Friday, November 28, 2008

The PAC-10 Needs to be 12

The Pac-10 needs to expand to twelve teams.
As an avid Trojan fan (and alumnus) I couldn't be happier with the team, our fabulous coach and our consistent and stellar recruiting. But I've had it with the Pac-10 conference. Thanks to the oh so accurate BCS process, strength of schedule plays a big factor in who ranks where and every season 'SC is saddled with a low rank here due to a weak conference.
I know a lot of people will argue with me that the Pac-10 is actually a very good conference and I will admit that it certainly has a storied history and has had lots of good teams over the years. You can also certainly make the case that the conference isn't close to weak in other sports but in the big money sports of football and basketball it lacks the caliber of play of the other major conferences.
But the bigger issue is actually the number of highly competitive teams and its lack of a conference championship game. 
Think about it. The Big 12, the ACC and SEC have enough teams with relatively consistent competitiveness to provide each team in the conference with the chance of playing 4-5 ranked opponents during their conference schedule. And when that isn't the case, they at least have a conference championship game providing another opportunity against a ranked opponent (most of the time).
The Pac-10 and Big-10 conferences end their seasons early and if only one team in the conference is ranked, that team suffers from weak strength of schedule. This year's big sufferer is Penn State who has already ended its season with very few ranked teams played and nothing ahead to keep them top of mind with the pollsters. It will be six weeks until we see them again and if Oregon State goes on to win the Pac-10, it will be a pretty weak game for Penn State (who already beat OSU, soundly). 
Thankfully, 'SC stretches out its schedule into the second week of December so it has a chance to show its stuff to the rest of the country all the way through the big conferences playoffs, but through tradition, plays a weak UCLA as its last hurrah. Oh yeah, and thanks Notre Dame for keeping up a tradition of excellence. 
The conference could put on a playoff with the existing format pitting OSU and USC in a rematch and giving both teams another ranked opponent but this wouldn't address the main problem - lack of enough competitive teams in the conference. 
To really address its problems, I suggest the Pac-10 expand to 12 teams. And do it by adding teams deserving of a BCS conference. 
Now doing this right means picking two teams that play west of the Rocky Mountains (sorry, Notre Dame), that consistently excel in multiple sports (sorry, Boise State and Gonzaga), have relatively large national followings and can bring a new rivalry to the conference. The best candidates: BYU and Utah. Both have consistently strong athletic programs, are consistently ranked in the top 25, are fierce rivals and at least for BYU have a very strong national following.
Sure, adding teams from Utah will increase the travel budgets for all Pac-10 teams but the caliber of play will increase and the pressure on the weaker schools to step up their game will be welcome.
I'd love to fix the BCS but given that the geniuses that run college football can't seem to get it through their heads that they would make more money with a full playoff system, Let's at least fix things for those of us on the west coast.

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