A couple of summers ago, I was in the grocery store and heard a pack of steaks calling my name from the meat department.
I brought them home.
Then, I cooked the steaks — medium rare — on the backyard grill. I beamed as I set the platter on the table. One of my daughters looked up, saw the steaks, furrowed her brow, and said: “I want a corn dog.”
The Pac-12 Conference athletic directors spent weeks poring over a pile of 2023 football schedule models. In the end, the ADs picked from three schedule drafts. Eight of the 12 ADs voted for the final version that was revealed on Wednesday.
The other four wanted a corn dog.
USC’s schedule became a source of particular debate after the release. Due to a scheduling quirk, the Trojans have two bye weeks — Week 3 and 13. That was caused by Big-12-bound BYU backing out of a previously scheduled November meeting. The second bye happens to land in front of the Pac-12 title game. But USC is also the only conference member that has to play nine consecutive games without a week off. (UCLA plays eight straight. So does Washington State.)
Some view USC’s schedule as advantageous. Others present it as proof that the Pac-12 is out to get the Trojans. I think it was the best that could be done amid a pile of moving parts. I suppose if USC reaches the title game in Las Vegas and enjoys an extra week of rest, that bye will be an edge. If the Trojans trip up on the way, however, that nine-game stretch to finish the regular season will be blamed for it.
The whole thing reminds me of what Mark Twain wrote in his novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”
Sometimes a schedule is just a schedule.
There’s definitely some confirmation bias at play here. Those who believe USC always gets favorable treatment, view the 2023 schedule as evidence. Those who think the Trojans aren’t well liked offer the exact same schedule as proof.
I don’t think the 2023 schedule is unkind to USC. Not more than the early-season gauntlet Colorado faces or the November obstacle course that was erected for Washington. The schedule is simply the best that could be done under the circumstances. Also, it required consensus from 12 stakeholders.
You know what Margaret Thatcher said once about “consensus.” She called it “the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no-one believes, but to which no-one objects.”
So here we are. It’s also not the first time something like this has happened. In 2017, for example, the Trojans played 12 games in a row in the regular season. They went 10-2, then enjoyed a bye week before beating Stanford 31-28 in the conference title game. The Cardinal, incidentally, played Notre Dame in the final week of the regular season while USC sat around the pool resting.
I’d argue the Trojans earned that break.
I didn’t see the proposed “B Draft” or “C Draft” of the schedule. But they each got two votes, I’m told by a source. The 2023 Pac-12 Conference football schedule unveiled this week looks like an old-fashioned, consensus-driven attempt to be fair. It also fostered some amazing matchups, particularly in Week 11.
As one AD said: “It’s always complex when trying to create the most equitable solutions for 12 members who all have their own perspectives.”
You know what I think of the schedule. I wrote it in a column on Wednesday. But I also took the temperature in some hot spots in the conference.
From the Utah beat…
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It reminds me of my divorce where one person is told to vacate the family home in a month. Anyone who has ever dealt with that knows that the month before they leave is horrible and then once they go you put your feet up, pour a beer, and while watching a good game you breath a tremendous sigh of relief and feel incredibly happy. That is how I feel about USC...I will hold my nose next year, wish them all the worst, and be incredibly happy when they and their stench are long gone.
It reminds me of a story about Howard Cosell. After one Monday Night game, he got 400 letters. 200 saying he favored the home team too much. 200 called him out for favoring the visiting team too much. He kept both stacks of letters, identical in size, on his fireplace mantle -- a reminder not to read too much into any one letter.