Saturday marks the opening of college-football season, and for players, coaches and a lot of fans, it’s something like Christmas morning — lots of anticipation, pulses quickening and maybe a bit of trepidation.
Well, me too. Along with the arrival of a fresh season, I’m kicking off a college-themed blog this week, “Pac-12 Confidential,” determined to prove that figuratively, you can indeed teach a 17-year-old golden retriever new tricks.
The Pac-12 ought to be fertile ground for it, what with expansion, booming TV contracts, the newly formed Pac-12 Networks on the horizon and marketing in the Pacific Rim. Oh, and there’s all the stuff in the arena, from Rick Neuheisel’s wobbly future at UCLA to USC’s uncertainty through probation, to Washington’s attempt under Steve Sarkisian to take advantage of it all.
And then there’s the electricity of basketball, where the league is trying to regain the traction it developed so famously a few years ago.
But we won’t stop there. The blog will occasionally – frequently, maybe – weave in a look at national matters, not that there have been any in 2011. Ohio State, North Carolina, Miami – those are all sagas that deserve some examination, if for no other reason than Pac-12 schools are part of that same, clunky umbrella organization, the NCAA.
Of course, the chief of that body is Washington’s own Mark Emmert, the ex-UW president, who is taking his turn wrestling alligators. The tenure of his predecessor, Myles Brand, became known for its academic reform. Since that turf has been claimed, and because of the rampant lawlessness of several prominent programs since Emmert took over the job 10 months ago, it seems inevitable that his regime will be defined by his ability to rein in the scofflaws of the sport. It’s going to be a lot harder than sweet-talking cash out of aging UW alums, a staple of his old job.
(He didn’t sound especially adroit, when, addressing the Miami mess on ESPN radio, he assured his hosts that while the “sensationalized” story had just broken, NCAA sleuths had been on the case for five months. Fine, Mark, that only put your people six months behind Yahoo! Sports’ ace investigator, Charles Robinson. The NCAA ought to consider putting Robinson on staff and giving him a large corner office.)
So there’s lots to look at, in the Pac-12 and nationally. Sometimes, we’ll examine an issue that requires considerable reporting, and be presented in larger chunks like you might see in the printed newspaper. Other days, it could be merely a random opinion, briefly stated, on a topic of the day.
I’ll try to draw on a vault of experience covering the conference, starting with a long time spent watching mostly bad football in Eugene to 24 years on the Seattle dailies, the last half on the Times.
Most of that time has been spent on the major-college beats in the state — Washington and Washington State football, UW, WSU and Gonzaga basketball.
I hope that experience shines through, but not to the exclusion of being able to see the games and the issues with unassuming eyes.
On a new platform, should be fun.