While the SEC, Big 10 and Big 12 are busy in a money-hungry conference expansion mode, the laid-back Pac-12 has been out relaxing on the beach, catching some waves.
But if it is to remain a conference it had better stop hanging 10 and start hanging on, as in hanging onto 10 teams or however many are left. It should also look to be adding teams, tho lesser ones that are more aligned with its culture and location than looking to make a splashy grab by trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
The Pac-12 must face the fact that there are simply no “big boys” west of Austin and Norman to add to the conference. Its four biggest remaining assets are Oregon and Washington followed by Arizona and Arizona State. If it to even remain a conference, Commissioner George Kliavkoff needs, first and foremost, to do everything he can to hold onto those key schools.
Key Moves For The Pac-12 Conference To Remain Viable
So here’s what the Pac-12 should do now:
• Protect its current assets.
• Quit trying to complete with the Big 10 and SEC; that wave has come and gone and attempting to do so will be akin to a squid who has never been on a surfboard going out and trying to surf Mavericks. You will get killed.
• Create a strong presence in the state of California. Do this by adding San Diego State, San Jose State and Fresno State, thereby creating a dominant California league. It needs the Golden State’s solid base and it also really needs to work hard to to keep Cal and Stanford. San Diego State is a sleeping giant in both football and basketball, by the way.
• Add Gonzaga, which doesn’t have a football program but is pretty good in basketball and has many of the minor sports in which the Pac-12 has traditionally excelled and enabled it to earn it the nickname of “conference of champions” – track & field, soccer tennis, etc. Bringing in Utah State would give Utah an in-conference rival and encourage the Utes to stay put. Boise State would make it an even number of teams.
If the Pac-12 maintains its current schools and adds these programs, then it will have a quality 16-team league. If it wants to have less teams to share whatever TV revenue it can negotiate, then leave out Boise and San Jose State.
Focus On Basketball Instead Of Football
Oh sure, the Pac-12 will then be just a glorified Mountain West, but what else does it have to offer? Only if Dan Lanning turns out to be the next coming of Nick Saban or Kirby Smart, or Washington has a sudden and unexpected surge will the conference ever win a National Championship in football. So it might as well forget to try and be something it’s not and focus instead on what it has and do that extremely well.
The biggest sport in which the Pac-12 (or whatever it turns out to be) can win a title is basketball. With Arizona and Oregon it has two Sweet 16 or more annual contenders. Bring Gonzaga into the fold and now you’ve got a legit title-contending league. The Zags will also benefit because playing against the Zonies, Ducks, plus Cal, Stanford and the others will toughen them up more for the challenges of March Madness than facing St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine as it does in the West Coast Conference.
So there you have it. Now, Pac-12, time to head in from the from the shore. The surfing isn’t that great in the summertime anyway. Wait until the winter – basketball season – and ride those big waves to a possible championship.