Pac-10 expansion has happened. Two more teams have joined our conference, most likely for the better. The Pac-10 is moving forward, getting out of the stagnant Tom Hansen years and moving forward under the leadership of Larry Scott, who has made his impact known from the instant he took the Pac-10 commissioners job.
Most Pac-10 fans have hailed this as progress, a step forward for our conference as we move towards a better footing nationally.
Let's make no mistake, this move was necessary. The Pac-10 has been disrespected nationally for quite a while, and the main reason for this has been a matter of exposure. We have been viewed as USC and the nine dwarves, even though our conference competes more than any other in the land on a game by game basis, and the only conference with the chutzpah to have 9 conference games and still schedule a competitive non-conference slate. As Pac-10 fans, we get to see the best football in the land week after week. We may get punished for this in national polls, but as a fan I can handle that, because our season is so much more entertaining.
But expansion brings change, and the most likely scenario will create two divisions that separate the northern and southern California teams. And fans of the California schools are not handling this change very well.
Cal fans are upset about not playing the LA schools every year. UCLA fans are not happy that they won't ever again play USC with the Rose Bowl on the line (like that's happened anytime recently). You'll notice that USC fans are not up in arms, probably because they are interested in competing nationally, and not solely focused on in-state battles. And, well, I don't know what Stanford fans are thinking, because I don't think any of them exist.
The main argument is for a preservation of tradition. And while I applaud tradition, the simple fact is that college football is changing and if our conference as a whole wants to keep up, we must adapt. It is a perverse clinging to tradition that has kept the Pac-10 from receiving any sort of national recognition for decades.
The Northwest schools are ready to move forward. We are generally willing to give up guaranteed trips to Los Angeles every year, something that could potentially negatively impact recruiting in one of the richest recruiting areas of the nation. And there are certainly plenty of fans of the California schools that understand that sacrifices that must be made.
But if there's anything we learned from the recent fiasco with the Big XII is that for a conference to truly work, all parties involved must benefit together, and must also sacrifice together.
The California schools are being asked to give up one thing, which will not affect their ability to compete on any significant level. Yet, faced with this choice, some fans cling to selfishness and expect the Northwest schools to give in to their demands. The biggest voice for the Bruin blogosphere is Nestor, founder of SBNation blog Bruins Nation. While I have a lot of respect for Nestor, his recent comments are greatly disturbing and sound very much like those we heard coming from the Texas Athletic Department in recent weeks:
If California schools banded together they could force the NW schools to accept the deal as well. Without California schools – specifically LA schools – there will be no "PAC" conference.
This is the same attitude that Texas has taken with the rest of the Big XII, and is an attitude that will ultimately lead to the downfall of that conference. If we're trying to build the best conference in the land, this attitude will simply not work. Building the Pac-10 to national prominence (at least in football, since all expansion talk is driven by football) will take mutual sacrifice on all parts, so that we all reap the benefits.
Washington State AD Bill Moos has come out in favor of the proposed North-South split, and Steve Sarkesian, Paul Wulff, and Chip Kelly are all willing to live with this arrangement.
The simple fact is that not everyone can be happy. I'm sure that every team would like to play every California team every single year, but that just isn't going to happen. The only fair thing that can be done is to divide these games as equitably as possible, which this North/South division accomplishes.
There are many other possibilities for conference divisions, that are being debated throughout the blogosphere. But for any of these scenarios to work, all schools must sacrifice together. I have confidence that the right decision will be made, so that all are treated fairly as the conference expands. The Northwest has done its part. It's time for the California schools to join the club.