Coach's Corner

Don't look now but the Pac-10 Conference, the conference of champions and the league of west coast universities, has slipped to its lowest level in decades. Balance and parity has relegated the conference to the middle level of conferences in America.

Only three teams each in both men and women's hoops made it into March Madness. Can it be that the competitive balance has relegated this conference to below the Mid-American and Conference USA and barely above the Big Sky and Conference West or WAC?

It happened in football and now it's happening in basketball as well.

It is past time for a change in the leadership and structure of the conference before it dips further in perception. This conference is considered a joke by many. One look at their television contracts for the sport of basketball gives credence to this. Another look at the league's bowl-game affiliations for football shows that there is little, if any, progressive thinking with regard to promoting or selling the level of conference play.

I, for one, am both disappointed and dismayed by the stupidity of decisions made by the conference administration. Their focus seems to be more on investigating and embarrassing their member schools rather than promoting their level of competition and national status. They are too stuck on a presumed level of academic excellence.

I have always felt that you can get a good education at any college, as learning is primarily the job of the student. The school certainly must facilitate the learning, but it's a two-way street. The student also has to want to learn and be active about it.

The sham of USC not being in the national championship for football is directly related to the lack of league leadership. Now we see only 3 women teams and 3 men teams make the NCAA tournament in basketball.

OK, none of the three men's entries lasted past the first weekend, but hopefully you see my point.

I think that Coach Dick Bennett at WSU said it best when he questioned the schedule of playing of basketball games on Thursdays and Saturdays. He felt that it hurt both the conference and the students. Here is a conference that pretends academics are the most important consideration yet asks their basketball teams to miss more school by sticking to a stupid road schedule.

Having coached at Wisconsin, Coach Bennett realizes what a good conference will do to improve their exposure. Think about it. If you play on Thursday for a road trip your kids have to leave on Wednesday and don't get home until late Saturday or Sunday. This means missing school both Thursdays and Fridays. If the games were played on Saturday and Monday, the kids would only miss one day of classes and the conference could sign a television contract for any time slot throughout the weekend and therefore would rarely conflict with professional teams. The conference could have their games telecast to a wider regional audience and could create more coast to coast competition and exposure.

Face it, even though the Huskies lost to North Carolina State, it was the most exposure they got nationally throughout the entire season. Exposure, particularly on television, is about the biggest recruiting tool there is. Local kids would definitely be more inclined to stay home, as they would no longer need to travel so far to ensure Mom and Dad get to see them on TV.

The conference is stagnant. Nobody wants to do anything bold enough to keep the players on the west coast or attract kids to come.

Why not have a Big 10 vs. Pac-10 tournament? Why not having joint men's and women's tournaments vs. quality national programs? Why not tie in with a New Years Day bowl for at least the 2nd and 3rd place Pac-10 football teams? Why not produce your own television packages? Why not challenge the BCS by threatening to pull out when they put teams like Oklahoma and Nebraska in the national championship game when they get killed in their own conference championships. This conference has sat on their hands and thought they were cool for way too long. They are lazy, stuck up, and devoid of innovation.

Say what you want about Oregon and their billboard campaign in New York. At least they are trying to promote themselves. Bill Moos will try anything to promote his two money-producing sports and because of it they can now regularly raid our state for talented athletes in both. They have put themselves on the map this last decade.

The Pac-10 conference would never do that.

What did the Big 10 do to Ohio State when Maurice Clarett exposed a bevy of violations? Nothing. What about Michigan's fab five getting paid for playing hoops? Nada.

If Clarett had been in this conference they would have busted the school big time and then helped the NCAA bust them further. It's the only conference in America that investigates itself and then helps the NCAA to further pile it on.

The coaches would support any change that would promote this league. The players want to belong to a well respected league. It should be the job of the conference office to emphasize that the records of their teams are due to a highly competitive level of conference play.

In football the conference is strong top to bottom. In basketball it's getting to be the same thing. Just a year ago, and the year before that, this conference had the best record of any conference in the tournament. Don't you get sick of hearing about how good the SEC and ACC are? What about the Big 12? We have no national exposure and therefore have no national clout.

Unless you're a LA school then this conference is more interested in punishing you than promoting you.

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