The expansion of the Pac-10 Conference to include Colorado and Utah is not set in stone. It’s meeting some strong opposition, most notably from former UCLA chancellor Chuck Young, who is still on the Knight’s Commission for intercollegiate athletics.
Young was UCLA chancellor for a 30-year period, 1968-97, during which time the school advanced into the top tier of public universities. He has been sending e-mails to the chancellors and presidents of Pac-10 schools, urging them to block the expansion. He has promised not to make the content of the e-mails public (though ESPN has failed to do that) but he agreed to talk to me about his opposition.
Part of it is based on academic grounds. Among major conferences, the Pac-10 is the best academically, largely because of Stanford, Cal and UCLA. “Colorado is on a par with Oregon,” he said. “Utah isn’t even in the picture.”
Young also feels the existing Pac-10 has a geographical sense.
“You have two schools in Washington, two in Oregon, two in northern California, two in southern California, two in Arizona, so you can have a complete round robin in football. I don’t see any way the other schools can be brought in without affecting the rivalries between the southern and northern California schools, for instance.”
That’s especially critical for Cal and UCLA because there’s more than a football game involved. When the Bears and Bruins play, it’s All-U weekend on whichever campus is hosting the game, with numerous events for alumni and students from all the schools in the UC system. UCLA-Colorado or Cal-Utah wouldn’t have the same significance.
Young is by no means an anti-sports academic. In fact, he was often on the sidelines for UCLA football when he was chancellor; he remembers the 1965 season with special fondness, when sophomore quarterback Gary Beban took the Bruins to the Rose Bowl, where they upset Michigan State, 14-12.
But, he’s also a realist. “The goal is to bring in more money, but that won’t go to the nonrevenue sports,” he said. “It will be spent by football and basketball, mostly football. They’ll hire more coaches, pay the coaches more. The new commissioner [Larry Scott] has already paid for a private jet to fly the conference coaches to the East to meet with media. As if that will make a difference. The basic problem of time zones remains. The Eastern media won’t see many of the Pac-10 games, and they won’t care.”
I share Chancellor Young’s sentiments. This has been a bad idea from the get-go.
Scott’s original idea was to entice Texas to bolt from the Big 12 and lead other Texas and Oklahoma schools into a separate wing of what would be the “Pac-16.” But, Texas had no incentive to leave the Big 12. It was only using the Pac-10 as a bargaining tool with the Big 12.
Now, the Pac-10 is left with the worst of two worlds. Adding Utah and Colorado will do nothing to enhance its TV viability. Figuring added travel costs, “It may be a net loss,” Young said.
The chancellors and presidents still have to give final approval. Let’s hope they stop this freight train in its tracks.