The Pac-12 Conference athletic directors should have stuck it to USC and UCLA. They’ve been cordial with the Trojans and Bruins in meetings and made small talk at games. In a just world, the ADs would have made the 2023 football season feel like Squid Game for the defectors.
They took the high road instead.
The conference officially released the football schedule on Wednesday on the Pac-12 Networks. The Pac-12 did some fun things. The schedule showcases some prime assets. I can’t wait for Week 4, when Deion Sanders wakes up on game day in Eugene. Or to see if Week 11 pans out the way I think it will. Or to catch the standalone Oregon-Oregon State rivalry game on Black Friday. But I walked away thinking the 10 holdover ADs went easy on the Trojans and Bruins.
Petty, I know.
So was plotting in secret to blow up 100 years of tradition. That’s why I bristled when I saw a bye week scheduled for the Trojans right before the Pac-12 title game. Also, when I saw the conference ADs kept with the traditional rotation and allowed UCLA to skip games against Oregon and Washington on its way out the door.
I’m kidding — kind of. But I wondered as the ADs took their time with the schedule if we’d see it laced with venom. I obtained the Pac-12 schedule in front of the announcement and wrote a column about it on Tuesday. I saw no bitterness. No vindictive undertones. The conference didn’t just stay true to its word and treat USC and UCLA like long-standing members, you might argue the Pac-12 went out of its way to be more than fair.
You know what else struck me?
Not the loss of tradition. That set in long ago. But the fact that the Trojans and Bruins won’t be given a wide berth in the Big Ten. They won’t be treated like royalty. They’ll get no breaks. They’ll enjoy no perks. I covered the Big Ten as a beat reporter in the 1990s. USC and UCLA may come from sunny Southern California, but in the Midwest the sun always shines brightest on Ohio State and Michigan.
UCLA is Indiana.
USC is Penn State.
That’s the new reality for the soon-to-be departed. The Buckeyes and Wolverines cast a cold shadow. Be clear — every other Pac-12 university would have strongly considered the move UCLA and USC made. They’d have looked at tens of millions more in media rights dollars and thought about leaving, too.
The Big Ten didn’t take the Trojans for their football tradition or the Bruins for their NCAA Tournament basketball. Kevin Warren’s old conference was simply buying real estate, brokering the deal on behalf of its television partners. Had University of the Incarnate Word been founded in LA and not San Antonio, the Big Ten might have taken it instead.
It chapped some that UCLA athletic department administrators have been seen wearing Big Ten-themed gear recently. Others have lamented that Carol Folt, the USC president, was less than transparent with her peers prior to the decision to leave the Pac-12. I wondered if the ADs might punch back with the football schedule.
Water under the bridge, as they say.
The football schedule is officially out. The ADs could have stuck it to the Bruins and Trojans. They mostly played nice instead. I suspect the conference’s 10 remaining football teams aren’t planning to be as cordial with their farewell.
Here’s the complete 2023 Pac-12 football schedule:
What am I watching?
The Pac-12 Conference championship game is set for Friday, Dec. 1 in Las Vegas. I outlined three “must see” conference games for each football program:
Arizona: vs. Washington (9/30), at USC (10/7), at ASU (11/25)
Arizona State: vs. USC (9/23), at Washington (10/21), vs. Arizona (11/25)
Cal: vs. Oregon State (10/7), at Oregon (11/4), at Stanford (11/18).
Colorado: at Oregon (9/23), vs. USC (9/30), vs. Oregon State (11/4).
Oregon: at Washington (10/14), vs. USC (11/11), vs. Oregon State (11/24).
Oregon State: vs. Utah (9/29), vs. Washington (11/18), at Oregon (11/24).
Stanford: at Colorado (10/13), vs. Washington (10/28), vs. Cal (11/18),
UCLA: at Utah (9/23), at Oregon State (10/14), at USC (11/18).
USC: vs. Utah (10/21), vs. Washington (11/4), at Oregon (11/11).
Utah: at Oregon State (9/30), at USC (10/21), at Washington (11/11).
Washington: vs. Oregon (10/14), at USC (11/4), vs. Washington State (11/25).
Washington State: vs. Oregon State (9/23), at Oregon (10/21), at Washington (11/25).
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Another great article John. OK, again I'm going to be a bit surly in my comment. I'm tired of being in a conference that has weak leadership top to bottom. I'm tired of always taking the high road. Maybe it's a holdover from the hippy era on the coast or AD's that sample the local weed before each meeting. In all seriousness, in my opinion, appearing weak and always opening the door for others...manners is often taken as a sign of weakness by those who are not nice all the time. Like media partners, other conferences, the NCAA. Those that want a competitive edge. Does anybody reading your article believe the SEC, BIG 10, BIG East or BIG 12 would have been nice to USC and UCLA? I don't. And i wouldn't were I making the decisions.
Personally treating USC and UCLA so sweetly makes me sick. It reminds me of a particular political party that always wants to be bipartisan while the other wants to destroy everything in its path or as I like to say bringing a knife to a gunfight. Talk about a cakewalk for USC...contrast that with Cal who gets 4 road games against Oregon, Washington, Utah and UCLA...maybe after another 3-8 season Cal will get smart and give all this up for either a stepped down "student athlete program that is not an oxymoron, or work on getting more Nobel Prizes, something that the other schools could never compete with.