jan. 25. The apprehension about that day is obvious: FS1 might find another truck race to broadcast instead of the post-game fistfight between Miller and Boyle.

It’s true that the events of the last several months are random, and somewhat beyond the reach of a league commissioner. At least Scott can sleep comfortably knowing that the revenues produced by his major achievement, the Pac-12 Networks, are keeping schools and fans happy.

Oh wait . . .


  • busterbluth

    “Utah, 3-6 in conference play, was the lone victor, beating, I believe,
    the Trump University Geniuses 7-4 in double OT in the Underwhelm Bowl.”

    It’s sentences like this that have made me a fan of Art’s for the last 30 years. That, and his old guest spots with Robin and Maynard. Hilarious! Bravo!

    • Tian Biao

      agreed! that comment was supposed to evoke humor, not ire. it made me laugh anyway, along with many other nuggets. As to the Pac 12: i’m beginning to nurture a vague dislike of commissioner Scott. The apparent failure of the Pac 12 Networks, the lousy penalty-filled football officiating (and the secretive overviews of that officiating), the blithe dismissals of fan concerns over late start times, the back-to back Friday night road games, the unevenly distributed bye weeks, and somehow just his air of shallow confident salesmanship. maybe i’m misjudging him. but still . . .

      • art thiel

        He’s made the athletic departments much wealthier since his arrival, but not nearly as much as his contemporaries have done for the other conferences.

        The TV scheduling for fans who actually want to attend is remarkably off-putting, not to mention for coaches, as Petersen will tell you.

        And it’s really aggravating to have football players get home at 3 a.m. Sunday and jump right into next week.

    • art thiel

      Hey, an R&M fan. Them’s was good times. Roy Otis remains alive in our hearts.

      • busterbluth

        So does Tuba Man. RIP

        • art thiel

          Richard Peterson is still around.

    • Husky73

      Art went metaphor crazy today. Love it.

  • rosetta_stoned

    Utah, 3-6 in conference play, was the lone victor, beating, I believe,
    the Trump University Geniuses 7-4 in double OT in the Underwhelm Bowl.

    Really? I thought it was 304-227 against the Clinton Foundation Crooks in the BleachBit Bowl.

    Ain’t it fun to mix in partisan politics with our sports.? Sure is.

    • art thiel

      It’s also part of pop culture, unless you’re a see-no-evil kinda guy.

  • DJ

    Art, Mission complete. Thanks for the final ding on PAC-12 network. I wasn’t sure if you’d get there. I’ll never doubt you again! ;^)

    • art thiel

      I was going to do more, but then I realized that nothing has changed since I last wrote, and nothing will change despite whatever anyone writes about it. Kind of like Congress.

  • WestCoastBias79

    When is the clock up on Larry Scott? I’m hard pressed to think of something the conference does right. Officiating has been a joke as long as I can remember. The conference seems to schedule to make it harder on their top tier programs (UW and USC were both hosed by their schedules). The Pac-12 network is a failure, and to try and make up the missing revenue from the network, the conference is ESPN’s (keeping it clean) female dog. I could go on…

    • art thiel

      Scott has a deal that lasts until the sun goes supernova, and the chancellors and presidents like his work because the Pac-12 Networks are a giant infomercial for the schools. Doesn’t mean anyone is watching outside of football and some men’s basketball, but they don’t seem to care.

  • Robin & Maynard

    WOW! Tweety Bird, Roy Otis and Richard Peterson in the same clump. And speaking of RP, won’t you join all at Vito’s Monday Jan. 29th 7:00 PM for a classic Peterson concerto.

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