Greg Hansen: Pac-14 (or 16) not a smokin' idea

2011-09-12T00:01:00Z Greg Hansen: Pac-14 (or 16) not a smokin' ideaGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 12, 2011 12:01 am  • 

Pardon me as I mount my soapbox and raise a voice in opposition to Pac-12 expansion.

Just say No to the O. That's O-klahoma. That's O-klahoma State. That's no to a possible expansion spinoff to Texas and Texas Tech.

Can you picture the Pac-12 (or 14 or 16) basketball tournament being played in Oklahoma City? Yuk.

Can you imagine the Pac-12 (or 14 or 16) football championship game staged in Lubbock? Say it ain't so.

Just say no to a Pac-16 Eastern Division that would surely sentence Arizona and ASU to a grouping with Colorado, Utah, OU, OSU, Texas Tech and Texas. The whole idea about the Pac-12 is that it has the Pacific Ocean as a boundary, a coolness quotient that makes the landlocked conferences spittin' with envy.

My Lord, did you know that Oklahoma State has an equestrian team but no swimming team?

Just say no.

"One of the reasons - and there are a lot of reasons - we got in the Pac-12 is to play regularly on the West Coast," Colorado president Bruce Benson told the Denver Post last week. "When I hear things like East-West divisions, we're going back to the Big 12 again. I sure don't want to get shorted out of the West Coast."

If the Pac-12 becomes the Pac-16 (or 14), it is likely the UCLA-Arizona softball rivalry, the best in the sport, and a treasure in Tucson, will vanish. Every old Pac-10 school would lose a similar attachment.

If the Pac-12 becomes the Pac-16 (or 14) - "repositioned" is the word commissioner Larry Scott uses to scare people - Arizona will be geographically marginalized from Los Angeles, which is where it gets the majority of its basketball, baseball, football, volleyball and softball players.

"I just don't want to change this dynamic," said CU's Benson. "Every year we're in Northern and Southern California. We want that. Every year we're in Arizona. We want that. We're in Washington. We want that."

Nobody says, "We want the Rio Grande." Nobody says, "We're on the Great Plains. We want that."

Expansion would require a change of sensibilities. The culture of football in Oklahoma and Texas is such that Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, he of the "I'm a man, I'm 40," infamy, recently fired a carpenter because the man showed up wearing an "Oklahoma Baseball" T-shirt. Seriously.

According to court documents, Gundy called the carpenter a "stupid idiot" for wearing an OU shirt on "Cowboy soil."

The carpenter, Brent Loveland, was so offended that his attorney claimed Gundy went "beyond the bounds of decency."

Had a carpenter showed up at Oregon coach Chip Kelly's house wearing an Beavers T-shirt, Kelly would've felt not outrage, but sympathy. He would've presented him with several green/yellow/ black/camouflage Nike shirts and given him a $250 bonus for not saying anything about the Willie Lyles scandal.

After years lost in the wilderness, the Pac-12 suddenly has it all.

It has a $3.1 billion TV deal. It has a football championship game. It has a geographical neatness. It has academic institutions that suggest ivy on the walls, not mud on the wheels of a big rig, or oil men with more clout than university presidents.

"I believe that we should have a robust academic atmosphere among all schools in the league," CU's Benson told the Denver Post. "What schools have cinch courses or gut courses? We don't have any and never will. The Pac-12 doesn't. Some Big 12 schools do."

The practicalities of an expanded Pac-14 (or 16) do not work for the greater good. How much class time would a women's tennis team from Washington miss while traveling 2,216 miles for a showdown with the women's tennis team from Texas?

And how about that much-anticipated rowing showdown between the men's rowers from Cal and the men's rowers from Oklahoma State? (Does that imply there is actually a body of water in Oklahoma?)

The Pac-12 office released this statement from commissioner Scott 12 days ago: "I have made clear my vision that the health, stability and future of college athletics will likely include further consolidation and realignment."

But a few days later, speaking at the ASU-Missouri football game, Scott had a different message, saying "all conferences that are 12 should stay 12. That would get our vote."

And ours.

There isn't a bad fit in the new Pac-12. Utah seems to be a natural. Colorado makes available the Denver market, which never seemed to make sense in the Big 12.

Can you picture Oklahoma State going to the Rose Bowl before Arizona?

Can you imagine the Oregon State wrestling team flying 2,024 miles for a dual meet against Oklahoma? How do you justify that expense?

"I'm not happy at all if we go that way," CU's Benson said. "I'm sure I'll make a lot of noise."

Just say no to the O, and say it loudly.

Contact columnist Greg Hansen at ghansen@azstarnet.com or 573-4362.

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