It has been 13 days since USC and UCLA shocked the college football landscape with their defections to the Big Ten. The quickness and lethalness of their traitorous journey were discussed ubiquitously. It was a lesson in efficiency, secret-keeping and stupefaction.
Oklahoma and Texas’s conference expansion wrecking ball took an entire week before the carnage was done.
USC and UCLA—from their rumored exit from the Pac-12 to their admission to the Big Ten (effective 2024)—took….wait for it… one day.
The Pac-12 was blindsided from Jon Wilner’s June 30 article that reported USC and UCLA were planning to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. Its teams were still trying to absorb that report when the merciful Big Ten put the Pac-12 out of its misery the next day.
One minute the Pac-12 was eating grilled salmon and drinking Pinot Noir. The next day it was eating crow and drinking Boost nutritional supplements.
The supposed ties between the West Coast, Arizona, Pacific Northwest and Mountain schools are ostensibly strained. Are partnerships on shaky ground?
Oregon is reportedly itching to go to the Big Ten but no mention is being made of its in-state rival, Oregon State. Washington has been rumored to be in the mix for the Big Ten admission as well, but Washington State is being left high and dry. At least USC took UCLA to the Big Ten, right?
Pac-12 Media Day, which will be held in Los Angeles on July 29, will be beyond awkward. It will be a three-ring circus. But not in a fun way.
Two schools attending Pac-12’s Media Day will be traitors. Soon-to-be very rich traitors. The rest are hopeful survivors of a treasonous pilgrimage.
Wanna bet most of the questions to the “other 10 coaches” will be about USC or UCLA? The Pac-12 should include antacid alongside the Pac-12-branded water bottles for the coaches at the podium. Radio row should include a safe space for those who cannot stand being the jilted lover.
This media day will be all about USC and UCLA. More than usual. It’s a biting indictment of how important those two schools are to the conference and how poorly the conference’s leadership has been in developing and maintaining revenue for its members.
The Pac-12 knows that this is its fault. If it does not, then the conference will dissolve due to its myopic vision.
Sure, on July 29 it will try to put lipstick on a pig. Barring any major announcements or deals, the only way that pig gets a second look is if it flies.
Beside the pending awkwardness of Pac-12 Media Day are the unanswered questions.
If you’re Commissioner George Kliavkoff, do you continue the Larry Scott tradition of starting off the morning with loud, blaring, mind-numbing music amidst a backdrop of flashy graphics and flexing athletes showing off all the national titles the Pac-12 won last year?
Or do you just play “Taps”?
Do you still provide a vegan-option lunch alternative or do you just hire an In-N-Out catering truck and call it a day?
Just what will Kliavkoff talk about?
He cannot ignore the elephant(s) in the room, can he?
One minute Washington State and Oregon State are thinking about contending for the North’s division title, the next they are contemplating winning the Mountain West in 2024.
Oregon thought its value was worthy of a Big Ten invite. It still may be. But time is ticking and the longer the wait, the less leverage Oregon has. If the Big Ten does come calling, do not dismiss the Ducks having to settle for a 50 percent revenue cut. While that’s still around $50 million, a lot of feathers are going to be ruffled.
The reality is that Oregon is nowhere near the powerhouses of USC and UCLA. Yes, even though Trojan and Bruin football has been dismal. Yes, even though Oregon blah, blah, blah.
Life is cruel.
Kliavkoff will try to put a good spin for the remaining Pac-12(10?) schools, but there are some things he cannot avoid. The Conference of Champions is losing two schools that won a combined 253 team titles. More from the NCAA:
“Forty-one of those championships are from the Trojans and Bruins track and field teams, with USC leading its crosstown rival 28-13.
To put that in perspective, the Big Ten has won 11 track and field championships from all of its programs combined. In men’s track and field, the Big Ten has won just one title in the last 73 years; USC and UCLA have combined for 24 championships. In women’s outdoor track and field, no Big Ten team has ever won a title; the Lady Trojans won two of the last five championships.”
The Conference of Champions has won 544 national titles. Last year the conference won titles in men and women’s water polo, snow skiing, women’s outdoor track and field, beach volleyball, men’s gymnastics, women’s basketball and men’s indoor track and field.
The Conference of Champions is a cool motto. Larry Scott embraced it. And forty years ago, when…you know…the Pac-12 was winning revenue-producing sports’ championships, the motto applied. Now, it sounds like it should belong on a cereal box.
Kliavkoff needs to stop celebrating the past and address the future. Do not add schools that are not elite. Join another Power 5 conference and become the first super conference. And while it is nice to celebrate national titles from sports other than football, at football media days, read the damn room.
Football is what makes the world go around.
In fact, among all NIL deals, 50 percent of college athlete earnings come from football, according to a SportsProMedia report. The better the athletes, the better the team, the better the NIL deals.
So yes, college football matters. To the players (ka-ching!), the conferences (Eureka!) and the fans (aka boosters). Also, Las Vegas sends its love.
But back to the three-ring circus.
Oddly, Stanford has been pretty quiet about this whole thing. Do the Cardinal even know what’s going on? Pity the reporter who asks Stanford head coach David Shaw about this.
Shaw is a complete professional—he is actually my favorite coach with whom to have lunch—but his look of disapproval or disdain is about as subtle as egg salad that has been left in the sun all day. Count on Shaw to be cranky at Media Day.
Shaw’s crankiness may be overshadowed by Colorado’s Karl “I came back for this crap?” Dorrell, Utah’s Kyle “we finally are picked to win the conference and this happens?” Whittingham and Washington State’s Jake “does anyone have Mike Leach’s phone number?” Dickert.
Dorrell is fairly soft spoken. He will be subdued but ornery. Whittingham was probably a drill sergeant in a former life so expect dust to be stirred up, mics to be stretched to the limit and steely eyes on every reporter who touches on the expansion talk.
Dickert, well, maybe he should just hit the bar instead. Cougar fans will always be waiting.
Overall, I do not expect much to change at Pac-12 Media Day in terms of production, scheduling, protocols or ambiance. It is predictable as death, taxes and the children’s menu at national chain restaurants.
The Pac-12’s Media Day has always taken a backseat to the SEC and Big Ten Media Days. Maybe it is because the SEC and Big Ten have Media Days and the Pac-12 has Media Day. That is how much importance the Pac-12 places on football.
One friggin day.
This year SEC schools are not bringing two players to their Media Days. They are bringing three. The sessions last from Monday July 18-21.
The Big XII will spread its Media Days over two days. So will the ACC and the Big Ten. They will all have each school represented by three players. The only Power 5 conference that brings two players?
Maybe that will change this year.
Maybe sports fans should google “Pac-12 Media Day” and see what comes up. The lack of information and articles are telling compared to the SEC and Big Ten Media Days. Go ahead, google it.
Does the Pac-12 really not have that much to talk about?
This year they do.
For all the wrong reasons.