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Five reasons to pull for the Pac-10 in 2000
By Todd Harris
Special to

Technically I'm a journalist, so having favorites goes against the whole idea of impartiality. But with that being said, I'm also a huge college football fan. I love all the images, sounds and even smells that signify the start of another college football season.

Give me a crisp autumn afternoon with a good vantage point and as soon as I hear Keith Jackson say something like, "And here come the Trojans," then I'm set for the day. Now I don't want to get off on a rant here but .-OK, that's already taken -- but that's the way I feel. So rather than steal someone else's thunder I present to you five reasons to pull for the Pac-10 in 2000.

No. 1 -- The coaches
Top to bottom, some of the best in the business. Maybe not as flashy as some, but quality individuals who care about their kids and the school with undying devotion. I don't know if there is a more lovable guy than UCLA head coach Bob Toledo. You can't help but like him.

USC coach Paul Hackett is one of the Pac-10's good guys.
USC's Paul Hackett may be constantly under scrutiny from the school and the L.A. media, but from first-hand experience, I can tell you that he is one of the most gracious and generous coaches in the country. Win or lose, he is willing to talk about the game, and from a sideline reporter's perspective, there is nothing better.

Stanford's Tyrone Willingham is another great coach in the Pac-10 with a tremendous upside and future that could have him coaching on Sundays if he chooses. Cal coach Tom Holmoe is a name that you may not know now, but believe me, you will. To use a Keith Jacksonism, "He's got fire in his belly." That's a good thing.

No. 2 -- The venues
I'm fully aware of the ambience of places like the Big House, Beaver Stadium, The Swamp, Death Valley and playing "Between the Hedges." However, in deference to Mr. Greeley, "Go West young man," and there are some great football venues on the Left Coast.

Husky Stadium in Seattle is phenomenal, one of the most picturesque places anywhere in the land. The L.A. Coliseum is a little aged, but with so much history you can almost hear a voice saying, "If you build it, they will come."

Then there is the Grandaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. One of the greatest football stages of all time. Honorable mention goes to Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., Stanford's beautiful on-campus stadium and Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, so nice the NFL's Cardinals borrow the joint for home games.

No. 3 -- The players
Not just the local kids with the local flavor, but those who are drawn by the lure of playing on the West Coast in some of the before-mentioned venues. Players like Marques Tuiasosopo of Washington make this conference go. There's nothing boring about his style of football. And the fact that he is a local kid only adds to the mystique of the conference.

The Pac-10 is full of them: Mr. do-it-all Bruin Freddie Mitchell; the head of the Trench Dawgs, Stanfords' Willie Howard; and the bruising power of Oregon State's Ken Simonton. Players with personality, class and panache make this conference well worth the price of admission on any given Saturday.

No. 4 -- Mascots and bands
I'm not a big halftime band and mascot guy, but it is part of the festival and spirit that makes college football so great. The fight song and the acrobatics are a great source of background ambience. Can you imagine a game without a pep band and cheerleaders? The Pac-10 once again brings the house in this department.

They have Fighting Ducks and Sun Devils, Beavers and Huskies, Trojans and Bruins, Bears, Wildcats and Cougars. And last, but certainly not least, the fighting Cardinal complete with angry Tree. I have no explanation for that, but their trombone player is forever etched in college football history's great endings department.

No. 5 -- Keith Jackson
Enough said. I don't even need to qualify this one. Is there another announcer's voice that you can hear and automatically think of a sport like Keith Jackson and college football? For all the "Whoa Nellie" impersonations, there's nothing like the real thing. Last week in Pasadena, we interviewed Andrew Zow the day before the Alabama-UCLA game. After the interview, the young quarterback walked out of the room and proceeded to tell his fellow teammates, "I think I just had an interview with God."

Keith's presence means so much to not only the game and ABC, but week-in and week-out, the players want to meet Mr. Jackson. And yes folks, he talks like that all the time. It's not an act.

So if you're looking for a reason to pull for the once downtrodden Pac-10 Conference, there are five solid ones. And folks, that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. See you out West.

Todd Harris is a sideline reporter for ABC's Pac-10 games. He checks in with ABC Sports Online throughout the season.

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