The PAC 10 Needs To Change Its Scheduling Philosophy

Gerald BallCorrespondent ISeptember 20, 2008

Face it people, the PAC 10 stinks. It is not merely that every team in the conference but Southern Cal has a loss and we are not even out of September. It is that all of the losses have been either humiliating blowouts, to mid - major schools, or both. PAC 10 fans once bragged about their conference's depth and balance. Well Washington and Washington State are 0 - 6 against Division I - A, and 6 of the 10 teams (the two mentioned plus UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, and Oregon State) are .500 or below. 

The reason is not coaching. Quite the contrary, when I look at the head coaches and staffs in the PAC 10, they are generally a credible bunch that do a good job. Instead, the issue is a general lack of talent. This is evident on signing day, when USC is not merely the only PAC 10 program consistently represented in the top 5, but the top FIFTEEN.

Yes  it is possible to get good talent and be very competitive without regularly signing top recruiting classes, but the ability to do this is not nearly unique to the PAC 10. The next top 10 recruiting class for Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Clemson, or Wisconsin will be their first, and Auburn's classes are generally no better than 5th in the SEC, yet look at the success that those programs have had. 

But a lot of that success is overstated due to records inflated by cupcakes, PAC 10 advocates might say. Wrong. The truth is that when these programs do play quality out of conference competition, they generally do pretty well for themselves. If you have good coaching and good players, you are going to do well, so the way PAC 10 fans dismiss the merit and accomplishments of quality teams merely because their schedule includes I - AA teams is dishonest. This is particularly evident this season, when every PAC 10 team save USC has a nonconference loss to a team that played a I - AA foe. 

The key to winning at college football is to win at recruiting. However, to win at recruiting, a program has to win 9 games a year over a period of time. The program that maintains a 9 win level will be a fixture in the top 15. Being in a top 15 fixture means frequent national TV dates, and I am not talking about the late night games on ESPN2. And the frequent national TV dates is what wins recruiting battles. Not only does it keep west coast talent from going east, but it brings eastern talent west. I noted that one of Oregon's QBs is from one of Georgia's better football factories. Well that was due to Oregon's having strung several very good seasons together lately; otherwise Justin Roper would likely have gone to Tennessee or Clemson. 

PAC 10 fans believe that going 8 - 4 against a schedule of 9 conference games, 2 nonconference opponents from BCS schools, and a Mountain West or WAC school means that you are better than a school that goes 10 - 2 against 8 conference games, a I - AA school, 1 Sun Belt school, 1 MAC school, and a single BCS nonconference opponent. That is probably true, and I do concede that the Sagarin ratings generally agree. The problem is that to the pollsters, an 8 - 4 BCS conference team is an 8 - 4 BCS conference team, and a 10 - 2 BCS conference team is a 10 - 2 BCS conference team. The same is true of the networks that give out the national TV slots on ABC, CBS, and ESPN, and the elite recruits who largely base their decisions on who they've seen in big games on TV and represented in or near the top 15 while they were in high school. 

Bottom line: playing the toughest schedules in the country hasn't gotten the PAC 10 a thing. As a matter of fact, since PAC 10 teams are as likely to lose to UNLV as beat Tennessee in such games, it doesn't even gain them bragging rights. If the PAC 10 is going to keep their best athletes on the west coast and be able to routinely go into other parts of the country to get players, you need to go ahead and start scheduling the 2 - 3 guaranteed wins a year just like everyone else.

Imagine, for instance, if Cal had scheduled Northern Arizona at home instead of Maryland on the road. Thanks to your 38 - 31 win against a Michigan State program that everyone regards to be on the rise, you would have "only" needed 7 conference wins to get to the Rose Bowl. As it is, you are unlikely to finish better than 9 - 3 with a bad loss to an unranked team, so your Rose Bowl bid will likely to to Texas. (Or ... gasp ... to an SEC team.)

Please put an end to the madness, PAC 10. Start playing schedules that allow you to build your programs and your conference.