The Pac-12 Can’t Afford To Not Play Football

These are obviously uncertain times and as such, things can change at a moment’s notice. It’s not even Memorial Day yet, but with all the COVID Times fun we’re enduring, we’re already starting to talk about the fall sports landscape even though spring and summer sports are still on indefinite hiatus.

Keeping up with all the latest announcements feels pretty futile when there’s no teeth to anything. California is already talking about their universities teaching exclusively online this fall, but who knows what will happen in the next three months? There’s so much time between now and then that it feels pointless to get all up in arms about anything anyone says today.

Nevertheless, there’s enough chatter about the potential for football NOT coming back this fall, that it’s starting to bug me a little bit. There’s even word that – while the SEC and presumably other major football conferences are Full Steam Ahead on football being played in 2020 – the Pac-12 might sit out this year. And with that, all sorts of consequences that will only damage the conference for years – maybe even decades – to come.

The Pac-12 didn’t need this or any other coronavirus to reveal how much of a disadvantage it’s at when compared to the other major college football conferences (especially the SEC). The Pac-12 has been trending steadily and precipitously downward every year for AT LEAST the last decade, if not the last 20 years, in both football AND basketball (the two biggest money-making sports in all of college athletics). The western United States has been out-played, out-coached, and out-recruited by schools east of the Rocky Mountains for the longest time now, and there was really no end in sight before all this started. But, if the Pac-12 decides to forego football, forget it! It’s all over! You might as well lump us in with the Sun Belt and get it over with!

If every other major college football conference opts to proceed with live games, I don’t see any way where we’ll be able to hold our recruits to their scholarships. Of course, if there’s no sports, would the schools even be able to afford to honor those scholarships? We know they could, because these universities are loaded; but WILL they? That’s uncertain. Regardless, we’re talking about a conference that’s already recruiting at a lower level, now losing what quality players they had left over from SEC and Big 10 schools that didn’t necessarily want them. We’re talking about four years’ worth of eligibility from the best guys we could get, potentially never playing for the Pac-12 schools that landed them. How do you replace that?

Furthermore, how do you replace the lack of experience and improvement that can only come with game play, among the players who stick around? Maybe it’ll be a negligible difference, but not in the eyes of voters who determine poll rankings, and ultimately College Football Playoff rankings. Again, these are voters who ALREADY had diminishing opinions of Pac-12 programs before all of this started.

Then, there’s the loss of television revenue. Presumably schools would have to pay that money back. That’s an already-inferior amount compared to the other major conferences – again, like the SEC – who have better packages, better timeslots with higher national visibility. We’re talking about a conference in the Pac-12 that was already behind the 8-ball, now falling further and further behind in the financial arms race that is major college football.

It all adds up to a disaster scenario that I don’t know if the Pac-12 would ever be able to recover from. Will we ever legitimately compete for a National Championship again? Hell, will we ever even make the playoffs again? Unless they expand the field, and guarantee every major conference gets at least one entrant, I think that’s a valid concern!

You know how a lot of companies who were already struggling in the pre-COVID Times are now filing for bankruptcy or otherwise going out of business because all the problems they faced before have been accelerated by the pandemic? You could make the argument that the Pac-12 is in the same boat as JC Penney, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, and a number of other prominent corporations who are failing at a rapid pace.

So, for the love of God, don’t make it even EASIER for the rest of college football! Do what you have to do! Play in empty stadia! Pay for increased testing and other safety precautions! Whatever it takes, just make sure there’s football on Saturdays this fall!

I say that selfishly – because I love the Huskies more than life itself, and desperately want to have football in my life this fall – and I say that as a fan, generally, of Pac-12 football, who only wants this conference to succeed and return to its past glories in every decade through the early 2000’s.