Canzano: Oregon and Washington must play every football season... Pac-12 mulls scheduling.
Pac-12 exploring pod scheduling system?
I’m hearing a lot of whispers from the Pac-12 Conference footprint about the potential for the football programs to go to a “pod” system for scheduling. This week, the conference announced it was altering the North-South championship game format it has used for the last 11 seasons.
No longer will the North Division winner automatically play the South Division winner for the title. Instead, the teams with the two best win percentages in Pac-12 play will meet in the title game in Las Vegas.
The 2022 college football schedule is set, but the change of format has raised some questions about what might happen in 2023 and beyond with scheduling.
NORTHWEST: Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State.
CALIFORNIA: USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford.
MOUNTAIN/DESERT: Arizona, ASU, Colorado, Utah.
The programs would play each of the three other pod members every season. This maintains the strong regional rivalries (i.e. Oregon would play Washington, WSU and OSU every year). Teams would also play three of the four programs from each of the other pods each season.
Nine conference games, solid balance, and the pods leave opportunity for the schools in the Northwest to meet the California and Mountain/Desert programs on a regular basis. The initial thinking was that the Pac-12 would wait to make further moves, but insiders say it could happen sooner.
By the way, anyone else impressed with how pro-active the Pac-12 was in changing the title-game format this week? The conference sponsored the legislation that pushed the NCAA to ease the restrictions on title-game format. Once that happened, the Pac-12 waited exactly six minutes before making the public announcement that it was dropping the North-South format.
Six whole minutes?!?
This — from a conference that was noticeably reactive in shutting down the football season (and restarting it) during the early part of the pandemic. In the last few years the Pac-12 mostly just waited to see what the Big Ten Conference was doing and then copied it. In this case, the Pac-12 got pro-active and made a rational, sound, strategic decision on its own.
COACHING SPAT: Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher went after each other this week. The SEC coaches traded a pile of public barbs and reminded us all that the conference’s motto, “IT JUST MEANS MORE,” isn’t talk.
Can anyone imagine any of the current Pac-12 coaches going nuclear like that?
Saban is ticked that Texas A&M’s booster collective is threatening his foothold on top of the SEC. Fisher didn’t like being called out and said of he and Saban, “We’re done.”
I asked one sitting Power Five Conference coach whether he was on “Team Saban” or “Team Jimbo.” His response cracked me up. He said, “They’re on the same team.”
Still, I wondered if this could ever happen in the Pac-12. Stanford’s David Shaw barking at Cal’s Justin Wilcox? Oregon’s Dan Lanning sparring with UCLA’s Chip Kelly? How about OSU’s Jonathan Smith and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham?
None of that works, for now.
The coaches in the Pac-12 are particularly cordial with each other. Maybe the high-stakes world of the SEC infuses venom into the equation. Maybe Saban was just upset that Fisher not only beat him last season, but edged him in the recruiting rankings.
Mario Cristobal (Oregon) and Jimmy Lake (Washington) had some intriguing moments last season. Lake questioned the “academic prowess” of UO in the run-up to their game. Then, after Oregon beat UW in Seattle, Cristobal blistered Lake in his post-game rant in the locker room.
Cristobal told his players, “Those f**king guys right there, they represent everything that’s wrong with football. So when you kick their ass, you let them know it.”
Lake and Cristobal are both gone now. But while at Oregon, Cristobal was a combined 8-0 vs Washington, USC and Chip Kelly (UCLA). That fostered some feelings.
I’m not advocating for ASU coach Herm Edwards and USC’s Lincoln Riley to end up in a wrestling match at midfield next season. But I am wondering if the Pac-12 will feel more edgy and competitive as it moves toward competing for a national title again. Also, I’m wondering where the most heated clashes might occur.
PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH: Oregon State’s Board of Trustees has narrowed the search for its next OSU president to two candidates. Charles R. Martinez, Jr. and Jayathi Y. Murthy will visit campus in Corvallis next week and do a final round of interviews, per a source.
This process is far more transparent than the last search for Oregon State’s big boss. The board conducted a closed search in the summer of 2020 and botched it badly when it hired F. King Alexander, who was fleeing LSU after seven years on the job.
Alexander was accused of fostering a toxic and unsafe campus culture at LSU. Campus administrators in Baton Rouge, including Alexander, didn’t appear to take allegations and complaints about sex assault and violence against women seriously. At least nine football players were reported to police for sexual misconduct and dating violence.
Some basic poking around — Google anyone? — would have raised serious questions, but the trustees at OSU whiffed. Alexander resigned under intense pressure in March of 2021, less than a year on the job. He was paid $600,000 in severance.
Martinez, Jr. is currently working as the Dean of the College of Education at the University of Texas. He is a first-generation college graduate who previously spent time working at the University of Oregon as a vice president and once served on the Eugene School Board.
Murthy is the Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at UCLA. She earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree from Washington State. She has been published widely and also previously worked at the University of Texas and Purdue.
I am not surprised the trustees are being more transparent about this presidential search. The board came under intense scrutiny as the Alexander hire unraveled in early 2021.
As part of the current search, the board engaged an independent contractor to conduct comprehensive background checks of candidates. Background investigations of candidates also are being conducted by OSU’s Office of Human Resources and the search firm, Isaacson, Miller.
Per Sean Nealon at OSU, “This due diligence was a recommendation from a retrospective review of the university’s last presidential search process.”
We’re told we go to college to learn.
OSU appears to have learned from its mistake.
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