photo courtesy of floppingaces.net
Hollywood, CA—Commissioner Larry Scott opened the 2019 PAC-12 College Football Media Day with great news.
The league has led the nation in NCAA championships for 14 straight years.
Fifty three of the past 59 years.
526 NCAA titles.
Those factoids are nice and all, but let's be clear here—Scott has been giving the same (and now predictable) speech for the last 10 years. The only thing missing was the usual accompanying loud and pulsating music (let's get pumped for football!!!) to go along with the big screen's highlights.
Personally, I think the Star Wars Imperial March theme would have matched the ambiance in the room perfectly. Here, let me get you in the mood.
The Pac-12's two revenue-producing sports (football and basketball) have stunk since...? I can't remember. In fact, since head coach Pete Carroll left USC, the fun and glamour of the Pac-12 has been dull and toiling.
What was once rock-and-roll is now, well... Muzak.
Scott is undoubtedly aware of the state of the league. Maybe not.
In either case, there is some good news. (Beside all those Nattys the conference has won in the last hundred years but not so much in this century). Scott announced that the 2020 and 2021 Pac-12 Championships will be played at the new Las Vegas Stadium.
This change of venue will eliminate the three big reasons why there were/will be so many empty seats at Levis Stadium.
1- Santa Clara is not a sports fan destination.
2- BART metro system is notoriously crowded on Fridays.
3- The Bay Area is just too damn expensive.
Vegas, on the other hand, is a sportsman's paradise. It's like the state of Louisiana but without the humidity. You can get around the city for pretty cheap via taxi or ride share. You can also get a great Prime Rib dinner in Vegas for under $12 if you do your homework. Fresh seafood buffet for under $20 is yours for the taking.
Good news aside, there was other news that was... how do we say this?
Scott declared Pac-12 officiating "fundamentally sound" per an independent review by Sibson Consulting.
The review also made recommendations for "grading and evaluation, training, hiring and recruiting, replay, targeting and reporting." What didn't make the recommendation list? When to blow the whistle?
Among the key recommendations was this doozy: "Adoption of a new replay manual codifying processes and procedures that will eliminate the potential for an incident like the one in last year's Washington State v USC game [from] reoccurring."
That sure sounds a lot like "we screwed up" and not "fundamentally sound." I did not hear Scott mention that but then again I was probably in deep thought trying to figure out what was in the velvet "Think Green" bag tucked in our SWAG bag. (It turns out they were metal straws which for Californians, is a must-have to avoid getting a fine Santa Barbara!)
PSA: This might be a good time to remind Pac-12 fans that the hashtag #Pac12refs is alive, well and of course, relevant.
I did ask Scott how he felt about having the league play eight conference games (as opposed to the current nine) so that each team would have a maximum of four conference games on the road and four at home. It would also level the playing field since the ACC and SEC currently schedule eight conference games per season.
Coincidentally—OK, not really—those same two conferences have sent teams to the College Football Playoffs every year for the past five years. The Pac-12 has sent two teams (three if you count Arizona in the Peach Bowl).
Scott pointed out how tough the Pac-12 schedules are. Exactly, my point, Commish. Please go on.
Scott then started digging himself into a hole. He noted that some Pac-12 teams play the equivalent of 10 conference games every season—USC and Stanford play Notre Dame every year.
Should I have handed the Commish a shovel?
When I asked Scott to clarify his answers, Scott said "the schools like nine games."
For fun (I'm all about fun, as you know) I asked Stanford head coach David Shaw what he thought of an eight-game conference schedule where a team has four on the road, and four at home. His answer, of course, was brilliant and insightful. (It also made me look good, but I digress.)
Shaw said that if the Pac-12 switched to eight games and everyone else (Big Ten and Big 12) followed suit, he would be fine with that. He also said if the ACC and SEC added an additional conference game to match the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten's format, that would work as well.
Shaw doesn't seem to care who should add or who should subtract a conference game. He just wants everyone to be on the same damn page. So do I. So do most football fans.
Strangely, the Pac-12 Commissioner's seemingly gold standard of success is all about having the perception of tougher schedules. And winning non-revenue sports NCAA titles.
And living in the past.