Since inviting Colorado, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State to the PAC-10, new commissioner Larry Scott has been branded a visionary, a genius, and the quintessential “smartest guy in the room.”
The other commissioners involved in the massive reshaping of the college athletics landscape have been hesitant and tentative. The Big Ten tried to stick to their proposed 12-18 month timeline until Mr Scott destabilized the Big XII by proposing to annex most of it’s southern division.
What is motivating the PAC-10 and their presidents to abandon their long-held traditions and supposed academic standards? Why is the PAC-10 commissioner acting so brazenly, happy to destroy the Big XII’s home while the SEC and Big Ten are acting with the kind of quiet caution you would expect from a man who is flirting with a married woman?
It’s possible the conventional wisdom is correct: Larry Scott is just that smart. It’s also possible that he is playing with a good reputation, but a shockingly poor hand.
Breaking down the PAC-10 team-by-team shows the league is in a very precarious position: the two teams that have carried the league and given it their national credibility are both undergoing huge transitions. Oregon has a new coach and has recently dismissed their quarterback. USC’s big NCAA sanctions will make it nearly impossible for them to compete at an elite level for the next few years.
The BCS computers rank all the division one football teams from one to 120. Below is the average ranking for each of the PAC-10 schools over the last two years. (The first two of a four-year evaluation period to maintain BCS status). BCS leagues average between 40 and 50th best in the country. The PAC-10 is already at the lower-edge of that range and cannot afford for any of these numbers to drop without other teams moving up equally to compensate.
Those numbers clearly back up the perception that USC and Oregon has carried the league. What does the future hold for the PAC-10? Can USC stay in the top 30 with fewer scholarships and new coach? Can Oregon stay in the top 20 with a new quarterback and an increasingly troubled program?
If you were the PAC-10 commissioner what would you do? You are almost assured the teams that have carried your league will be taking a step back, do you have someone you can count to step up in their place?
Washington State has been one of the worst teams in country and doesn’t show any signs of improvement. Washington has a new coach and a promising senior quarterback, but hasn’t been to a bowl since 2002. Arizona State has made some terrible coaching hires and their attendance is suffering. UCLA would love to absorb USC’s senior class, except they are banned from transferring from USC to any PAC-10 school. Stanford has improved under Jim Harbaugh, but have now lost Toby Gerhart and may lose their coach to Michigan soon. Arizona has been promising, but will be shipped off to the Texas division of the PAC-16.
So, if you were the PAC-10 commissioner, would you roll the dice that Cal, Stanford, or Oregon State would be top 10 teams in the next two years? Or would you start inviting Texas and Oklahoma and tell them they can bring along whomever they need to make them commit to the new league.
While Texas may be thinking, “hey, we’re moving to California. It’s the land of famous actors and cool people,” the reality may be that like a lot of that California real estate, its perception is worth a lot more than its value.