Not a lot of surprises today with the realignment news, really.
Revenue sharing, the division split, the location of the title game, the nine-game football conference schedule — all ended up as had been speculated for weeks.
Or months in the case of the divisions. There was never any real reason to think they were going to do anything other than a North-South split that was going to separate the Washington schools from the LA schools, one reason I never really was enthusiastic about expansion from the start (while understanding all the financial benefits — which meant this was all going to happen no matter what media and fans thought about any of it anyway).
What was new is the scheduling format for football, keeping the Bay Area schools aligned with the LA schools, and further marginalizing the Northwest. Ultimately, it was a tradeoff the NW schools made for the financial gain (who also likely didn’t have a lot of power to stop it even if they had really wanted).
And make no mistake, this was all about the money. Listen to any of the interviews with ADs today and they aren’t doing much to hide their motives here.
My personal view was that once they expanded, there were going to be scheduling changes that were going to disrupt some longtime rivalries — if not the traditional ones that they tried to save.
And from there, how they did it hardly mattered. There wasn’t any way to save USC and/or UCLA coming to Seattle every year under any scenario.
So the reality is, you’re going to get Utah at Husky Stadium now more often than USC. Some fans I’m sure aren’t happy. But most/all will come around if UW is winning and stay away if the Huskies losing and ultimately that’s all that really matters (consider that the home game with USC last year was the fifth-highest of seven home games last season ahead of only Idaho and Arizona).
Some have argued that UW hasn’t been playing USC or UCLA every year forever, anyway, so what’s the big deal?
Well, that’s not really true.
There were a few interruptions in every Pac-10 series for all schools (except their traditional rival) during the period when the conference had an eight-game schedule, meaning each school skipped another for a two-year period. That’s why UW didn’t play UCLA during the 1991 national title year, for instance.
And for a while in the late ’70s and ’80s after Arizona and ASU were added, there was — believe it or not — no real standardized conference schedule. During that era, scheduling was pretty much a hodgepodge, and if there were other commitments to non-conference games, sometimes conference games just worked around that.
Consider that in 1986, Arizona State won the conference going 5-1-1 while UCLA and UW finished second at 5-2-1 and teams such as WSU and Cal each played nine conference games.
But the reality is that despite all of that, UW and USC have played every season except five since 1927 (1928, 1943 — surely a World War II deal — and 1982, 1999 and 2000 — the latter two due to the aforementioned eight-game schedule plan).
Pretty much the same holds true with UCLA. UW and the Bruins have played all but four years since World War II —- 80, 84, 91 and 92.
That obviously won’t be the case anymore.
But the UW administration can correctly say it preserved the school’s longest-standing rivalries.
UW, for instance, has actually been playing Stanford longer than any other Pac-10 member (first meeting in 1893).
And here is a list of UW’s total games (entering this season) against the traditional Pac-8 teams:
Oregon State 95,
So the most long-held rivalries are being left untouched.
As for how it may impact recruiting, UW AD Scott Woodward said he doesn’t think it will matter much. I don’t really, either. What matters most in recruiting are location (for the local kids), relationships with coaches, prospective role on the team and personal matters (such as a dad or brother who played on the team, friends already there, etc.). I think external matters such as these rank way down there, if they rank at all. The bigger impact on recruiting from expansion is the bridge that was already crossed — giving Utah and Colorado the Pac-10 imprint and making them each that much more of a competitor for players.
Ultimately, I pretty much agree with Ted Miller on this (hey. there’s a first for everything) — that the fans will pretty much get over it — especially as long as their team is winning.
As Miller notes, the man on the spot now is Pac-10 commish Larry Scott, who has to turn this into the windfall everyone is predicting (which will really determine how successful all of this is).
And maybe this will turn out well for UW on the field. Fifteen years ago or so, UW would have seemed like a big winner in this type of scenario, seemingly guaranteed regular trips to a Pac-10 title game, often just 60 minutes away from a BSC bowl regardless of whatever had gone on prior.
And as UW continues to rebuild, it’s just gotten a little bit easier to get to the point of claiming to be a champion of something — which is not attempting to downplay Oregon’s success, just the fact that it’s easier to outlast five teams to win a title instead of nine.
Ultimately, the money spoke loudly enough to silence any of the worries any of the school administrators in the Northwest may have held, everyone banking that the fans will adjust, as they always have.