Coach's Corner

Six Pac-10 teams played in bowls this year. Three won and three lost. The three that won finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in conference, so the big dogs had a good showing while the depth of the conference proved to be lacking after those three.

Overall, winning 50% is about what one would expect considering the level of bowls they were in. Only one team got to play in January and that was USC, who clearly played the best in demolishing Michigan 32-18.

The lack of respect for the league, not to mention the contracts negotiated by the conference administration, are why the Pac-10's runner-up and 3rd place teams are not getting to play on New Year's Day.

I'm sorry, but the Cal Bears should have been playing in a BCS bowl. They were a good team and proved far superior to a Texas A&M team that was the 4th or 5th best team in their conference.

What kind of respect is that to even sign up to match your next best team against somebody else's 5th best? California could have beaten Texas, Nebraska, or Oklahoma (all in the same conference with A&M) but were not even considered because they were locked into a conference deal with the Holiday Bowl. The Big 12 looks down their noses at the Holiday Bowl and it is obvious by their attitudes. Look at what the Cougars did to Texas a couple of years ago.

Oregon State and Boise State played in two of the best games of all the bowls. The Beavers came from behind to rob a good Missouri team in the Sun Bowl and the Broncos became America's darling underdog with their thrilling victory over Oklahoma. I thought those two teams finally earned some overdue respect with hard fought victories.

When Washington lost to the Beavers in Husky Stadium, everyone felt like it was a low point of the Huskies season. I realized the Beavs had won it in the trenches and simply fought harder than the Huskies did. I was not surprised by their comeback against Gary Pinkel's team because they were fighters. It was obvious they really wanted to be in El Paso and were more than ready for the fight.

That was also what was so obvious in the 3 Pac-10 losses. Both ASU and Oregon looked out of synch. The Sun Devils were playing with a lame duck coach who had already been fired and the Ducks played so uninspired that they stumbled back into being just plain lame Ducks. It was by far the worst performance of any of the Pac-10 teams. UCLA at least made a game of it in their loss but the Ducks and Devils had mailed it in a long time before kickoff. Why? Because they were playing in low paying, low prestige, and bowls below their expectation levels.

Bowls are really a lot of fun and work mixed together. I promise you both Hawaii and BYU got in more work and less fun in than did the Pac-10 teams. It showed on game day.

Personally, I had great experiences although losing ones in the Sun Bowl, Aloha Bowl, and the Holiday Bowl. All three committees work extremely hard to make your experience a memorable one. They take great care of the coaches and their families. They go out of their way to entertain you with their local cultural attractions. I feel privileged to have been able to coach in those bowls.

However, from the coaching standpoint, I did find it hard to get our kids to accept being there in the first place. You goal set to play in the Rose Bowl, to play on New Year's Day, to be on the big stage. It's not to say stepping down is not motivating enough to play your best, but I just think it is harder to get them up once you know that's where you're headed. It sure showed with ASU and Oregon.

This sort of scenario develops every year at this time because the Pac-10 is so interested in getting bowl bids for the extra income that match ups are not considered. This conference would rather have guarantees for any of their teams with winning records. Consequently, most of this conference is scheduling lower division teams in their pre-season games just so they can be bowl eligible. It's a vicious cycle but those bowl practices are extremely important for the development of the younger players.

The results were exactly what one would expect. The good teams who should have been in a good bowl won, and those who backed in because of weak scheduling, lost. Top Stories