The Big 10 Conference has now taken the Los Angeles college sports market. Former Bruin, NFL QB, and voice of the Bruins Wayne Cook, is on a journey he didn't think he would ever take. Both schools have embraced to move and Pac12 is in big trouble.
When I heard the University of Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure from the Big 12 to the SEC, I immediately called a member of the Harbaugh family. The kin from the south. I needed his take. I couldn’t grab the phone any faster.
When I heard that UCLA and Southern Cal were Big 10 bound, this one was easy. Enter former UCLA and NFL quarterback, and now the voice of the Bruins, Wayne Cook.
I had to have someone's take on what I felt was the biggest move in the history of college football. So big it would change the sport as we know it.
Going back nearly 20 years with Wayne, doing some quarterback camp coaching, and playing some golf together, he was the first guy I ran to when the news hit. And now Cook is a guy who is going to call Bruin games versus Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Wisconsin just about every year.
I let the Texas/Oklahoma move marinate for a few months after it happened. I’ve been watching the Pac-12 for the last several years create self-inflicted wounds and wading their feet into a well-lit dumpster fire they started themselves.
Watching former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott single handily destroy the league with only God knows what he was doing. One thing we saw clearly was him mad-dogging the national college sports broadcast media pundits.
I was compelled to write several articles on why we could be watching the destruction of the greatest and winningest conference in the history of college sports.
On May 13th, I even had a hunch in a story to predict UCAL and Southern Cal leave for the Big 10 and let it be known. My gut feeling was laughed at by many of my colleagues and friends.
Bad television deals. Bad head coaching hires by schools themselves throughout the football and basketball coaching ranks for years. Overall, killing recruiting in many of the money sports.
If I only really knew that Texas and Oklahoma would only be instigators in what we now know as the biggest transaction in the history of college sports and seeing that it will change everything about it.
Seeing the best football program in the Pac-12 almost every year has three losses, is a tough watch. One baseball team, just one, gets ousted quickly in the college baseball World Series. But at least they made it, right? (Shoulders shrugged and eyes rolled). Arizona softball and basketball were almost saviors of embarrassment with two first-year head coaches taking their program to the men’s Sweet Sixteen and the women’s college World Series. But both had to head home as well.
UCLA and USC have had enough, and they will be the schools that will make history and change college sports, not just football, forever.
Both institutions have left the greatest conference of all time. The Conference of Champions.
Again, I needed to talk to some of my powerful friends from UCLA and Southern Cal.
Watching the original B12 teams play in the Rose Bowl in a conference game will be a unique sight.
But the real question I wanted to know from Mr. Pac-10 himself is what's going to happen to the conference he played in and holds deep in his heart?
“You know what's crazy to me? I think this all started obviously in Oklahoma and Texas and that was a huge deal,” says Said Cook. “And then we started looking into what the Pac-12 was making financially, the mistakes and some of the missteps and some of the gambles that (former Pac-12 commissioner) Larry Scott made with the headquarters in the bay area and many households only have partial access to the Pac-12 network, all of that was financially putting the schools in the PAC 12 at a huge disadvantage.”
Bingo. And that’s only scratching the surface.
Based on past leadership, the P12 was in serious trouble and it’s now close to a death sentence. All the variables attached to the financial mistakes trickle down to the programs trying to survive the television race and recruiting game as well.
The best talent recruiting base in the country, which is California, is having trouble keeping the best players in the west and losing them to the southeast.
“But let's be honest, I mean it's been killing me for the last 5 to 10 years,” says Wayne. “The entire country talks about the Pac-12 like it's not the conference I remember when I play in the Pac-10. I felt like we were as good as anybody.”
Wayne Cook is right.
Like most everything in our world today, the media’s chosen narrative directs what people think, whether right or wrong.
The names and list are way too long to name southern California talent, leaving home and shunning UCLA and USC. Washington and Oregon talent are not signing with the Ducks, and the Big 10 is sweeping top Arizona talent away from the University of Arizona.
Why? Television is a key reason. ESPN creates a narrative for sports. What young players see is coming from ESPN and, of course, ESPN is everything SEC and Texas. And now the Big 10.
The lack of west coast representation has a lot to do with it and right now, UCLA and USC are going to have more of a visible network presence than what is in the Pacific Coast Standard time zone.
The bottom line both schools have left and now Oregon, Stanford, and Washington are being courted to leave as well. A lot is playing into what might be the end of the P12.
“To be honest, this also coincides with the four-team playoff and not being more inclusive to include the Champions from all power 5 conferences,” said Cook. “It’s a big deal because the Pac-12 we know was a great thing, but they were the ones who were constantly cannibalizing themselves like this all the time.”
From top to bottom, the Pac-12 ‘had’ the most equal playing field of any conference. Every year the conference was killing each other’s post-season dreams. Parity is a good thing, but not in the eyes of the ESPN’s and NCAA’s. Every year these networks and institutions are hoping for a late-season beating of Oregon by Stanford or an unranked Colorado team knocking off USC.
“It's hard to get thru the season because every Pac12 team always has a three-game stretch that's a nightmare. We don’t usually play three or four road games, we usually played five or six.”
One of the biggest issues was getting the rest of the country to watch the P12 at 10 pm and that was on Fox. And now that there is no serious Los Angeles market for college sports.
Like with many things in sports life, the folks in Bristol, Connecticut, have made the statement for years.
“I'm blown away with the negativity from the people that are covering the conference and they talk about the conference and the poor Pac-12. I'm sorry, were just as good as the ACC. I’m serious, we’re just as good as anyone. We just don’t have the Clemson. And with the Big 12, if you take out Oklahoma, it’s the same. The Pac-12 can play with anyone. It’s just mind-boggling to me to watch the media say that west coast football is dead.”
What’s not dead is a significant move for the Bruins and Trojans.
“We all know that there are a million Ohio State and Nebraska fans in southern California,” says Cook. “Those schools come into town, there will be fans, and the lower Big10 teams might now have as much but that’s ok. It is Los Angeles.”
When it is wintertime, road games to the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl are going to be an amazing weekend attraction to the Midwesterners in 70 degrees.
Of course, I have been voicing my discourse on the Pac-12 for the last few years and its atrocious leadership. But what's going to happen to the conference he played in and holds deep in his heart?
Based on past leadership, the P12 was in serious trouble and it’s now close to a death sentence. All the variables attached to the financial mistakes trickle down to the programs trying to survive the recruiting game as well.
The facts are the facts, so we might as well just look at what everyone else will look at. Conference success, and football.
“I'm a little bit torn by it because I love the conference and I've been fighting for this conference for years, but at the same time it just makes sense and when we start thinking about some of the matchups, it's pretty exciting,” according to Cook.
Speaking of matchups, the SEC had a real hard time in the past scheduling the P12 road games. Why would it be a win for them? It almost wouldn’t. And of course, P12 school had no problem going to the south and if they got beat, it was a west coast bashing session.
To gauge the now old P12, look at the Southeastern Conference. I know, P12 fans that care will yell about the advantages the SEC has. My point is exactly. They have advantages and that's something that was created by conference leadership and a fan base that is addicted to the results and their home team.
The bottom line is the P12 has never had any advantages created thru conference leadership. They had been flirting with the bottom rung of the power five conferences.
It doesn't matter if the SEC has more teams. It means that they're making progress and doing something about it to become dominant, and they are dominant right now. The Big 10 has now done something about it and the Pac-12 is about to be gone in the wind.
“I've always been and always will be UCLA and west coast football. UCLA and USC are still L.A. teams. They just happen to be in a different conference right now,” according to Wayne. “UCLA reacted and was proactive. We're going to get out in front because that's what our school always has done, and this is an opportunity for UCLA to get back to where they belong, being a perennial power school. A school that people think about not just invincible in football but all sports. I think it helps UCLA.”
It helps the Bruins more than the Trojans, but now the L.A. schools are in the Big 10, and that is groundbreaking.
“I think when you listen to Martin (Jarmond Martin, UCLA athletic director) talk about the move, it's almost like how could you say no to this?”
It is a sad day when the Pac-12 folds and it will. Arizona, Arizona State, and Colorado will more than likely join the B12. Oregon and Washington might do the same.
College sports have changed forever.