A day after conference expansion Armageddon was avoided with the Pac-12 taking a pass on Oklahoma and Texas, commissioner Larry Scott was in good cheer. And why not? Scott's conference still has the richest TV deal and is the most unified and stable in the nation.
"We could have expanded, but the deal didn't make any sense at the end of the day for us, especially given the position that we are in," Scott said. "There is a very high bar. It's hard to imagine very many scenarios for our conference to expand because the bar is so high."
And Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, were not able to clear that bar, a determination Scott made over the weekend, which he recommended to the Pac-12 presidents on Monday and Tuesday. Thus the statement from Scott's office Tuesday night that the conference would remain at 12 teams.
The decision to not expand was greeted favorably from all corners of the conference.
Said Washington State athletic director Bill Moos, "I like the way the conference is now and I'm pleased the decision was made to keep it at 12 members."
Said USC athletic director Pat Haden, "I don't think there is any rush for us to get to 16."
On Wednesday, a source told The Oklahoman that Oklahoma was using the Pac-12 for leverage to get some concessions from the Big 12:
“But frankly, we wanted the impression out there that we might go to the Pac-12 because that gave us some leverage,” the source said. “We were using that as leverage to say, ‘Hey, you want us to stay? Let's have some of these reforms.'”
That would seem to imply that Oklahoma wanted to make it public that it was negotiating in bad faith with the Pac-12, but Scott had no issue with this strategy.
"I have nothing but respect for the leadership of the University of Oklahoma," he said. "I don't want to contradict anything that they feel they need to say as part of the process they are in."
The Big 12 has yet to announce reforms.
While a second negotiation within just over a year to create a Pac-16 didn't end with an agreement, Scott said he doesn't feel that relationships have been damaged.
"I can only speak from my own experience and say not at all," he said. "Not in terms of the folks I've dealt with. I have had very enjoyable dealings with everyone I've dealt with."
Scott, Moos and Haden each said they don't expect expansion talk to end across the nation, including with the Pac-12.
"I don't see any of our schools wanting to leave," Moos said. "We've established the Pac-12 as a destination. I would guess there will be overtures down the road of institutions inquiring about membership."
But the Pac-12's condition for membership will be non-negotiable, Scott said: equal revenue sharing. Even if that means leaving money on the table.
Said Scott, "An opportunity was turned down that could have generated more money for the schools but potentially could have torn apart the fabric of the culture of the conference."
The big question, however, is the future: How long before expansion chatter again engulfs the conference? Is the Pac-12 merely playing a game of chicken with other programs?
Scott doesn't see it that way, but he also maintains -- as he has since the first wave of expansion in 2010 -- that consolidation isn't going away in big-time college football.
"I absolutely expect we will stay 12 teams for a long while," he said. "But after what I've seen happen in the last year, I don't think anyone could stick their neck out and make any definitive predictions."
Er, that's the Big 12, which has eclipsed the SEC as the No. 1 conference in a system that equally weighs the AP poll and a compilation of available BCS computer rankings in order to determine which conference is the best and worst in the country.
There's a big gap at present between the Big 12 and the SEC and the other conferences -- more than 30 points. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC are separated by 2.4 points.
Here's the skinny on the Pac-12:
After finishing in second place in last season's final rankings, the Pac-12 is the fourth-ranked conference after three weeks of 2011. The Pac-12 went 5-4 in non-conference games this past weekend as UCLA, Arizona State, Washington and Washington State all lost. With no clear power-house coming out the Pac-12 South Division, the conference is in jeopardy of being jumped by the ACC or the Big East in upcoming weeks.
And count him among the folks who don't see this getting done within 24 hours. Or even a week.
My position from going through this whole Pac-16-with-Texas thing twice is the same as it was in 2010: The best deal for the old Pac-10 (now Pac-12) and for Texas is the Pac-16. Commissioner Larry Scott knows that. He did the homework. Texas, however, thought it could outsmart the market because it's, well, Texas. It couldn't. So here we are again with Scott still being right and Texas perhaps coming around.
We'll see if accord is reached. There are more momentum shifts in expansion coverage than most football games.
But let's imagine the Pac-16 getting done. Wilner and the Austin American-Statesman both write about a potential solution to what worries many Pac-12 fans, most particularly those from Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado, who aren't thrilled with the idea of being in an East Division with the old Big 12 teams.
What about pods? From the Austin newspaper:
If the four schools and the Pac-12 come to an agreement, a football conference could be aligned in four four-team pods, with Texas joined by Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Texas would play those schools every year to preserve rivalries.
How would the overall playing schedule work out for football? As of right now, the conference is discussing an alignment where teams would play nine conference games. Teams would play every other team in their pod each season, along with two teams from each of the other three pods.
It is believed the championship game would be decided by overall conference record, meaning any two teams could play in the championship game on a given year.
"I don't know what kind of blunt instrument, like east and west, north and south, would make sense," Scott said. "We've got a lot of flexibility and a lot of creativity we could bring to alignment issues. "
By the way, good job by the Statesman in getting Scott to entertain a hypothetical. It's a rare moment when Scott shows that, yes, there's been some deep thinking about a Pac-16 world, though, of course, that happened back in 2010, too.
Wilner goes into more detail:
Here’s my educated guess as to how the conference would handle the situation. Call it the pod rotation system:
1. Divide the 16 teams into pods of four: the Northwest schools, the California schools, the Mountain schools and the Texas/Oklahoma schools (or the Kansas/Oklahoma schools).
You’d play the three teams in your pod every year and two teams from each of the other three pods to form the nine-game league schedule.
2. Pair two sets of pods to create one eight-team division and two sets of pods to create another eight-team division.
3. Keep the pods together for two years to provide home-and-home scheduling, and then switch the pod pairings.
In other words, the California schools could be paired with the Mountain schools in a division for two years, and then the California schools could be paired with the Northwest schools in a division for two years … and so on.
No alignment will make everybody completely happy. That's what compromise is. But it's clear that the goal is to retain as much of the tradition as is possible while creating something so new it was hard to imagine just a few years ago.
Of course, to analyze as Yogi Berra might, "It ain't a done deal until it's a done deal."
- Arizona's young secondary coach faces some big challenges. Might a freshman help the Wildcats sagging run game?
- Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler is off to a good start. Linebacker Colin Parker has stepped up.
- Maybe California's frosh running back Brendan Bigelow won't redshirt after all. Dropped passes have hurt Cal.
- Is it must-win time for Colorado? Tickets in Denver aren't selling particularly well.
- Some Oregon injury news. Is this the guy to lead the Ducks' questionable corps of receivers?
- More on the big news at Oregon State: A quarterback change. Some injury notes here.
- It appears Stanford hasn't opened up its playbook just yet. The Cardinal are preparing for the heat? Folks, the predicted high of 93 degrees in Tucson means it will feel like you are sitting indoors. And the low will be 66, so bring a sweatshirt.
- Texas remembers what happened against UCLA last year. The Bruins may have injury issues at kicker.
- Has USC found its go-to running back? Some spots in the Trojans lineup are still up for grabs.
- Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, his arm strength down since shoulder surgery, is relying on his brain to make plays. The Holy War has been about as even as a rivalry series can be.
- Washington DT Alameda Ta'amu is hoping for a repeat performance against Nebraska -- from the Holiday Bowl, not the regular season game. A Cornhusker perspective on the game.
- Washington State is unbeaten but unchallenged -- that will change this weekend at San Diego State. Some Coug notes.
- Jon Wilner takes a crack at how divisions might be split up in 14- and 16-team expansion scenarios.
If you follow me on Twitter, you will help bring sexy back. Again.
To the notes:
Kaleb from Afghanistan writes: Ted, I am a beaver faithful and i always listen to Coach Riley's decisions with no questions, but this QB controversy is not what we need before a trip to Wisconsin, i mean even Peyton Manning has a bad game every now and then.
Ted Miller: First of all, thanks for your service. And stay safe.
I hear you. If you had said Ryan Katz's starting job would be at-risk before the Beavers went to Wisconsin in the preseason, I would have been my most smugly dismissive, which is really, really smugly dismissive.
I think this article lays things out pretty well.
1. Yes, Katz is shocked and unhappy that he will share the ball in Madison with redshirt freshman Sean Mannion.
2. But the foundation for coach Mike Riley's decision is simple: competition. Mannion has been playing better than Katz on a consistent basis.
This isn't about Riley scapegoating Katz or being disloyal. This is about him watching practices, noticing a pattern and concluding that it's possible the offense will be better off with Mannion.
Am I surprised by that? Yes. But I haven't watched a bunch of Beavers practices. This quote from Riley, speaking to his beat writers -- who have watched practices -- is telling.
"You guys saw it. You saw what was going on," Riley said.
That reads a bit like an appeal from Riley to his beat reporters to get the message out: This isn't personal. It's a business decision for the sake of the program.
Does this have the potential to blow up? Absolutely. Is it possible Mannion's alluring upside won't actually match Katz's experience when the screws tighten? Absolutely.
But this isn't Riley's first square dance. And just because he's a nice guy doesn't mean he can't make tough decisions.
Katz needs to win back his job at Wisconsin. And if Mannion outplays him, the Beavers might make a permanent switch.
Ken from Berkeley writes: Isn't Lou Holtz correct that a conference with 16 teams is just two 8-team conferences? With 7 division games, do you play a random and unbalanced 2 or 3 teams from the other division or play 4 of the other 8 and one warm-up game against Div. I-AA? Do division games only count towards division champ?
Ted Miller: Yes, a 16-team league will feel less like a conference and more like an alliance. The leading theory of how it would come together for the Pac-16 -- with a West Division old Pac-8 and an East Division Big 12 plus Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State -- would create divisions that were distinctly different in geography and culture -- academic and otherwise.
As to how things would play out with scheduling, I don't know. First you get the teams, then you start that debate, which is what happened when the conference added Utah and Colorado -- recall the geography versus zipper debate, which geography (North-South) won.
It would seem that in a 16-team league, particularly if there is widespread, national consolidation and multiple 16-team leagues appear, that the conference schedule could be expanded. You could play a 10- or 11-game conference schedule -- seven divisional games and three or four cross-over games -- which would make scheduling easier for athletic directors. It's also possible that with a confederation of 16-team leagues, the regular season schedule could be increased to 13 games, though expanding the length of the season was always one of the reasons (excuses?) that playoffs got the kibosh from school presidents.
We don't know how the landscape would change if, say, we ended up with four 16-team leagues. It would seem the distance between the haves and have-nots would grow larger. What that might mean for nonconference scheduling is unclear. There are always unintended and unexpected consequences after major changes in previously stable systems.
And, while we're telling you we have no idea what's next, we might as well add that the BCS system doesn't seem workable with four 16-team leagues. To me, such a dramatic landscape change would almost inevitably lead to a playoff.
Rob from Phoenix writes: So I would like to know how the potential expansion would play out from a divisional standpoint. I cannot see the Arizona schools, Colorado, and Utah going along with expansion if it means that they would have to play away from their alumni bases and, with the exception of Texas, paired with schools that are academically and culturally a very bad fit.
Ted Miller: The Arizona schools, Colorado and Utah are likely the least excited folks about a potential Pac-16. But if Texas and Oklahoma opt to join the Pac-12, and Texas Tech and Oklahoma State come along to make 16, it's 100 percent going to happen, no matter the objections.
Why? Well, for one, it will further enrich the conference. I'm not sure how many more million per team, but it will be a few.
Second, it likely will be a necessity. If the conference expands to 16, it will be because the national landscape is dramatically shifting again and the conference will be making -- forced to make, in fact -- strategic moves that benefit it long-term.
We can all agree Larry Scott is smart, right? He thinks this is the inevitable future. He didn't come to that decision on a whim. He studied a lot of data, talked to a lot of experts and used his Harvard-educated brain to make an informed deduction.
And my feeling is the conference presidents will still say: "In Larry, we trust."
John from Maui writes: Regarding the Oregon vs. LSU game, where LSU fielded a more experienced & bigger team compared to Oregon, which is rebuilding in many of its key positions. The game showed that currently Oregon is not a top-5. However, Oregon may find themselves at year end in a similar situation as UCLA did in 1975 when they lost to Ohio State (under Woody Hayes) early in the season, 41-20. At year end, UCLA won the 1976 Rose Bowl against undefeated and No. 1 ranked Ohio State, 23-10 (which featured 2X Heisman winner Archie Griffin). Great game for Bruin fans! It took a whole season for UCLA to develop into a top-5 team (I believe they finished No. 3). Same could happen to Oregon, they could improve into a top-5 team.
Ted Miller: That is certainly a scenario that would be appealing to the Ducks. And not completely ridiculous.
Of course, UCLA's then-coach Dick Vermeil bolted after that season for the Philadelphia Eagles. So I'm sure there are certain parallels Ducks fans would want to avoid.
Micah from Berkeley writes: A lot has been made of the new conference members, especially Utah, "validating" themselves as quality teams. My question is, what would be both Utah and Colorado's ideal conference records (who they would beat/lose to and by how much) so that the Utes and Buffs look like quality additions to the conference without making the "old" Pac-10 look weak?
Ted Miller: Not sure there is a correct answer to this. Or if it really matters that much, long term.
While Utah and Colorado fans would love to win double-digit games, if one or both did so this fall, it would inspire some derisive talk about the old Pac-10.
And if Utah and/or Colorado were to lose double-digit games, it might make the old Pac-10 look strong, but it would inspire derisive talk about the conference adding a couple of weaklings.
But, really, one season won't tell the story on the addition of Colorado and Utah. Both these programs have won before -- the Utes recently; Colorado in the not-to-distant past -- and will again. If one -- or both -- are giving the Pac-12 a second BCS bowl berth over the next five years, it will be a win for that team and a win for the conference. Shortly, we will all be one big, happy family with no looking back to old affiliations.
Jacob from Vancouver, Wash., writes: What do you think are the chances of Oregon and Maryland opening next season with a neutral site game in Milan, with the winner being declared fabulous for the rest of the season?
Ted Miller: Ladies and gentlemen, Jacob wins note of the week.
Or will legal threats complicate things? There's talk of lawyering up!
I thought folks in Texas liked free markets.
There's lots of speculation. Lots of "sources said." Here's the latest, which probably won't be anything like what actually happens.
- Jon Wilner writes that more than a few folks don't see Texas as being part of the deal. That might be true, but that would require Texas to (again) make a short-sighted business decisions. The Longhorns' most lucrative long-term move is the Pac-16. Period. Texas' best bet is to hush up and listen to Larry Scott, who's playing chess while others play checkers.
- George Schroeder, who knows his way around Oklahoma, believes the Sooners are on the cusp of joining the Pac-12, if not this week, then next.
- If you read the contract, there's little that prevents compromise on the Longhorn Network, so it could fit within a Pac-16 framework.
- Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was grandstanding when he talked about ending the series with Texas -- about 2 percent chance of that happening -- but he probably enjoyed doing it.
- Colorado, which was eager to go all Californy, isn't eager to be reunited with its landlocked exes.
- Expansion? The coaches are focused on games but for the most part they've accepted it as inevitable.
Lots going on. Lots of chatter.
Here's the take-away.
The Pac-12, the Pac-14, the Pac-16 -- whatever -- is well-positioned. Commissioner Larry Scott is in a seat of power. Most of the players here are coming to him with hats in hand. He saw this coming months ago. And his conduct as commissioner thus far suggests he has a clear plan and vision that will work out best for the conference.
You don't have to like it. But you probably will have to get used to it.
Says Expansion, "We're baaaack!"
With Texas A&M officially tap dancing its way toward the SEC, the general feeling is the Big 12 now stands on shaky ground. Really shaky ground.
And there are two new power brokers as we look ahead: the Pac-12 and Oklahoma.
Recall how Texas left Larry Scott and the other Big 12 members of the Pac-16 plan, including Oklahoma, at the altar? Well, Scott is no longer a guy who transforms from blushing bride to despondent daisy.
Recall the scene in "A Few Good Men" when Col. Nathan R. Jessep tells Lt. Daniel Kaffee, "You gotta ask me nicely." That's the new Scott.
Scott has proved he can produce. Texas, the biggest expansion prize, knows now it will be richer as a member of an expanded Pac-12 than as an Independent or as a member of a watered-down Big 12.
But the team that needs to take the lead on the deal is Oklahoma, not Texas, as Jake Trotter writes here: "This time around, Texas does not hold all the cards and the Sooners have fewer obstacles in their path to another conference."
Kirk Bohls of the Austin Statesman believes Texas wants Oklahoma to make the first overtures to the Pac-12:
Should Oklahoma act upon its earnest desires and seek an invitation to join the Pacific-12 Conference — something I'm fully expecting to happen within days, if not hours — that decision could well be the killing blow to the Big 12 while also providing Texas the political cover to follow suit and ask for admission as well.
The Pac-12's not going to ask first. It's been down that road before, led along until the eleventh hour a year ago.
Bohls goes so far as to make a prediction.
Here's what I think will happen, probably before the calendar turns to October:
Your new Pac-16 members: Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
The era of the super conference begins.
What about the Longhorn Network, which has been seen as stumbling block (Scott has said as much in interviews)?
The Longhorn Network gets folded into the Pac-16 as a downsized regional network, joining the six regional networks that already exist within the conference.
Scott has long said he believes college football will continue to consolidate. And he knows he now holds a strong hand.
Are we headed for a Pac-16, with East and West Divisions (Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the East; California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State in the West)?
Let's just say lots of folks think so.
Big winner in this: Utah, which wasn't part of the original Pac-16 plan.
Small loser: Colorado, which would switch out some glamorous Pac-12 road trips for more weekends in Stillwater, Norman and Lubbock.
Ring-ring! "Larry, Oklahoma is on line 16."
Big grin. "Tell them I'll be with them when I finish my danish."
Oh, and what is the "official" position of the Pac-12. Here's a statement from Scott:
"Our sole focus has been on developing the tremendous opportunities we have as a new, 12-team Conference and we have no current plans to expand the Pac-12. However, I have made clear my vision that the health, stability and future of college athletics will likely include further consolidation and re-alignment. While I can not predict if and when this might make sense for us, we will listen to and evaluate any scenario that would benefit our member institutions, our student-athletes and our fans. In the meantime, we are pleased to be in a strong leadership position in academics and college athletics, with both a rich heritage of success and recent moves that have greatly strengthened our conference and positioned us well for the future."
But his work is far from done. He's got to figure out how to divide the new conference into divisions. He's got to figure out where and how he wants to play a conference championship game.
And he's got to then try to negotiate a blockbuster media deal that keeps the Pac-12 competitive with the other top BCS conferences going forward.
While a lot of tough negotiations lay ahead -- particularly over the divisions -- he did have some answers this week. While he wouldn't get pinned down definitively, it's clear the conference will continue to play a nine-game conference schedule going forward and that there will be a conference championship game.
Also: A Pac-10 network is going to get serious consideration.
The football part of football is about to start cracking in earnest, but we wanted to check in with Scott and find out where things stand.
So has life as the Pac-10 commissioner slowed down a bit or are things still as busy as this summer?
Larry Scott: The summer is generally a slower time, but we've been very busy with preparations for the expanded conference. We've been actively working on divisional structure, looking at our revenue sharing arrangements, planning for a football championship game and continuing our preparatory work for our upcoming media negotiations. Those are the top priorities we've been focused on, as well as the regular business of getting ready for this season.
It has been some weeks between the aspirations for a Pac-16 and the deal falling apart: Any perspective or lessons learned from that?
LS: Nothing specifically. We feel good about the process. We got a lot of positive from it. We are thrilled with where we wound up. We're excited about where the Pac 10 is going as the Pac-12. There's been no looking back. Just excited about our future and our prospects. No real additional perspectives on it.
What are the chances the Pac-12 will revisit expansion in the coming years?
LS: It's pretty impossible to predict what the timing could be around possible super-conferences discussions. I've said and believe that there will come a time when those conversations are picked up again, because the underlying fundamentals behind our vision and the plan we articulated had a lot of positive reaction and got a lot of traction. It came very close for good reasons. So if and when those conversations happen again, the Pac-12 will be very well-placed, and I'm sure will be in the mix. I couldn't begin to predict what the timing of that might be, because it depends on factors outside our control.
The biggest bit of intrigue on the table is how the Pac-12 will divide itself. Update us on that process: What is going on between now and the meetings in October?
LS: We have a working group of athletic directors for football and senior women administrators for other sports looking at sports schedules on a sport-by-sport basis. So we are analyzing different models, talking about pros and cons, looking at different scenarios. And on a parallel track we are also discussing our revenue sharing arrangements, because how you divide divisions could have an impact based on our current model, which is appearance-based revenue sharing for football. We are very much on track against the timetable I laid out, where we've got several more rounds of discussions with our athletic directors. Ultimately the decision will be made by our board, which are our presidents and chancellors, at the end of October. I would describe the conversations as spirited and robust. I think there is a very healthy balance between institutions looking at the issues from an individual perspective, but I've been very impressed with the big-picture view the leadership of our schools is taking toward what is in the best interests of the conference long-term. I think there is a common view that that which is good for the conference will be best for each of the individual institutions long-term.
We hear lots of talk about a North-South split or a zipper plan: Does one or the other have more momentum in your mind?
LS: Not at this point in time. I'd say we're looking at both of those models, and frankly hybrids of those models on parallel tracks. There are very clear pros and cons in different ways you could cut the geographic divisions or zipper models. There is no front runner at the moment.
How does this not become a conflict between the Northwest schools and the California schools?
LS: I don't see it being that. As I said with geographic structure, there are models where the California schools would stay together and there are models where Northern California and Southern California schools split. So discussing north-south doesn't necessarily have to mean the Northwest schools are separated from California. With a zipper, there's obviously, by definition of the zipper, the Northwest schools would each have one Northern California [and] one Southern California school in their division. That is an issue that is on the table that is being discussed, but is not a foregone conclusion at all that going with the geographic structure has to separate the Northwest schools from California.
Fair to say no matter how the divisions go, the nine-game conference schedule will remain?
LS: No definitive decision has been taken on that, but there is a strong bias to maintain the nine-game conference schedule for several reasons, including that I think the Pac-10 prides itself on having a tough schedule, both within the conference and out of conference, placing a priority on producing a good product for fans and other stakeholders. We feel we're doing it the right way. A good way for everyone. And I think over time you'll see more conferences doing that, playing a nine-game conference schedule for the reasons I laid out.
First, is a conference title game a sure thing? And, if so, which plan -- home game, neutral site -- leads among the conference and athletic directors?
LS: We are right smack in the middle of those discussions. In fact, I had a discussion on that very topic [Tuesday] with a group of five athletic directors in San Francisco. We are almost surely going to have a football championship game. And we are planning on it for 2012. What's unknown at the moment is whether if Colorado were to come in for 2011, if we'd know early enough whether we could have a football championship game in 2011. We are currently analyzing both models -- the NFL style playoff home-field versus the fixed site, the neutral site.
If you were guessing, will Colorado join the conference in 2011 with Utah, or in 2012, per the original agreement?
LS: All indications at the moment are that it will be per the original plan, that they'll come in 2012. But I think the door is not completely shut. From what I understand there is still, I believe, there still may be conversations that are going on. But all indications thus far are that the Big 12 [and] Colorado will not work out the deal for Colorado to come until 2012.
Even bigger than setting up the future logistics of the Pac-12 is the negotiations for a new TV, media package: Where does that stand?
LS: We are on track with the schedule we anticipated. We always envisioned wanting to decide what we're going to do in terms of expansion before the end of this year. Obviously we are well in advance of that timetable. Our exclusive negotiating periods with our incumbent partners ESPN-ABC on the one hand, and Fox on the other hand, start in early 2011. So we're in the midst of doing a lot of strategy work, planning and our due-diligence. We are also, as I've said before, in the midst of building a business plan for a Pac 12 network. It's on course for it [the negotiating] all to start in early 2011.
Obviously, a Pac-12 Network is an option: What do you know about how that potentially could look at this point?
LS: We are working very closely with our outside media advisers from Creative Arts Agency, which has a vast experience in developing business plans for networks and operating networks. There are different combinations and permutations for how you might program it, and what the structure of it might be, and what the economics of it might be. There are just lots of different scenarios. Some of that would obviously be influenced by our partner that we might work with. We're not having discussions with potential partners yet. But we're developing various scenarios that would be feasible.
The results for the Pac-10 were interesting.
First, the players not only picked Stanford to win the Pac-10 championship -- 44.4 percent -- they also named Jim Harbaugh as the best coach (44.4 percent). Said one player: "They were terrible when I first got here. That's all Harbaugh -- he's brought in a completely different level of player."
Best player was Washington QB Jake Locker (33 percent).
But this question -- and answer -- struck me:
1. Is your school in the right conference? YES: 66.7 percent | NO: 33.3 percent.
Which conference do one third of the Pac-10 players polled want to be in?
It's notable that players from the Big East (100 percent), SEC (100 percent), Big Ten (93.8 percent) and ACC (93.3) were overwhelming happy in their conference. As for the Big 12, 25 percent said they were not in the right conference.
Judging from the offseason news about commissioner Larry Scott raiding the Big 12 in order to build the Pac-16, perhaps the Big 12 players want to join the Pac-10.
Or do the Pac-10 players want to join the Big 12? Confusing? Yes.
Wait. There's more!
Turning to a national perspective, guess whose uniforms rate No. 1.
This was an Oregon landslide (53.7 percent). One Big Ten star was particularly blown away. "I don't even have to think about that one," he says. "I almost wanted to transfer there just for those uniforms." As for worst unis, winner Wyoming's brown-and-yellow jerseys elicited 18.9 percent. Wonders one player: "The worst colors ever? What is that, piss and poop?"
Ah, the generation gap. Traditionalists make fun of Oregon's uniforms. But players love them.
As for best coach, that's Alabama's Nick Saban, which I'd second, though Florida's Urban Meyer has to be 1B. But a Pac-10 coach did get mentioned.
As for the last coach you'd ever want to play for, players aren't rooting for USC's Lane Kiffin (29.6 percent). "He's an awesome football coach," says one O-lineman. "But he took a program for one year, talked a lot, then left them out to dry."
But guess what: The first part of that statement will be what matters going forward -- and by that I mean whether it proves true or not.
And, again, sorry to disappoint the folks who constantly pipe the tired "Jake Locker hasn't done anything" but the reality is the players see the same things that NFL draft experts do. To the question of the nation's best player:
Shocker! Reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram won with 51.1 percent of the vote. But No. 2 was a real surprise. Forget Terrelle Pryor. The dual-threat QB players love is Washington's Jake Locker (14.1 percent). They're in awe of the senior's talent (4.39 40, drafted by MLB) and understand why both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay project him as a possible No. 1 NFL pick in 2011. "Best QB in the country. Best prospect, too," says a fellow top draft prospect.
Finally, you can read what players think about a potential playoff here.
Some expansion-specific links.
- It looks like Utah is the next Pac-10 target. And Colorado might join the Pac-10 a year early -- 2011 -- and try to get a discount on its exit fees from the Big 12.
- The Rose Bowl rivalry? Nebraska vs. Colorado.
- Texas pulled a fast one, and the Pac-10 got left at the altar. Money made the difference, but this story also notes the psychology.
- Or maybe Texas got hit behind the scenes by politics? It looks like that was a factor.
- Jon Wilner sums up the action and looks ahead.
- What did we learn from all this?
- Winners and losers. And you're not crazy to think, with all the blood in the water, that the newly configured Big 12 isn't safe.
- Some conference logo ideas.
With Nebraska now joining the Big Ten, and Texas set to lead a migration to the Pac-10, things will be less speculative next week.
Surely we will all enjoy a return to cold hard facts.
Jeffery from Long Beach writes: Could you explain who [USC's] scholarship reductions mean?
Ted Miller: Here's what the NCAA wrote: "Reduction of football athletics scholarships to 15 initial grants and 75 total grants for each of the 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years. This represents a decrease of 10 scholarships for each of the three seasons."
What that means is USC can sign only 15 players in each of the next three recruiting classes AND it can't exceed 75 scholarship players (duh, I know). The latter number isn't terribly relevant because it's unlikely the Trojans roster will have more than 60 players on scholarship heading into the 2011 offseason (the guess here is there will be some extra attrition, some of which might be encouraged by coach Lane Kiffin, some not).
USC hasn't signed a full class of 25 since it signed 26 in 2006. The last four classes had 20 (three times) and 18 scholarship players.
The way this becomes painful for a program, however, is that, after the first year the Trojans attrition likely will outnumber 15 scholarships, so they'll be losing numbers each season. By 2014, USC's scholarship numbers figure to be in the 60s instead of the maximum 85. And then, even with full classes of 25 starting in 2014-15, it will take probably three years to get numbers fully replenished.
One thing can help: creativity with walk-ons. ESPN's Bruce Feldman had an interesting take on how Miami handled itself during severe scholarship reductions:
Miami was hit with hefty scholarship reductions (31) in the mid '90s, and had a one-year postseason ban. Butch Davis' program later ended up with little depth and was forced to play a lot of younger players well before they were ready. Davis and his right-hand man, Pete Garcia, had to be very creative in getting talented players into the program without some scholarships, either juggling with academic scholarships or track scholarships and also getting some help from a former pro baseball player.
Josh from Puyallup, Wash., writes: As a SC fan I can't help but wonder if it's not worth trying to appeal the sanctions because you seem to only be prolonging the inevitable, I want us to get this over with as fast as possible to be able to compete with Texas when the Pac-16 is in effect? Thoughts?
Ted Miller: Infractions committee chair Paul Dee made that very point and it's a legitimate argument. If USC appeals the bowl ban and scholarship reductions, it means the Trojans could play in a bowl after the 2010 season and sign a full recruiting class of 25. But it also means that, if they lose the appeal, which has a longshot of winning as it is and likely wouldn't be decided until next spring or summer, they'd be out of the postseason in 2011 and 2012 -- the potential first year of the Pac-16. They would take the scholarship hits (10 per year over three recruiting classes) from 2011 through 2013.
It's not an easy choice. You'd think USC would like to be on the upswing as soon as possible as it heads into a new conference.
Keith from Bend, Ore., writes: I did not realize that the split was not equal for each school [in the Pac-10] Do you have any info on what each Pac 10 school receives (most recent year)?
Ted Miller: You are correct. The Pac-10, at present, does not equally share TV money. Schools that are on TV more get to keep more money. I can do better than even show you how the TV money was divided. I can send you to Bob Condotta's article on the very topic that includes a nice graphic and explains why teams get more and what that means. It's a year old but it's very informative.
Matt from Denver writes: In reference to your answer to where Colorado Football ranks historically among Pac-10 members, CU is second all time behind USC in total wins, fourth in winning percentage, and are one of four pac-10 teams to actually ever win a national title.
Ted Miller: Matt is right, and I must confess I was surprised to find out that Colorado is 17th in all-time victories. USC is 10th and Washington is 22nd.
So don't be fooled by recent records. The Buffaloes are a quality football program.
Russell from New York writes: Regarding the Pac- 10 expansion. As a CU alum I might mention something that hasn't been discussed at all but if you add up the alumni base of CU in every state in the big 12 (except colorado) you still wouldn't come close to the amount of Alums that live in California (SF and LA mostly). It might as well be a California school.
Ted Miller: Another good point.
Larry from Macon, Ga., writes: How do you feel about saying USC wouldn't get slammed like Alabama now, smart guy?
Ted Miller: Wrong.
- Is expansion -- and a Pac-16 -- good for Arizona. Maybe not.
- It's unclear how now-former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli's probation will be affected by his most recent issues.
- More recognition for former Stanford running back Toby Gerhart.
- Washington is losing a backup defensive tackle.
- Pac-16 would be good for Washington State, which could use a revenue injection.
- Colorado -- welcome! -- is a better academic fit with the Pac-10.
- You might not like it, but it's probably better to embrace the massive changes expansion will bring.
It certainly didn't happen overnight -- it took four years, actually -- but the NCAA cut the Trojans off at the knees Thursday, citing the program for the dreaded lack of institutional control and sanctioning it with a two-year bowl ban and a loss of 30 scholarships -- 10 per recruiting class -- over the next three years.
USC will appeal. It believes the infractions committee didn't give its defense a fair shake. We'll see. A completely different committee will review any appeal, so maybe a new set of eyes will see things differently. Of course, a lengthy process -- a final ruling on an appeal wouldn't come until the spring of 2011 and might take much longer considering the complexity of the case -- could just prolong the embarrassing notoriety and delay any righting of the program under first-year coach Lane Kiffin.
Yes, USC will right itself. Eventually, no doubt. The right coach at USC, which may or may not be Kiffin, will win, just like the right coach at Alabama or Ohio State or Florida or Texas will win.
Just know that these sanctions have teeth. A loss of 10 scholarships from the next three recruiting classes will significantly damage overall depth. And, as Tom Luginbill points out, the margin for error in recruiting will become razor thin. A couple of busts and the program could find itself with gaping holes heading into the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
But it's not just about the loss of 10 scholarships per class, it's also about the remaining 15. Kiffin will be challenged to convince elite prospects who have no emotional ties to the program to sign. The bowl ban won't matter that much. Even with the 2011 class, you're talking about an incoming freshman only missing one postseason (though an appeal would mean the Trojans could play in a bowl after this season but not the next two). No, the recruiting challenge will emerge from USC not being in the national title hunt in the near future. A recruit who signs this February or the next one or the next one probably can't count on being a member of a national contender.
And, you may have noticed, national contenders seem to do well in recruiting .
Will USC's 2011 recruiting class, which is off to a fast start, hold together? And will the Trojans see a number of players transfer? We shall see.
We will also see if another Pac-10 team can take advantage of USC being knocked to the canvas. Obviously, there will be more hotshot southern California prospects available and more reasons for them to look elsewhere.
The first beneficiary could be UCLA. Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel already has made big recruiting inroads, even beating USC for a couple of elite prospects in February. Football monopoly? The Trojans just lost their hotels on Park Place and Boardwalk.
Oregon appears on the cusp of moving up from a top-25 program to something more elite, and the Ducks seem like the team most likely to get the first shot at taking the Trojans perch. They now are the favorites to win a second consecutive Pac-10 title. You might recall that winning consecutive conference championships wasn't easy before Carroll arrived at USC and did it seven times.
But the Pac-10's overall depth is as good as it's ever been. The conference, in the short term, could revert to its old, unpredictable self, pre-Carroll. Rose Bowls from 1995 to 2003 featured seven different Pac-10 teams, including Washington State twice and the mighty Trojans just once.
Then there's this little expansion issue. When USC's bowl ban is over heading into the 2012 season, the conference might look very different. Texas over in the Pac-16 Eastern Division might have already tried to extend its powerful recruiting tentacles into Trojans territory. That could get interesting.
Alabama got hit hard by NCAA sanctions in 2002, losing 21 scholarships over three years. The Crimson Tide appears to be in fine shape today.
No reason USC can't recover as quickly.
But the NCAA, without question, has changed the near-term trajectory of the Trojans program, which means the Pac-10 heads into 2010 feeling much different than it has in recent years.
- A Pac-16 doesn't, at first glance, look good for Arizona. Life is good for a former Wildcats D-lineman, who should call up coach Mike Stoops and say, "Thanks for the position change!"
- Doug Haller does a nice job here showing what the Pac-16 -- and life in a division with Texas and Oklahoma -- might be like for Arizona State.
- California gets another commitment. And how about that retroactive Rose Bowl berth!
- More details on the events that got now-former Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli kicked off the team, including who was in the car with him.
- An Oregon State perspective on Pac-10 expansion.
- UCLA is getting an early start recruiting this guy.
- At least one recruit still wants to go to USC, even with harsh NCAA sanctions. Some USC "tweets" on the penalties. Some player reaction.
- More on Jake Locker earning Playboy All-American honors. A former Huskies QB, Isaiah Stanback, is trying to make the Seattle Seahawks as a receiver.
- Washington State has improved its APR.
- Jon Wilner on USC's harsh penalties from the NCAA: Wow.
- Debating Pac-10 expansion.