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Thursday, July 30, 2009
Media day: Pac-10 now talking the talk

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- The Pac-10 has been walking the walk on the football field, witness a winning record vs. every other FBS conference since 2000.

But in this fast-paced media age when image is everything and spinning reality is critical to creating perception, the conference used its media day Thursday to do a better job talking the talk.

 
  AP Photo/Nick Ut
  Pete Carroll on the Pac-10: "I think it's the best conference in the country."

Which means just about every coach at some point during his presentation cocked his head thoughtfully, conjured a pained look and said in so many words, "Golly, there are just no weeks off in this conference! And we just beat each other up."

Take USC coach Pete Carroll, whose Trojans were picked in the media poll to win their eighth consecutive championship.

"Our conference is so challenging for us," he said. "Year in and year out, without question, our most difficult games, not just one game, but many games, come right from our own conference opponents. I know that we've only lost a few games out of conference through the years, but we've lost a bunch of games to conference opponents. I think it's the best conference in the country."

Carroll went on for a few more minutes but you get the point. This, by the way, was not in response to a question.

It was obvious that when the coaches met with new Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, whose hiring was in large part due to his willingness to push aggressive and creative marketing plans, the marching orders were to refer to the Pac-10's general awesomeness whenever possible.

After all, it's a strategy that has worked elsewhere.

"This is going to be a physical conference -- only the strong are going to survive in this environment, 2009 Pac-10 football," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "This is going to be a mighty men conference this year."

Exhibit A for the perception problem was USC's loss at Oregon State last year. To many pundits across the nation, that was another inexplicable implosion by the Trojans.

 
  Kirby Lee/US Presswire
  During the first Pac-10 media day under new commissioner Larry Scott, the league seemed more willing to market itself.

It seemed that few realized that the Beavers had finished nationally ranked the previous two seasons while winning 19 games. And then, after the Beavers finished 9-4 and again nationally ranked in 2008, they had seven players picked in the NFL draft.

"This whole perception thing -- I don't know how you say this -- but people ought to look into reality before they really believe in that perception of our conference," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "Head-to-head, in bowl games, our league stands out pretty well.

"And, not that this matters in a season, but it does as far as notoriety: We get as many drafted to the NFL as the SEC does."

Actually, that's not true. The Pac-10 has had more players drafted, per team, in each of the last two NFL drafts.

But who's counting?

Apparently this new version of Pac-10, which hasn't spent much energy on press releases tooting its own horn in the past, but distributed Thursday a colorful five page release that featured factoids on the conference's general unwillingness to schedule patsies and the Pac-10's outstanding bowl record.

Associate commissioner Jim Muldoon, after a couple of coaches fielded questions about Pac-10-SEC matchups this fall, made a point of noting the conference is 10-7 vs. the SEC since 2000.

That wasn't all.

In the past, reporters sat at tables while coaches droned on from a podium in a drab conference room. It was indistinguishable from gathering of widget salespeople.

This time, the room featured a pair of giant video screens and loud music that made the assembled laptops vibrate. An ESPN-produced video -- from the World Wide Leader's new Los Angeles digs -- provided pre-coach entertainment. The event was streamed live on the Pac-10's official website and a good number of questions came from fans via Twitter.

Muldoon further noted that conference coaches, who a few years ago griped about even having to attend, were suggesting the event be scheduled over multiple days in order to get more media coverage.

Heck, even the post news conference buffet was the best it's been in years.

This, apparently, is the new rock and roll Pac-10 during the Larry Scott Era.

Of course, the critical thing to remember while talking the talk is to continue walking the walk.