Coach's Corner

The proposal to go to 12 football games per season now allows the Pac-10 teams to play everyone else in the conference. Although not a novel idea, it was approved to begin in 2006. This was a no-brainer. It makes too much sense and is really the only fair way to determine a true league champion.

Still, it took decades of skipping one team each year before they finally figured it out. Ever since the Arizona schools were invited to join the Pac-10, conference teams have only been playing eight league opponents in the sport of football.

How stupid was it to exclude one team just to play an additional outside or non-league school? League games always draw better because there is always something on the line.

How could you really have a true champion tie-breaker when not everyone played each other?

Skipping can either be great, like in years when you don't have to play USC, or not so good, like in years when you didn't get to play one of the worst teams. When I was a coach at Washington, it always seemed like whoever was the worst team in the league somehow fell off the Huskies schedule. Bad luck I guess, but we only seemed to miss USC when they were down.

One year when Oregon won the conference with a 7-1 record, they did not play the Huskies, who had a 6-2 record. That schedule bit us a little bit by missing the Ducks.

Even though the scheduling change won't take place until 2006, it is a move in the right direction. The next move would be to totally eliminate the non-conference games from having any impact on determining the true league champion. The reason here is so obvious. There is a tremendous discrepancy in the level of opponents that the various conference teams choose to play, so why penalize those that nut up and play tough games?

A quick look at this year's non-conference opponents reveals that there has been a definite "down" scheduling in order to insure a winning season and a bowl invitation.

Oregon State, WSU, and Oregon have all figured that out years ago when they stopped playing national caliber teams like Ohio State, Tennessee, and Oklahoma on the road. Now you see the Ducks play Montana, and Portland State. Eastern Washington and Montana are visitors to Corvallis, just as Idaho has traveled to both WSU and Washington. Cal hosted powerhouse New Mexico while Arizona played mighty Northern Arizona. The Cougars even host Grambling.

But they are not the only ones who are loading up on chumps. This year's opening day opponents include mighty Temple for ASU, 1AA Sacramento State for California, Idaho for WSU, Hawaii for USC, 1 AA Northern Arizona for Arizona, and UC Davis (you've got to be kidding me) for Stanford (after Stanford opens up with Navy). Nevada also visits WSU and powerhouse Houston pays the Ducks a call in Eugene.

California's non-league slate, featuring Sacramento State, New Mexico State, and Illinois, might be weaker in their non-league schedule than the Cougars, who feature Idaho, Nevada, and 1 AA Grambling. They jump up the next year by replacing Grambling and its great marching band with none other than the Bad News Baylor Bears. There's one to circle on the calendar.

UCLA opens with San Diego State followed by the always tough Rice Owls, while Washington gets to pick on neighboring Idaho. Wow!

Talk about padding the schedules.

USC opens at Hawaii (sort of like a pre-season bowl trip for having won the national title) and then plays Arkansas and Notre Dame. That is probably the strongest non-conference slate, but then again, they are probably the strongest team.

UCLA gets tougher by hosting Oklahoma after the Rice clash. Arizona State starts with a cupcake in Temple then takes a week off before going into LSU and then hosting Northwestern. The extra week to prepare for the Tigers may put the Sun Devils in good shape even though that is a tough place to play.

Many of the Pac-10 teams scheduled Boise State and Fresno State years ago with the idea that they could get wins but that isn't the case anymore as those two schools are clearly very good football programs.

Consequently, the conference schools have decided that they can't take a chance of missing a bowl game simply because they over schedule themselves.

That's why Notre Dame has been scheduling (and usually beating) two or three Pac-10 teams.

Two Years ago the Huskies beat the Beavers and tied them for fourth in the conference standings. The Dawgs then stayed home at Christmas due to non-conference losses to Ohio State and Nevada. Meanwhile Oregon State was beating up on the likes of Eastern Washington and got to go to Las Vegas or some other exotic Pac-10 bowl destination like El Paso or was it San Jose?

Whatever, the Ducks and Beavers have figured it out. Win your three non-league games and then you only have to go 3-5 in league to go bowling. In terms of over all team development those 15 extra days of practicing for a bowl game are critical. Considering that the Pac-10 administration has aligned the conference with 6 to 7 bowls, including the toilet bowl, it makes sense to do anything you can to insure your team gets those extra practices, much less the rings and watches and bags and free dinners and other gifts that go with the experience.

Scheduling a weak non-conference slate means dollars and sense.

This will continue, but now at least they will now get to play every team in their own league. It should have been like that from the start, just like it's done in basketball, baseball, and every other sport. What they will now find is that there will be fewer ties in the standings and the common opponent theory will apply.

Comparing non-conference opponents is ridiculous because the discrepancies are so obvious. There is no way a game against Notre Dame can be compared with a game against Northern Arizona, Portland State, or Idaho.

It's sort of an oddity when you look ahead and see that someone was dumb enough to schedule the Huskies to play both Oklahoma and Ohio State in the same preseason like they will do in 2007. That's the same someone who surrendered a 30 scholarship penalty in sanctions, and then scheduled the Huskies to play Nebraska in back to back years. Now there's some serious foresight.

About my only fret with the new schedule is that television could continue to extend the Pac-10 season by two weeks, potentially pushing the traditional rivalry games all the way into December. UCLA and USC play December 3rd this year, a full two weeks after the Huskies have played the Cougars. This means that Pac-10 teams will continue to have to wait until then to see who goes to what bowls, which really impacts attendance at those bowls.

If all the teams finished their seasons in the same week, then fans could make plans and flights to support their teams much earlier and easier. And cheaper.

The decade old argument of not adding games because of academic strain has now been all but forgotten. It just makes cent$ to play more football games because you can make more money.

Playing league teams helps even more. More will be on the line, thus there will be bigger gate receipts. Top Stories