Clardy's Corner: Conference expansion dominos

I remember hearing back in 1995 from a trusted Denver sports insider that Colorado and Texas both had standing invitations to join the Pac-10. My initial reaction was, "What? Why? What's wrong with being in the Big 8? That doesn't make any sense!"

Then again, if you had told me back in 1995 that you could send someone a text message with your cell phone, my initial reaction would have been, "What? Why? What's wrong with just calling someone? That doesn't make any sense!"

Times change. Things change. Sixteen years later, Colorado is in the Pac. Texas might not be far behind, depending upon which reports you believe. And now, as Texas A&M and other schools come close to tipping over the conference realignment dominoes all over again, there is no turning back.

Saturday will mark the first time that the Cardinal will take the field in an all-important Pac-11 matchup, as they begin conference play in Tucson against the Arizona Wildcats. The conference family has grown this year…and Stanford could be welcoming more additions in the years to come.

For the record, I wasn't too fond of expansion for the old Pac-10. Everything about that conference worked perfectly. Geographically, it had five pairings of schools in the major areas (Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Southern California, and Arizona). Travel and scheduling were easy. Everybody played everyone else. You knew where you stood. Hell, you knew where everyone stood. Why mess all that up?

Then again, I tend to be a real fuddy-duddy when it comes to these types of things. I didn't like it when baseball got rid of the old Six-Pac and Nor-Pac. And I detested the idea of the Pac-10 Tournament in basketball. Everybody already played each other twice during the season, home and away. What were you going to learn in one weekend of basketball that the previous nine weeks hadn't already proven? A tournament just seemed redundant and unnecessary.

The truth is that the old system wasn't broken. It didn't need fixing. But the bigger truth is that it just wasn't making enough money. So here we are.

So no, I was not in favor of more teams in the Pac. But I've always thought that if you are going to expand your conference, do it right. Do it big. Do it with schools that make your conference better.

That's why when league commissioner Larry Scott was reportedly chasing Texas last summer, I was all for it. Texas has the brand and the fanbase that gives them cachet. Their facilities are outstanding, and their student-athletes all seem to be treated very well, no matter the sport.

Oh, and it doesn't hurt that they can basically print their own money. This was true even before they became controversial bedmates with ESPN.

Texas is arguably the most powerful athletic program in the country. Of course, this power (and their blatant use of it) is why the Big 12 is disintegrating before our eyes. And it's also why the rumblings of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State jumping to the Pac-11 seem to be getting stronger by the day. But if I'm a conference commissioner, I take the good, I take the bad, I take them both and there I have a stronger conference if Texas is in it.

But when Texas didn't jump last year, Commissioner Scott grabbed Utah and Colorado instead. So, do those schools make the Pac-11 better?

They certainly have their positives. Salt Lake City and Denver/Boulder are excellent road trips. Utah football became a bona fide BCS buster, and men's basketball has shown brilliant flashes at times (which Stanford fans learned the hard way in 1997). I can't remember the last time Colorado men's hoops was relevant, but the Buffaloes may well be a sleeping giant for football.

But can I say that Utah and Colorado make me more excited to be a Pac-11 fan, follower, and apologist? Honestly? No.

I wish them well, but their additions don't have me racing to call the Pac-11 the new superconference that everyone should bow down to. I'm not acting like the ACC apologists were in 2004 when they added Miami and Virginia Tech, all but solidifying its spot next to the SEC as the premiere college football powerhouse conference. (How's that working out, by the way?)

Texas would have. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would. As someone who considers himself a Sooner State native, I would welcome those two schools to the Pac with open arms. And I would be happy to watch Stanford compete against them every year so I can talk smack with my friends back there.

While Utah and Colorado don't get me that excited, it could be worse. Yes, they're adding TCU next year, but the Big East voted to invite Villanova into its conference for football last fall. Not Notre Dame. Villanova. The Wildcats are still trying to figure out whether it's a good move. If Villanova is the best your conference can come up with for football, then your conference is in trouble.

But that's the Big East's problem. Meanwhile, the Pac-11 appears to be sitting in a better spot than most other conferences. Whether expansion for the Pac is good and/or necessary can be argued until we're all blue in the face. But there is no arguing that this game of musical chairs isn't ending anytime soon. And since Stanford and the Pac-11 have a seat at the table, I'm pulling up a chair to see what happens next.

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RANDOM PAC-11 THOUGHTS

Am I missing something? Was I supposed to be on Upset Alert at halftime? Was I supposed to be throwing stuff at a wall and sweating nervously after Andrew Luck's pick-six? Duke played about as well as they could, but they still had zero points offensively. And there were no indications to me that the Blue Devils would be able to earn points on their own. I'm sorry, but to me, that game was never in doubt…

They allowed a fake punt and gave up an onside kick recovery. You think special teams is gonna get a little extra work this week?

Toilolo. Ertz. Fleener. I promise you Stanford's tight ends will always have the advantage in that matchup…

Honestly? My reaction to Stanford's new Nike Pro Combat uniforms to be worn for the Notre Dame game? Meh...

Two words for Arizona State's all-black uniforms: pure class. See? It's not that hard to come up with uniforms that are futuristic, crisp, and stylish at the same time. Yes, Maryland, I'm talking to you…

Arizona's secondary struggled mightily against Oklahoma State. And the Wildcats' offensive line seems too young for the task right now. Those are two areas you just can't afford to have question marks in if you want to win big games…

The Wildcats had reasonable success throwing the ball against the Cowboys. So, logically, they decided to run the ball when they got inside OSU's ten-yard line. Mike Stoops and his offensive braintrust outthought themselves on several occasions…

I would love to watch a game at Boone Pickens Stadium someday. That looks like a claustrophobic place for road teams to play…

Their running backs look slow. And I think I have a quicker release than young QB Sean Mannion. I haven't said this too often over the past dozen years, but Oregon State looks slow on offense. They need James Rodgers back. Now…

Yes, that really was a -4 yard punt by Oregon State's Johnny Hekker…

Before Saturday, I had no idea who Colorado's Paul Richardson was. Eleven catches, 284 yards, four touchdowns, and a near-win over cal later, I do now…

Washington faces Nebraska for the third time in a year. Why do a get a feeling that this matchup will be much closer to their first meeting than it will be to last year's Holiday Bowl?

I'm not quite ready to say that Washington State is back. They have three straight on the road now (San Diego, Colorado, UCLA). Winnable games? Sure. But—as I've said a gazillion times in these Corners—it's hard to win on the road. Let's see where they stand in a month…

That said, 24-of-32 for 361 yards, five TDs, and zero INTs is about as perfect a stat line as you could want from your quarterback. Nice job, Marshall Lobbestael

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… yes, they were facing Alabama's defense, arguably the best in college football. But neither Rob Bolden nor Matt McGloin appear ready to lead Penn State to wins in big games right now. There is no QB controversy in Penn State. There is a QB problem at Penn State…

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… where are fans freaking out more: Notre Dame, Georgia, or Indianapolis?

Not a Pac-11 thought, but… looks like we have a new contestant in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. Welcome to the contest, Kansas City Chiefs

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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Got a thought on this Corner? Drop me a line either at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc)... or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com...

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PAC-11 PICKS

I'm an idiot. A little more investigation on my part would have revealed that cal and Colorado's matchup last week was a non-conference game that had been previously scheduled. So my pick for that game is being taken off the board.

(Then again, if Colorado had hung on in overtime, I would have won that pick, and I'm sure I would have likely overlooked that little detail and made that result stand. Hey, it's my Corner…I can make the rules, right?)

(Speaking of my rules, some sportsbooks don't recognize the score change following the Utah-U$C game. So, neither will I…)

Last week and this year: 0-1 (straight-up), 1-0 (ATS). Last year: 23-13 (straight-up), 16-20 (ATS).

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Troy Clardy is in his 19th year of following the Cardinal as a columnist, broadcaster, and announcer. In its 10th season of Cardinal commentary, Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.


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