From the “college football proposals that sound like they came from message boards but actually came from university administrators” department, here’s an urgent update, via Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News:
West Virginia president Gordon Gee asked former Kansas State athletic director Jon Wefald to consider ways to “strengthen” the Big 12. Here’s what he came up with:
Wefald, who was not working for the Big 12 in an official capacity, concluded his pet project months later with an 11-page document titled, “A Proposal to Create A Strategic Alliance Between The Big 12 And The Pac-12.”
In it, he writes:
“This alliance of 22 universities from the Great Plains to the West Coast would provide the vital content of big-time football games that dovetail nicely with the new developing platforms of information.”
Wefald’s proposal calls for all 30 of the Big 12’s non-conference games and for 30 of the Pac-12’s 36 out-of-league games to be played against each other.
The matchups would be spread evenly across the season (10 per month) with the winners of each conference meeting at the end of the regular season for a championship game, which would rotate between the Rose Bowl and AT&T Stadium.
The 10 Big 12 teams and 12 Pac-12 teams would create, kind of, one big conference. It’s not exactly like the BIG SUPERCONFERENCE ideas that so often come up in realignment chatter, but this would be a close relationship between two leagues.
If you don’t think too hard about it, it’s easy to see the merit behind the Pac-12 and Big 12 creating a scheduling deal.
Getting Pac-12 teams to regularly play in Texas and Big 12 teams to regularly play in California would be great for everyone’s recruiting. It’s a lot easier for a program to sell tickets to games against schools most fans have actually heard of. A long-term agreement would potentially make the future TV rights for both conferences more attractive (especially because the Pac-12 would get more inventory outside of the Pacific time zone).
The proposal fixes two bad ideas — a Pac-12 title game nobody watches, and a Big 12 title game that’s automatically a rematch and arguably hurts the league’s Playoff chances — and replaces them with a joint Pac-12/Big 12 title game that lots of people would watch. Washington State can’t lose to an FCS team if it isn’t allowed to play any FCS teams.
See? All of that makes tons of sense.
If you do think about it for a few minutes, the idea’s impossible to execute.
For one, just about every power conference team needs to play at least seven home football games to balance its books, so playing three power opponents out of conference is financially impossible, as Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby notes in in Wilner’s article.
It’d be really hard for USC and Stanford to keep playing Notre Dame every year, or for Utah to keep playing BYU, or for anybody to keep dates with other big-name intersectional opponents (Texas would probably like to play scheduled games with Ohio State and Alabama, for example. And ESPN would probably like to broadcast them).
Head coaches would flip out, because they’d be forced to play dramatically harder schedules than their peers in the Big Ten, ACC, and (at least out of conference) SEC. The Playoff committee says it cares about strength of schedule but has shown it mainly cares about teams not losing, and all these teams would be at risk of more losses.
For as long as there’s a four-team playoff, that Pac-12/Big 12 title game is easily knocking one league out of contention every single year. And that assumes Pac-12 leader USC hasn’t already lost at Iowa State on a weeknight, which it probably has.
Screw it, though. This would be fun as hell. Look at all the fun matchups this kind of partnership would grant the college football world.
Look, you don’t work for the Pac-12, right? I don’t work for the Pac-12. I don’t care if it makes money. And in this scheme, all these things would be possible:
- UCLA could play Kansas, with the winner’s basketball team advancing to the Sweet 16 automatically.
- They could make Stanford fans go to either Ames or Morgantown every single year.
- Colorado would to play some of its historical rivals again.
- Utah could start a new Holy War with Baylor.
- Wazzu-WVU would have 95 points, and their fans would consume all the alcohol within a three-state radius of either Pullman or Morgantown.
- I mean, fine, Texas-USC games are usually pretty good.
Is there a practical way for a conference make a deal like this one? Probably. But who cares about practicality? Let’s just get weird
The Pac-12 and the Big Ten actually agreed to a slimed-down version of this deal several years ago, before growing conference schedules and other logistical problems scuttled it.
If the Pac-12 wanted to pursue a smaller agreement with the Big 12 to get one game a season per team, or maybe even a little more, that’s probably doable, and it would have a positive effect on ticket sales TV rights sales.
Or the Pac-12 could try for another agreement with the Big Ten. The league could also reach out to BYU to formalize a limited number of games a season. The Cougars already play multiple Pac-12 teams a season, and given the high number of Latter-Day Saints in many Pac-12 markets, would have no problems selling tickets. There are lots of other incremental decisions the league could probably make to shore up its product for the future.
The Big 12 could pursue similar deals of its own. Maybe with SEC, where Nick Saban’s been advocating for years for Power 5 teams to only play each other?
But that’s boring, and Pac-12 football is already too boring.
Let’s get experimental and weird.
Will it work? Probably not! Is it smart? Probably not! But sign that paperwork anyway. The world demands more Stanford-West Virginia football.