Pac-10 should go back to playing eight conference football games
Decision to play all nine league opponents has limited Pac-10's opportunities in BCS games.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
Last week in the Southeastern Conference, Auburn stepped out and played Furman. Georgia played Tennessee Tech. Kentucky hosted Eastern Kentucky. Mississippi welcomed Northern Arizona. Tennessee invited in Memphis.
When's Furlough Week in the Pac-10?
Once again, the league is eating its own, pushed to the periphery of the discussion about getting two teams into BCS bowls. Of course, that hasn't happened since 2002.
And all for ... what, exactly? So the Pac-10 can say it's the only big football-playing league that has nine conference games?
Time to end the fratricide, and go back to playing eight conference games, which means everybody "misses" one opponent annually.
Let's pause for a minute, while I dodge the rotten tomatoes.
I know the arguments: It's more equitable this way. It's more interesting for the fans and the media. It facilitates scheduling in a part of the country where it isn't always easy to get games or to draw sexy opponents.
On all counts, agreed. But the overriding factor is how the nine-game grind, implemented in 2006, impacts the league nationally. And how it affects the student-athlete (oh yeah, him).
In 2006, two Pac-10 teams, Arizona and Washington State, didn't get to bowl games despite being eligible at 6-6. Last year, the league could fill only five of its seven bowl slots. This year, the weekly gauntlet (WSU excepted) might limit the league's participation in the big bowls to just the Rose.
Last year, you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing an ACC team in a bowl game. It had 10. Anybody foresee a time when the Pac-10 will have eight or nine?
Funny, I don't recall any raging controversies under the old system. Probably the closest thing was in 1995, when Washington and USC tied at 6-1-1 — deadlocking in their game. USC "missed" a 9-3 Oregon team while the Huskies missed 3-8 Cal.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley favors the round-robin. But he concedes, "At the same time, it hurts us. It's very difficult to get two teams in the BCS."
At league meetings last spring, the coaches had a long discussion about a return to an eight-game league schedule, joined by athletic directors. Nothing changed, but there's clearly significant coaching support for it. Among those weighing in against the round-robin Tuesday were Arizona's Mike Stoops, UCLA's Rick Neuheisel and WSU's Paul Wulff.
Saying he sees both sides of it, Neuheisel said, "For the sake of the conference and becoming nationally recognized, it may be wise to go to an eight-game schedule."
After Washington meets Oregon State on Saturday, the Huskies will have played eight teams already bowl-eligible and two that are still very much in the hunt.
That's a load.
The Pac-10 has always had sort of a quixotic self-image. It was among the first to limit Proposition 48 entrants, it clings to the old alliance with the Rose Bowl, it bucked the tide and went through the entire '90s without a Pac-10 basketball tournament.
In this case, cutting-edge ought to be mean something different: Cutting back.
And what's more ...
• Circumstances might be tilting toward a dreary Ohio State-USC Rose Bowl, which would be their third meeting in 16 months and USC's fifth straight year in the Rose. If Arizona, Oregon and USC tie atop the Pac-10 at 7-2 — with Arizona beating Oregon and USC beating Arizona — USC wins the tiebreaker.
• Wulff says five to seven of WSU's 17 committed recruits "have been talked to" by Pac-10 schools in an attempt to reverse their pledge, and he doesn't like it. "I guess I'm old-fashioned in my beliefs," he said. "We make early decisions on kids, and if it takes [competing schools] six to eight months longer, it shows a lack of work on their part, and it shows no class."
• QB roulette: Kevin Prince should be OK for UCLA's trip to Pullman this week. ASU coach Dennis Erickson isn't declaring on either freshman Brock Osweiler or senior Danny Sullivan for Oregon. And Wulff is noncommittal on Jeff Tuel (kneecap), saying he wants to see how he practices.
• Two years ago, Stanford went to USC and won as a 41-point underdog. Now the Cardinal has cut that spread to 11 and coach Jim Harbaugh says of the trip to LA, "It's put-up-or-shut-up time for Stanford football."
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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