Crimson luminaries weigh in on Pac expansion

MIKE PRICE, George Raveling, Keith Jackson, Andy Geiger... anyone and everyone with some sort of ties to Washington State seems to have an opinion on Pac-10 expansion plans and the potential impact on the Cougars. And everyone seems in agreement on two things...

The predicted financial windfall is too great to pass up, but WSU's ability to win will be tested like never before. "It's going to be twice as competitive as it used to be," said Raveling, the former WSU and USC basketball coach.

"It makes the competitive mountain steeper than it ever has been," said Geiger, a former Stanford athletic director who is now retired in Port Angeles, Wash.

"I don't know whether they can compete or not," said Jackson, the legendary college football broadcaster who attended WSU. "They have competed in the past. They weren't looking at the loaded guns they'll be looking at this time."

Jackson is quick to add, "I know money drives the bus … Washington State doesn't have any choice but to try to compete."

"I think Washington State will benefit and it will benefit the Olympic (non-revenue) sports a lot," Geiger said.

"I think it'll be a positive influence for the school," said UTEP football coach Mike Price, the longtime Cougar coach. "I think it'll create a lot of interest in football and help our budget tremendously."

NOTE THAT PRICE still uses the "our" term when referring to the Cougars. That might explain part of the reason why Price plays down the concern of others that Pullman's location and small regional population base might be a disadvantage for the Cougars.

"Texas Tech has a lot of similarities to Washington State … and Stillwater (Oklahoma State), so it's not all Texas and Oklahoma," Price said.

"Washington State and Pullman is what it is. It's still going to appeal to a certain type of kid."

THE PAC-10 HAS already added Colorado, and speculation is ripe that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will soon jump on board. A two-division, 16-team league has been mentioned as a likely scenario, with the 16th school coming from a group that includes Utah, Kansas, Texas A&M and Baylor.

"Just adding one school, Colorado, doesn't do it," Jackson said. "They've got to add somebody else, and I would think Utah would be an attractive member and damn sure competitive.

"The 16-team thing, I don't know. That's a little spooky to me, because I don't think the Texas legislature is going to let those Texas schools go without Baylor. Baylor is a Baptist university, remember, and there's a lot of those type of folks in Texas."

GEIGER IS WARY of additional travel, even if a "Pac-8" division is formed that would limit most or all regular-season conference competition in that division to the Washington, California and Oregon schools.

"The essence of college sports (is the athletes)," Geiger said. "You have to do what's right for those kids. Just taking them on the road all the time, I'm not sure is a great experience."

"Inter-division play, I think it makes it even more intriguing," Raveling said. "Washington State wants to see Texas every now and then, but maybe not a steady diet."

RAVELING, WHO NOW works for Nike, foresees even bigger changes coming to college sports in the future.

"Once the conferences are realigned, I wouldn't be surprised if some conferences pulled out of the NCAA and started their own association," Raveling said. "I think the power conferences will form their own association."

"I would applaud it," Jackson said, "because I think there's a definite conflict in philosophy from top to bottom."

Raveling says college conferences need to market themselves globally. Jackson wants to see educational programs designed specifically for athletes who plan to make careers out of playing or coaching.

Jackson said, "Unless Congress, the state legislatures, somebody does something to relieve the schools of their current circumstances and lets them sign a contract with the kid and make them stay at least two years, you can't have that kind of chaos sweeping through your (athletics program) after you spend millions of dollars recruiting and training and all of a sudden he takes a hike. That has to stop."

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