Coach's Corner

The just completed Pac-10 season will officially end this weekend with the battle of LA, but the final results are that of overwhelming and balanced parity. Snow White and the nine dwarfs.

With the exception of the two best teams, USC and California, the rest of the conference could not even complete their ridiculous bowl arrangement for seven of the ten teams playing in post-season games.

Regardless of the absurdity of SEVEN possible teams going bowling, the league is gutting itself. Outside of USC and Cal, the rest of the conference is beating itself silly.

USC is again firmly planted at the top of the conference and the alumni and administration of the Trojans can look back with pride to a time around 1990-91 when they effectively sold one of their own to help bring down Washington.

A number of key Trojan alumni bragged about their "selling" of Barbara Hedges to the old Husky administration when Mike Lude was shown the door. Putting her in charge of the program that had replaced the Trojans at the top of the conference certainly didn't cause the USC brethren to shudder. Quite the contrary.

So when Billy Joe Hobert took his ill-fated loan and told the world about it through the Seattle Times, it became very easy to fan the flames of scandal. The LA Times gladly entered the arena and used a star witness to uncover close to 60 violations.

The fact that their star witness, a "former" Husky, was convicted of drug and gun possession didn't seem to matter to anyone.

Man, that was a poor recruiting choice, but I digress….(grin).

The Trojans knew at that time that their former Associate AD would not be able to handle the pressure of an all-out national level investigation and resulting sanctions. USC knew better than anyone else that the foundation built by Don James would begin to crumble given these circumstances. It did, and the result was the Husky program turning on itself, fueled by a president that lied to his coach.

I strongly believe that another byproduct of this mess was the resulting parity, or mediocrity, in the conference you are seeing now.

The conference is once again the playground of the private school from LA. The rest of the teams are so balanced that only half of them can even get to a winning record, much less beat the Trojans. Only Cal, with its magnificent head coach, is close. The rest are farther back than an Ernie Conwell deep snap in the Sun Bowl.

The good news? The parity means that the climb back for the Husky program will be easier. As bad as the program was this year, Washington isn't too far behind Oregon, Washington State, Arizona, or Stanford. All of those teams are also home for the holidays.

UCLA and Oregon State limped into the post season, and are by no means of juggernaut status.

The point is that with some luck and good coaching, even a bad team could win 5 to 6 games simply because this conference is so balanced and so bad.

Washington played the two kingpins, USC and Cal, very tough for a half each. Well, at least the Husky defense did.

The Huskies have the same number of available scholarships and draws from essentially the same west coast talent pool as all of the conference schools, with possible exceptions of USC and UCLA. No one really recruits against these two schools for kids that don't want to leave home. The LA schools will always retain that obvious recruiting advantage, and it's a pretty good one because of how populous that area is. It is talent rich, which is why those two schools will ALWAYS have the most talented rosters.

Washington offset this by keeping the right mix of in-state kids home and complimenting them with the California kids that did want to leave home. When you win, more kids will look at you as possible alternatives to the hometown school. With the conference so mediocre right now, Washington could turn the corner pretty quickly in terms of winning. Choosing the right coach is key in this, and so is putting a full commitment into him.

So, is the rest of the conference really bad or is it just that they are all so well balanced that they simply keep eliminating each other? Why is this conference so top heavy? "The Conference of Champions" is what they call themselves, but if it weren't for the Sears Cup, who would even know that fencing, or field hockey, or Lacrosse, or gymnastics, or swimming, or tennis, or even golf were Pac-10 sports?

The marquee sports are football and basketball, and that has typically meant USC and UCLA, respectively. Arizona and Stanford have overtaken the Bruins in hoops recently, and the Huskies look as if they will make a run at them as well on the hardwood. Sure, the Ducks made a fling into the upper echelons of both sports by winning a combined football-basketball championship a few years ago, but that was an anomaly.

In terms of TV media markets, the two LA schools still run the conference. And now that USC is so far on top again in football, it's the same as it ever was.

The conference appears very happy for the Trojans to be carrying the banner of Pac-10 supremacy. They are supposed to be the princess while the rest of the ugly step-sisters can simply knock each other out to see who doesn't make it to the Christmas ball. This year, half of them succeeded in being just bad enough to stay home from the winter ball.

Washington now needs to embark on a quest to bring itself above the dwarfs and go toe to toe with Snow White. It may not take long given the mediocrity of the conference.

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