Sport Why the Pac-12 is probably in better shape than you think

02:10  17 may  2018
02:10  17 may  2018 Source:   sbnation.com

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“ The Pac - 12 is probably better than it's ever been,” said Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, “and it's not going backwards.” “I think you can make a case of what Jim Mora has done in the last two years at UCLA is as good as what anybody's done in the nation,” Shaw said.

  Why the Pac-12 is probably in better shape than you think © Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

A conference’s fortunes can change quickly.

OK, the Pac-12 has had a really bad year.

Things have been bad since the first college football game of the 2017 season, which Oregon State lost at Colorado State. Here’s the whole timeline, but some highlights: The Pac-12 went 1-8 in bowl games, the only win coming over West Virginia’s backup quarterback. That’s the worst bowl mark by a conference ever. The league had two men’s basketball teams fire coaches after the federal government charged them with multiple felonies. It had zero men’s teams make the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament. Crying Jordans were involved. You get the idea.

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AKDevil from Tempe, Ariz., writes: After reading the interesting article yesterday on ESPN detailing why the Big 12 is better than the PAC 12 I am curious on your thoughts. I think you can make a strong case that the Pac - 12 is not only superior at the top, it is stronger in the middle.

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The Pac-12’s struggles have led some gloom and doom over the future.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd sums up a lot of these fears:

Of course, the Pac-12 spun [a] $509 million payout as the largest in its history. And while that’s true, it’s not how Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson saw it.

”The gap between us and the other [leagues] continues to grow,” he said. “We’ll be competitively disadvantaged even moreso. … That’s real money in terms of being able to compete, support facilities, support coaches and support programs.”

The sky is not falling out West but cracks are beginning to appear in a once-solid foundation. First, there are those vocal critics. [Cal chancellor Carol] Christ, Anderson and new Washington State president Kirk Schulz have weighed in.

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Utah and USC also have chances, though both have one more conference loss than the Buffs. The relevant standings, with Playoff rankings This week’s opponent, No. 22 Washington State, has a strong chance to win the Pac - 12 North. Next week’s, Utah, is really good .

With just the Pac - 12 Championship Game left to be played, we can make a pretty good guess to see who is going to end up where. The options: WSU and Stanford Explain: There really is nothing here more than wishful thinking .

”This is a concern of the Pac-12 presidents, and I can tell you it’s a large discussion point with meetings with the commissioner at every single meeting,” Schulz said. “… The Pac-12 schools have got to be competitive with the ACC, the SEC and the Big Ten and Big 12, and we’re falling behind.”


But so many of the Pac-12’s problems are cyclical. They should get better.

In 2015, Sports Illustratedcredibly wondered if the Pac-12 was the best conference in college football. That wasn’t a totally wild argument after the 2014 season. Marcus Mariota won the Heisman and led Oregon to the national title game in the first Playoff ever. The league won six bowl games and had a bunch of experienced coaches and QBs heading into 2015. Everything looked fine in football. The league was even doing OK in basketball, where Arizona made the 2015 Elite Eight and Utah and UCLA made the Sweet 16.

Then some coaches and players didn’t work out, and the narrative shifted, especially in football. The Big Ten was a glorified high school debating society and Ohio State, but then suddenly, the league made a bunch of creative hires, and now it has five teams in most preseason top 15s. The most interesting thing about the ACC Coastal used to be the possibility that every team could finish 6-6. Now, thanks to a run of great coaching hires (Mark Richt at Miami, Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech, maybe even Pat Narduzzi at Pitt), it’s one of deepest divisions in the country. These things can change quickly.

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This is incredible, I thought when I saw the headline. Going to school would continue to be part of the job for star athletes in college, but it’s never been the no. 1 priority, and for the best college athletes in the country, it probably shouldn’t be. That’s why the Pac - 12 proposal is important.

The Pac - 12 's bowl agreements. This is the most logical place to begin, since you 're here to try and figure out where your favorite team might end up. One final thought : If Stanford is somehow able to sneak into the CFP with two losses? It would probably look the same as above.

The Pac-12’s basketball problems could also get solved in not much time. Sure, the league didn’t have a team get past the round of 64 of the tournament last season, and sure, Arizona and USC remain embroiled in an FBI scandal. But there are five Pac-12 schools in the early top 20 of 2019’s recruiting class rankings. There were four last season, with a fifth, Arizona, just outside at 21. The quality of play could be a lot better soon.

The Pac-12 doesn’t make as much money as the Big Ten or SEC. It probably never will again. But collectively, it isn’t poor.

It doesn’t pay out as much to its schools as those leagues. The Pac-12 Network isn’t close to the SEC Network or Big Ten Network as a product or revenue-generator. It probably never will be.

Arizona still had enough money go out and get Kevin Sumlin. UCLA still had enough to get Chip Kelly. And while the conference has some new or unproven new faces, this league still has coaches like David Shaw, Chris Petersen, Mike Leach and Kyle Whittingham.

If Stanford or USC or Washington suddenly needs a new coach, they’re going to have enough money to get a credible candidate. And judging from the kinds of hires that that lower-run teams in other conferences make, it’s not like Oregon State or Cal is going to pull in a huge-name hire even in a world where Pac-12 TV money quadruples.

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When conference expansion-palooza redrew the maps on college sports, the Pac - 12 was considered one of the conferences in a better position than before. Pac - 12 ’s Larry Scott on 16-team conferences: “I think it’s likely, I don’t know timeframe".

All Pac - 12 News. Expansion. You probably thought college football was done with all this power grabbing. UNC also finds itself in a Texas-like position in the ACC, as the Tarheels are a major power-broker in the ACC, which is of course in far better shape than the Big 12.

The Pac-12 has some structural disadvantages. A lot of its games happen after AP Poll voters have gone to bed. Its teams don’t have much fan support as programs in the South or Midwest do. They have a few conference-mates with budget problems and small fanbases.

But all of that has been true since the days of the old Pacific Coast Conference, when USC and Washington complained about Idaho and Montana. It’s been true since forever. And that hasn’t stopped the league from fielding championship quality programs.

It’s clear the Pac-12 has made some poor administrative decisions, from scheduling to spending to exposure. But it can still thrive.

If USC, Stanford, Oregon and UCLA all improve a little in football, or if the league gets some better postseason bounces in hoops nobody is going to care about Cal’s balance sheet or who has the fanciest TV contract. We’ll have all moved on to yelling about the meltdown of some other conference by then.

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