With the football offseason in the Pac-10 in full swing, there's not much to report on. Usually.
However, this spring offers a different perspective as its been a highly active, and highly controversial time for the conference. Scandals, mugshots, and questions have ripped the conference in half, and its' future hinges on the likes of many of the faceless (behind the scenes) men and women running the top programs in the country.
Three months ago the residents residing on the Pacific side of the United States enjoyed relative normalcy. The east coast portion of the United States didn't pay much attention to what was going on in Manifest Destinyland , and in return, those residents basked in the continued prominence of their programs and conference.
Then something happened. Something changed .
No one can pin point it, exactly, but something was unavoidably wrong. The era of relative calm became calamity. Maybe it was the presence of ESPN Los Angeles reporting on every little misgiving in the life of the sports world (i.e. the newest circumstances on the jail sentence for Mark Ingram's father), or maybe just fate, but the Pacific coast became embroiled in scandal after scandal.
The Pacific now looks more and more like its' ancestors of the Wild West, where lawlessness reigned and legends were made. Looks like not much has changed, so to speak.
Today the likes of USC and Oregon have become synonymous with Land Rovers, fraternity theft, and Facebook debauchery. The rest of the conference have fallen victims to good ol' generalizations. Looks like not much has changed.
What has changed, however, have been many of the faces those tuning in at 6 a.m., or 11, or 5 p.m., have become accustomed to. Unfortunately, those faces have become the front for a conference which prides itself on not only excellence in the classroom and on the field, but in life, as well.
Make no mistake, the Pac-10 hasn't changed. The only thing different have been the recent press surrounding it. So, let this be the wake up call to all those who doubt, are confused, or are simply ignorant. There has been nothing diminished about this proud conference other than those who try to make a dollar off of its' good (or in this case, bad) name. That's right, ESPN, I'm talking to you.
Let this be a real description of the people who have worked tirelessly to not only promote their respective schools, but their conference.
Systematically, this article will serve to discuss the discourse of what has now become, for many, the most important position in their schools programs, aside from the head football coaches—the Athletic Director.
Starting in reverse alphabetical order (note: This is the reverse order as they are listed on the Pac-10's website):
Washington State University – Bill Moos
Moos takes over a program that has been gripped with underachievement in the past half decade. In not arguably the most vital sport in college, the football program hasn't tasted a winning season, or bowl game since 2003 against Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
Another point of contention was just how much the basketball team underachieved under recent hire Ken Bone, struggling in the 2009-2010 season despite what appeared to be a pretty competitive group.
Ok, so the hill is steep, but the hire of a beloved Coug alum does bring a lot of optimism to the Palouse and hinterland. Moos helped bring Oregon's athletics to the prowess they now celebrate before being ousted by top dog Phil Knight in favor of his buddy Pat Kilkenny.
Jim Sterk's surprising departure for Mountain West Conference San Diego St. University paved Moos' way in to the changing of the guard at Wazzu, and Moos seems to be relishing his new found position close to his ranch in nearby Spokane.
The beginning of change at Wazzu has seemingly commenced and it will be interesting to see if the woes of the 2000s will be a thing of the past in this new found decade.
University of Washington – Scott Woodward
Woodward took over in 2008 replacing Todd Turner, and looking to restore the proud Husky tradition that was in the midst experiencing the unthinkable. Never would anyone in their right mind imagined a day where the football program would be in the toilet, but that's where it was.
In his first collegiate quarter at UW as a full-fledged AD, Woodward was forced to replace the failing director of football operations, Tyrone Willingham. Thus, the quest for a new headmaster was answered in the form of one Steve Sarkisian.
The Bark for Sark era began at Montlake, and the Dawgs looked to restore their good name amongst the top football programs in the nation. Woodward is no foreigner to the pressures to perform on the gridiron. His time at LSU, where he worked with current UW President Mark Emmert since 1999, included a national championship in 2003.
Aside from the monotonous pressure of achieving in football, he has also sought to transform another sport he knew well during his tenure at LSU—baseball. In the summer of 2009, Lindsay Meggs dawned the Purple and Gold in light of Woodward's decision to replace Ken Knutson at the helm.
Currently, Woodward is in the testing phase of his AD experience, however, if history should serve any lesson into the future, the Husky tradition looks to once again regain their swagger in many of the top sport spectrum's of the Pac-10.
University of Southern California – Mike Garrett
The man with the longest reign in the Pac-10 as AD is now currently under the most scrutiny, as well. In light of recent, and not so recent allegations, the university is struggling to answer questions to some of the most damning evidence this side of the Continental Divide.
The departure of Peter Carroll doesn't seemingly help Garrett who has now been stranded on a deserted island with only himself to answer the tough questions. Regardless, his lengthy experience should help him in the matter.
Garrett is an alum of Southern Cal, and won the Heisman in 1965, highlighting the beginning of what is colloquially referred to as Tailback U—followed by the likes of O.J. Simpson ('68) and Marcus Allen ('81), as well as the ever-scrutinized Reggie Bush ('05).
However, in this current decade it would be a different O.J. that would grab headlines as the basketball team admitted to transgressions and was subsequently placed on probation. Garrett is no stranger to controversy, beginning his reign in 1993.
The hire of Pete Carroll nearly got him ran out of town, and the recent hiring of Lane "the Dame" Kiffin has an eery similarity for its scandalism (yeah, I made that word up). Today, it appears the smoke has settled (for the most part) on that first hire.
In the future a little foresight might prevent such scandals. Land Rovers (afterall) aren't even fuel efficient (!) and a Toyota Prius would have never made national headlines. However, stars need their pedestals, and USC is no stranger to stars whilst they reside in a city of them.
University of California – Los Angeles – Daniel G. Guerrero
First, when researching Mr. Guerrero, one should not confuse him with either an America's Most Wanted suspect, or that of a famous Spanish fútbol player .
Instead, they may find that this man is included on the lists of such prominence as Dan Guerrero Day honored in the city of Los Angeles on Sept. 10, 2002; Top 100 Most Influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business Magazine in 2004; or also feature on the cover of SI as the No. 28 on the list of Most Influential Minorities in Sports 2003.
With that being said, Guerrero has overseen many achievements for the school he once played second base for. This includes a number of titles and achievements such as 18 team titles. Named UCLA's eighth AD in 2002, Guerrero has become one of the school's most prominent figures.
We won't be seeing his name on the short list anytime soon, one would think. Some of his more recent endeavors have included the hiring of Rick Neuheisel, and also multi-million dollar agreements with sponsor Adidas, as well as renovating the athletic facilities surrounding Pasadena.
Stanford University – Bob Bowlsby
Bowlsby became the Cardinal's sixth AD in 2006. The wrap on the man is not much, quite honestly. Despite continually having one of the most prominent athletic programs in the nation (SI in 2007-2008 had them as one of the top 25 for the 14th consecutive year), Stanford prides themselves most on one thing: academics.
As far as Bowlsby's continued endorsement is considered, his athletes need to perform in the classroom, and as long as this happens the rest seemingly will continually follows suit. To Bowlsby's credit he brings a rep. Born and raised in Iowa, Bowlsby had stints at Northern Iowa (the current 2010 Diaper Dandy), as well as at Iowa as AD.
Besides his continued overseeing of transgressions on the Palo Alto playing fields, Bowlsby was also notable for his involvement as part of the Olympic Committee for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
As much flak as I may receive for saying this, Stanford may be the one place where the football team doesn't make or break his position, but instead this responsibility to integrity on the playing field is diluted amongst all of the very talented athletic programs, from baseball to women's synchronized swimming.
Oregon State University – Bob De Carolis
As far as Beaver fans are concerned, Bob De Carolis may be their athletics' Moses. The man resurrected a program which for many years was never even alive, and led them into the light. Ok, so Gary Payton played guard for them in the '80s. Then what?
Since his promotion in 2002, according to the Beavers' website, the Beavs have made an unprecedented eight bowl appearances—even though I only counted seven.
Regardless, even if the Beavs have had seven instead of eight, they have a right to be confident about making that eighth bowl appearance after the past year which was their closest finish to making the Rose Bowl since they finished second behind the Rose Bowl-bound Huskies in 2000.
I say unprecedented because prior to his arrival they had only four other bowl appearances since they last tasted the Rose Bowl in 1964! De Carolis was also an integral part in retaining current football coach Mike Riley after reports had him on conference rival USC's radar for the head coaching position.
The two struck a deal, and will similarly be a powerful force to reckon with in the conference. Amongst his other accomplishments, the once unheard of baseball program became a staple in the College Baseball World Series, winning it back to back in 2006 and 2007.
Again, after Pat Casey's successes on the field, De Carolis was able to retain his winning baseball coach as Notre Dame attempted to corral him after the 2006 season. More recently, De Carolis was part of the team which hired basketball coach Craig Robinson.
University of Oregon – Previously Mike Bellotti
With the most question marks surrounding his imminent future, Bellotti also had the shortest tenure out of the current Pac-10 ADs. The AD carousel at Oregon began amidst the forced departure of Bill Moos, as Pat Kilkenny announced in 2007 that he only planned to serve as AD for two years. This set the chain of events, most notably around the football team, in motion.
Some speculate that Bellotti was actually forced to step down as head football coach and take on role as AD in an attempt to retain Chip Kelly in the program. Now, with Bellotti gone the questions once again surround the University of Oregon program. Will Bellotti return to coaching? And will it be in the Pac-10, if given the chance?
If given the chance, this individual believes so. With Bellotti's 115-55 record, there's many programs around the nation that would be willing to fork over a hefty sum to have him put on the headset once again.
However, Bellotti has been a man of mystery as both his announcement to step down as AD as well as head football coach both came as general surprises to the public. The more important question, regarding Oregon, is who takes his place? Will it once again be Phil Knight's right hand man in Kilkenny?
Obviously, the search has already begun and we can expect to see the results of it in the near future. Will Oregon promote from within, or will they look elsewhere around the nation?
Lots of questions surround the program now shrouded in speculation at all ends, but one thing is for sure; whoever takes on the role of AD will need to earn their pay stipend, as they will immediately become a very busy official, and possibly face the toughest tasks the job offers from the get go.
University of California, Berkeley – Sandy Barbour
Ok, on to the less controversial aspects of the position. Sandy Barbour is the face of success. During her tenure Cal has won 10 national championships and 43 individual titles. Pretty good, huh? Well the nation's top college officials thought so, naming her the 2009 AD of the Year.
"Throughout her time in Berkeley, she has shown that student-athletes can succeed at high levels both in the classroom and on the playing field. Sandy has helped develop a model program, and with the building of the Student-Athlete High Performance Center well underway, I am excited about the future of Cal Athletics," Chancellor Robert Birgeneau stated.
There's plenty of reason for lots of optimism. Cal has solid coaching and a good grasp of what the student-athlete paradox truly means. Maybe there's something in the water around the Bay Area, but these ADs have it figured out.
The aspirations of the AD, aside from keeping a steady sail, must be to return Cal to that elusive Rose Bowl. The team has had a drought of appearances since 1953. That's a long time. How long? Well President Eisenhower didn't enact the Federal Aid Highway Act until 1956.
Since that time, the act that should have made the route easier and more feasible has similarly seemed made the road to Pasadena seem like the longest road Cal has ever been forced to travel. With solid recruiting, though, Jeff Tedford hopes to lead his team into the unthinkable promise land.
Arizona State University – Lisa Love
Despite the other wranglings going on in the Pac-10 amongst ADs, Love's story might be the most compelling one out there right now. Her contract is set to expire at the end of this coming June. Why might this be the most compelling? Well, because the verdict is still out to whether she has had a more successful or unsuccessful stint as AD of ASU.
Most detractors might point to her hire of college football's longest resume, Dennis Erickson.
Let's face it, the man's been around . Unfortunately for ASU fans, as this be the year Erickson sits on the hot seat, Love will not have the opportunity to exercise her AD rights at the end of the season to either continue endorsing Erickson, or to let him go. This means that the decision either to retain her or not will have to come before her biggest test.
Now, for those who are in support of Love, there are other points of contention in which they can illuminate. One of which, maybe most importantly, is the hire of basketball coach Herb Sendek. Sendek has recently looked like a shiny beacon of hope in the ASU athletic community as he has revitalized a basketball department that has usually always been second in the state to their rivals to the south.
It's possible that the departure of Arizona hall-of-famer Lute Olson may have opened a gateway for ASU to compete for recruits in the area, but Sendek has brought knowledge and results to the program.
Another question mark that looms over Love's head is the dismissal of longtime baseball coach Pat Murphy. Documents came out after his resignation saying that he was forced out the door by Love, as AZCentral reported. Obviously, baseball is a huge cue to the athletic program in Tempe, so the dismissal of Murphy may have not been taken so lightly by boosters even in light of such allegations as academic fraud and recruiting violations.
So Love's future remains in question. Many ASU fans may want to "move in a new direction," whereas many others believe that Love has been nothing but a blessing to the university. The debate should last well into the summer.
University of Arizona – Greg Byrne
The newest AD to the Pac-10, Byrne will officially take on the reigns of AD on May 1, 2010. In almost breaking news fashion Byrne was hired away from Mississippi State University on March 22 of this year.
The previous AD, John Livengood, recently left to take over AD duties at yet another Mountain West Conference school, UNLV. Livengood left Arizona in December 2009 after over 16 years as AD at the school.
Livengood may be credited for a pretty successful term at Arizona after keeping the school in the black during his tenure despite over nine losing football seasons and no state funding.
The school had other sports that helped out, from baseball, softball to, of course, basketball. These are the immediate question Byrne will have to answer as he comes back to the state of his alumni, Arizona State University. He was credited at MSU for replacing the rather unsuccessful Sylvester Croom, but it will take more than a winning football team at Arizona to be deemed successful.
Most Questions :
The Arizona schools have the most questions currently surrounding the AD position. Byrne steps into a fresh job on the new coast, but one that is fairly murky without a winning basketball team.
Lisa Love, on the other hand, will remain trying to keep her head above the water for the meanwhile and hope that she continues to get the chance to lead the Sun Devils.
Most to Prove :
This distinction is reserved for the Washington schools. New hire Bill Moos has shown success in the past at Oregon, but Wazzu will be a challenge all its' own. With a football team currently under a 3-22 record of Paul Wulff, immediate results may not come quick enough as fans tire of rebuilding .
At Washington, the recent hire of Sarkisian has brought a lot of optimism, but the real factor is trying to keep retention on the current football staff and continue building.
Most Improved :
Obviously Oregon State's Bob De Carolis wins this distinction hands down. OSU has become a force to reckon with not only inside of the borders of the state, but around the conference and elsewhere as well. Just ask LSU.
Most Scandalous :
Toss up time. Mike Garrett is used to the bright lights, and so is his current football coach Lane Kiffin. The key will be what the NCAA hands down. Oregon is in a similar position, although they kind of hold the power themselves amidst internal struggles. Bellotti's departure is untimely, and really a slap in the face to Knight and the rest of the Oregon staff which is struggling to make it day to day after their Rose Bowl loss.
Job Well Done :
Like I said, maybe its the water or maybe just the sourdough bread, but there's something to be said for the ADs at Cal and Stanford. They represent the model by which to go by for successful programs and continued prestige.
Not to be forgotten is Guerrero at UCLA, as well. Time will ultimately be the judge with Neuheisel, although I wouldn't personally put Guerrero's job on the line if the football team doesn't succeed in the near future.