Monday, December 05, 2005

In Defense of the Pac-10
By Zach

Look, you all know I'm a West Coast guy. Growing up, Saturday afternoons meant the dulcet tones of Keith Jackson coming through the TV speakers and the men in purple at work on the screen. Long story short, I'm a Pac-10 guy born and bred. Sure, I might overrate any and all teams coming out of the conference (just see any of my recent NCAA basketball brackets), but on the other hand it does differentiate me from most New Yorkers who don't seem to care much about college athletics at all.

Too many times in recent memory I've seen the Pac-10 get disrespected. Two years ago, the #1 team in both college football polls, the USC Trojans, didn't get a chance to play in the purported National Championship game. Last year, some pathetic lobbying by Texas coach Mack Brown got the Longhorns into a BCS bowl game over the California Golden Bears. This year? A 10-1 Oregon team won't be playing in a BCS bowl. First, the only loss the Ducks had this season was to (drumroll please) the #1 ranked USC Trojans. Second, some of the teams to make the BCS? The 9-2 Ohio State Buckeyes, the 9-2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the 8-4 Florida State Seminoles. Now, the Buckeyes might have some sort of case. Their only two losses came at home to #2 Texas and on the road against #3 Penn State, and both were close. So fine, let them in. But Notre Dame? They've become our favorite whipping boy here at Sportszilla, but the fact remains that they lost at home to a Michigan State team which finished 5-6. But, because the powers that be in the BCS are whores to TV money, they'll bend over backwards to let the Irish into their games. Thus, a provision exists for Notre Dame that doesn't exist for any other school or conference. It's obscene, and an affront to everything I tend to enjoy out of college athletics.

But in the end, this boils down to one thing. The Pac-10 has consistantly refused to sell their student-athletes out, and for that, they're punished. They've steadfastly refused to sign a broadcast contract with ESPN because they will not play football games any day but Saturday. ESPN of course wants them to play on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, but the conference (wisely) decided that a bit of extra money and exposure isn't worth sacrificing the academic integrity of their programs. It sickens me how numerous conferences have decided that it's ok for players to miss classes repeatedly during the week just so they can play on national television. Of course, it's probably true that most of those players aren't actually going to class, but I digress.

Similarly, the conference has insisted that their basketball games stay with Fox Sports as well. This is for several reasons. First, it allows the conference to keep their games on Thursdays and Saturdays (during conference play) instead of trying to accomodate the Worldwide Leader in Exploitation. Second, besides covering men's football and basketball, Fox Sports also broadcasts women's basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, track, and a host of other sports that ESPN would never deign to touch. While it may result in less revenue and exposure for the big sports, it also ensures that athletes in those other, less prominent sports get television coverage.

Now, if the only issue were that casual, East Coast fans were unable to see the Pac-10 play (because of the regional nature of Fox Sports and the frequent late start times), then fine. The issue is, the powers that be in college athletics are lazy bastards. The people who vote in the football and basketball polls, and the people who write and talk about the sports for a living should be willing (or required) to stay up late to watch the West Coast games. Or heck, in this era of TiVo, they can just record the games. Yet too often the ignorance of teams in the Pac-10 rears its ugly head. What else can explain Ohio State being ranked ahead of Oregon in both polls, or Notre Dame ahead of the Ducks in one?

Still, as much as it pains me to see deserving Pac-10 teams get shorted year after year, in the end I'd much rather support a conference which has its priorities straight. If the tradeoff for an extra berth in the BCS is selling out hundreds, if not thousands, of student athletes, then I guess I'll have to settle for griping about the screw jobs.


Blogger Sports Litter said...

The PAC 10 really need to get a few more schools and add a championship game. Then they will get all the respect in the world.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Zach, I'd disagree somewhat on your reasoning behind the reason they don't get respect. College Football is all about reputation, and the reputation is that the Coasts don't produce football like the interior of the country.

About six years ago, nobody said the Big East was any good, despite having Va Tech, Miami, Syracuse (when they were decent) and an okay Pitt team. Miami had to basically assemble arguably the greatest college football team of all time to get respect and even then they still got screwed, along with Washington, in the BCS.

The college football world as the powers that be see it, basically consists of Miami and USC on the coasts with everything else of importance being in the middle of the country. If you don't believe me, ask yourself; If Va Tech had gone undefeated, would they have been in the BCS title game? Of course not.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Stevo the Firedude said...

I can appreciate and understand the frustration felt by Duck fans all over Oregon. Unfortunately for the Ducks football program that is part of the problem - it isn't felt outside of Oregon. There just isn't any national interest in what the Ducks do or where they go. To the rest of College Football Oregon is just... well... Oregon. Until there is a play-off system in Div-I football, the Bowl games will always be about the money, the TV ratings, and the money (yes I mentioned money twice... lol). The strenth of schedule of both ND and Oregon were virtually the same, so that is a wash (Oregon was 49th, ND was 53rd). Notre Dame has the tradition. Notre Dame has the National Championships. Notre Dame has the national following. Notre Dame has the press. Notre Dame has the Heisman Trophy winners. Heck they've had their own network for how many years (NBC)? They are like a mirror image of USC but without the recent success (sick of hearing about USC on the Left coast yet?). This is what we in the midwest have to put up with year, after year, after year...

Your argument for getting to a BCS bowl game on the virtue of your only loss being against the #1 ranked team in the nation doesn't hold much water. Ohio State lost 2 games, yes, but they were to #2 Texas by 3 pts and #3 Penn State by 7. Oregon lost to USC by 32 and gave up 35 points in the second half alone. Not defending Notre dame here but they did take USC down to the wire and if not for a fluke play (fumble out of bounds by Leinart) they would have beaten USC.

The Ohio State/Notre Dame Fiesta Bowl will generate almost as much interest as the USC/Texas Rose bowl. It will attract football fans in general, not just fans of the schools. I mean come on... it's Ohio State and Notre Dame! Notre Dame is a very polarizing team - you either love them or hate them. As many, if not more, will tune in to the game hoping to see ND lose as will hoping to see them win! College football is as much about entertainment as anything, and this will be entertainment. What can you say about a team that should have beat USC but for a fluke play, yet loses to a 5-6 Michigan State team? I was rooting for ND to play Ohio State just because as a Buckeye, I cherish any opportunity to grind ND into the ground. The press in the mid-west, and to a certain extent nationally, would give the National Championship to Notre Dame every year if they could. Everyone in the mid-west is sick of hearing the "woe is Notre Dame" montra we've endured in recent years. If the sports press isn't hyping every little good thing ND does, they are constantly making excuses or being overly sympathetic when they suck.

Any team from the Big East getting an automatic bid is a joke. This is the direction the Ducks fans should be quacking. Now that Miami and VT have jumped ship from the Big East there isn't any reason for that conference to get an automatic bid anymore. Period. West Virginia is going to get crushed by Georgia (Pitt was demolished by Utah... UTAH!!... last year). The only reason the Big East even got that automatic BCS bowl spot was because of Miami and VT. And now they are gone. I say, make any future Big East BCS bids provisional - like the winner of the conference has to finish in the top 10 or top 8 of the final BCS poll. West Virginia finished 11th in this year's BCS. Georgia/Oregon would have been a much sexier match-up - though I think Georgia would still win pretty easily.

I know this same scenario with the Pac 10 happened last year with second place and 10-1 Cal. Cal got SPANKED by Texas Tech 45-31. In the Holiday Bowl. A Texas Tech team that finished in the middle of the Big 12, by the way. Guess excluding them from the BCS party was the right call after all. Until someone other than USC from the Pac 10 can prove they can play consistantly outside their conference, this is the way it is going to be. If the second place finisher from the Pac-10 can't beat an average Big 12 team, the conference isn't going to get a lot of national respect or interest. Tough pill to swallow, I know, but there it is. And where was the Pac-10's representative when all the non-BCS bowl agreements were being negotiated? The sencond and third place Pac-10 teams get the Holiday and Sun Bowls? Neither is a Jan 1st bowl!! That does not speak well of what the bowls think of the Pac-10 also-rans.

Best of luck against Oklahoma. Always nice to see the Big 12 lose under any circumstance.

Stevo the Firedude

11:39 AM  

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