Canzano: Bill to marry Washington and WSU makes a U-turn
Plus, more on George Kliavkoff's visit to SMU.
The Washington State Legislature is knee-deep in a 105-day legislative session. Lawmakers are currently on day No. 32, discussing matters such as agriculture, technology, business, education and other topics.
They will not talk Pac-12 Conference football, I’ve learned.
SB 5206 aimed to give lawmakers approval authority over conference realignment decisions involving Washington and Washington State. It was sponsored by three state senators who didn’t want WSU to get left behind should Washington decide to leave for the Big Ten Conference or someplace else.
The bill won’t be pushed forward.
Per a source at the state capitol in Washington: “The 12-team playoff and apparent lack of deep Big Ten interest in adding more teams makes it moot.”
Lawmakers have more pressing matters. Like, potential sports-gaming laws. Also, there was some mild concern over what a public spectacle over the bill might do to the relationship between WSU and UW.
Kirk Schultz, the president at Washington State, has a good working relationship with Ana Mari Cauce, the president at Washington. They serve together on the Pac-12 CEO Group’s executive committee.
Lawmakers took a holistic approach, deciding there was no point in riling up everyone over a non-issue. Cauce and Schultz would have been called upon for testimony. It might have pitted them against each other. By dropping the issue, lawmakers are avoiding an unnecessary dust up.
I like that college leadership across the country policed itself on the realignment/expansion front. The conference commissioners were in gridlock over the College Football Playoff. That stall caused some unrest.
The Big Ten snatched USC and UCLA from the Pac-12. The university presidents and chancellors must have hated the instability. Because they took matters into their own hands and quickly approved a proposal that expanded the playoff to 12 teams in 2024.
Oregon and Washington must have realized they were better off staying in the Pac-12 if they wanted to make the football playoff. A line of Big Ten members pushed back against then-commissioner Kevin Warren’s wish to expand further. There was nowhere for the Ducks and Huskies to go, even if they were willing to take a reduced media-rights distribution.
One Big Ten AD told me last July: “Oregon and Washington don’t pencil out.”
We saw the mess the UC Regents inherited on the UCLA front. It was a no-win situation. The hearings felt futile. The Bruins were already packed and turning out the lights. They weren’t going to reverse and tip toe back.
I’m not sure SB 5206 would have become a law. I don’t know if it even had the teeth to do what it aimed to do. It was well intentioned. Nobody likes to think about state schools being split up. Oregon and Oregon State belong together. So do Arizona and Arizona State. Those schools shouldn’t need a law to tell them that, either.
Lawmakers in Washington got it right by reading the room and deciding the matter wasn’t worth pushing forward.
SMU gets a house call from Pac-12
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff made a visit to the SMU campus. On Wednesday night he sat with the school’s athletic director and university president and watched the Mustangs’ 72-71 home basketball victory over Temple.
This from Joe Hoyt’s story in The Dallas Morning News:
The first four rows of the behind-the-basket student section were reserved for SMU football players, who arrived just before tipoff to a packed arena with an energetic crowd rarely seen during SMU’s 9-16 season.
One fan held a sign with a simple, relevant acronym: Ponies Are Coming. A number 12 was added on for good measure.
Jack Joyce, a SMU senior from Nashville, even celebrated Kliavkoff’s visit by adding “Pac” in red tape to his blue No. 12 club baseball jersey.
Kliavkoff wore an “NBA Finals” baseball cap to Moody Coliseum. He did not speak to media. The commissioner was obviously trying to fly under the radar before someone leaked the news of his visit.
Maybe SMU wanted the Big 12 to know it was coveted by another conference. Or maybe a consultant caught wind of it. That how the news business goes. But I’m almost certain the leak did not come from the Pac-12 side.
Kliavkoff has been relatively quiet since August outside of a couple of select media appearances. I’ll bet he didn’t appreciate that his visit was publicized. It caused the waters to swirl.
Kliavkoff met in December with officials from San Diego State, I’m told. It was a 45-minute meeting that came in front of Oregon’s appearance in the Holiday Bowl. No face time at games. No students alerted. Just some talking.
Fresno State and the Pac-12 have also had “intermittent” talks, per a source. And I know Boise State hired a firm to help it explore a potential move to either the Pac-12 or Big 12.
I’ll have more on this front in the coming days.
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