Expanding the Pac-10 to Oklahoma, Texas and maybe Kansas doesn't make a lot of common sense, but it makes so much fiscal sense that league presidents have agreed to sacrifice the best interests of their fans and student-athletes.
Here's one example: On Wednesday, Arizona's return from the Women's College World Series required busing to an airport in Tulsa, a flight to Houston, then Phoenix and, finally, a two-hour bus ride to Tucson. (It was cheaper that way.)
You're going to see a lot more of those 10-hour journeys if the league goes to 16 teams.
Here's another: Arizona's vast fan base in California, especially SoCal, will see much less of the Wildcats. If the Pac-10's scheduling template is approved, the 16-team league would place Arizona in one of four pods, with ASU, Colorado and Baylor/Kansas/Oklahoma State.
The UA would play those three schools every year in football. Its remaining six conference games would include two from each of the other pods on a rotating basis. The other pods: (1) Oregon, OSU, Wazzu and Washington; (2) USC, UCLA, Stanford, Cal; (3) Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and possibly Texas A&M.
Hoops scheduling would be simple: home and home against your pod, and one game against the other 12 teams, rotating the venue each year. And that means, obviously, that the Arizona-UCLA series would be halved. A typical week might see Arizona flying to Los Angeles to play USC on a Tuesday night, then returning to McKale Center for a Sunday game against Stanford.
There isn't likely to be any poetry or rhythm to it. It's like washing away 30 years of an enjoyable culture. But the windfall of TV dollars will help Arizona avoid a financial doomsday.
The wisest counsel I heard all week came from Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne, who said he didn't like the idea of his athletes playing "two time zones away." It could mean that a TV-priority football game, let's say Texas A&M vs. Washington in Seattle, could start as late as 9:30 p.m. in College Station, Texas.
Logic will take a beating in exchange for growth, exposure and financial survival.
KICKING WITH THE STARS
Ex-UA stars kick it at first-time reunion
One afternoon last week, UA place-kicking legends Max Zendejas, Steve McLaughlin and Gary Coston gathered for lunch at Zendejas' campus-area restaurant. After coaching in a clinic for Mike Stoops, the ex-Wildcats swapped stories. Incredibly, it was the first time any of them had met one another.
Zendejas (1982-85), Coston (1986-90) and McLaughlin (1991-94). Coston is a commercial real estate appraiser in Orange County, Calif., and McLaughlin, a Sahuaro High grad, is in the music business in Atlanta. His first CD, "No More Record Stores" has been used in a Ford Motor commercial.
A third-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams, McLaughlin won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 1994. He retired in 2005, splitting his career between the NFL and the Arena League. He will be in Tucson for another week. On Saturday he will hold a camp for kickers and punters at Sahuaro High School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $50. Information: email@example.com.
Here and there
Barcelo lifts Tucson list at US Open to 6 players
Sahuaro grad Rich Barcelo will be the sixth Tucson-bred golfer to play in the U.S. Open. He shot rounds of 67-65 to win the sectional qualifying tournament in Memphis last week. Of the 22 Tucson-linked pros who entered U.S. Open qualifying, Barcelo and ex-Wildcat Jason Gore were the only two to make it. Once he gets to Pebble Beach this week, Barcelo will join a select list of Tucsonans Bob Gaona, Nate Tyler, Michael Thompson, Jake Rogers and Willie Wood to have played in the event. Barcelo played in the 2007 British Open. … UA track coach Fred Harvey was accurate last week when he said there is "a new culture of confidence" in the Wildcats' women's team. At the NCAA finals last week, Liz Patterson was second and Brigetta Barrett seventh in the high jump, shot-putter Julie Labonte was fourth and 800-meter runner Christina Rodgers was fourth. After finishing No. 2 in the Pac-10, the Wildcats shape up as a serious contender for their first Pac-10 title next year. Added to the group will be Rincon/University standout Tamara Pridgett, who Harvey compares to former NCAA long jump and 200-meter champion Brianna Glenn. "Brianna ran 24.24 in the 200 in high school and Tamara has run 24.81," he said. "Brianna jumped 19-2 and Tamara has gone 18-6. I think she can be our missing link." … Ironwood Ridge senior golfer Alex McMahon is coming off the week of his young career. He finished second in the Ping Phoenix AJGA event, shooting 70-72-69, which he termed his best performance. He then tied for first in the PGA Junior National Qualifying event, 70-68, in Phoenix. He lost a playoff to Tucsonan Ian Patterson, who gets the berth in Indiana this summer.
Ex-Caballero Erdmann a star for Marymount
Flowing Wells grad Tara Erdmann became a first-team All-American on Thursday night when she finished sixth overall in the NCAA 10,000-meter final in Eugene, Ore. A junior at Loyola Marymount, Erdmann is a former West Coast Conference cross-country champion who has one season of eligibility remaining. She will run later this month in the USA Track and Field Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa, and then begin preparations for what she hopes is an All-America cross country season. … Two years after she left her post as UA pitching coach, former Wildcat national softball Player of the Year Nancy Evans is now employed by the Netherlands Olympic baseball and softball federation. … Kenzie Fowler threw 805 pitches in six days at the softball World Series. More to the point, she threw 649 in three days, a memorable period in which she beat Tennessee twice, Hawaii and defending national champ Washington and lost to UCLA in extra innings. Now we know what all the fuss was when she agreed to pitch for the Wildcats. This sets up an intriguing rivalry for the next three years. ASU has signed Phoenix St. Mary's pitcher Dallas Escobedo, who went 33-3 this year. Phoenix College coach Heinz Mueller to the Arizona Republic: "Dallas is head and shoulders above all the other pitchers I've seen in Arizona." Did he see Kenzie?
MORE SHORT STUFF
Unheralded lineman has Stoops notice after camp
Here's how Mike Stoops finds potential Wildcats: At last week's Arizona's Big Man's Challenge, a camp for about 150 high school lineman at the UA football facilities, unheralded Travis Seefeldt of Liberty High School had a breakout performance. "He was unrecognized until we went to the UA, but now he's on the radar," his mother, Sharon Hernandez said. Seefeldt was awarded the Outstanding Lineman award at the camp and was soon chatting alone with Stoops. "He asked about his grades, his ACT scores and who else was recruiting him; they said they will stay in contact," Hernandez said. Recruiting is such a roll of the dice that Seefeldt won't wait for Arizona to act. He is going to camps at ASU, Colorado and San Diego State this month. … ASU basketball coach Herb Sendek last week told Fox Sports.com basketball analyst Jeff Goodman: "I almost shudder to the connotation that we don't push the ball. That's not accurate at all." I admire Sendek's coaching ability, but that's a big stretch. His four Sun Devil teams have averaged 54, 66, 69 and 67 points. That's not pushing the ball. And that's why there are so many empty seats at Wells Fargo Arena. … UA athletic director Greg Byrne, who has his foot on the accelerator, recently arranged for a private jet and flew some of the athletic department's most prominent boosters to Lincoln, Neb., and Stillwater, Okla. They examined the football facilities of the Cornhuskers and the Cowboys in attempt to get a better idea of what they need to build at Arizona Stadium. No sense in waiting. Arizona Stadium is practically creaking, ancient. It's going to cost a whole lot more than $85 million for the North End project to get the stadium up to a level anything close to those of the Texas schools.
MY TWO CENTS
USC's penalties may portend trouble ahead for UA hoops
The NCAA's forceful punishment of USC's football program did more than stagger the Trojans. It sent a message that the NCAA Committee of Infractions is no longer a pushover or rubber-stamp machine.
That might not be good timing for Arizona, which is awaiting the committee's ruling on the UA's wrongful involvement with an AAU basketball tournament and attendant financing.
In its report to USC, the infractions group said "the institution fell far short in its monitoring procedures" and "failed to heed clear warning signs."
That aptly describes Arizona's look-the-other-way mentality during its relationship with the old Cactus Classic. It is an ominous sign that the UA's self-punishment might not satisfy the Committee of Infractions.