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Big 12, Pac-12 banter growing salty as realignment uncertainty hovers

BYU, Big 12 find plenty of cultural examinations going on both past and present

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A sign at the NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, July 14, 2022.

A sign at the NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, July 14, 2022.

LM Otero, Associated Press

The financial numbers apparently did not add up for the Big 12 to absorb the entire Pac-12, sans USC and UCLA.

But just because the lifeline couldn’t carry the load of 10 doesn’t mean four or six refugees won’t be offered life vests.

But in the battle for necessity, survival and culture, it isn’t a clear-cut issue.

In this crazy, divided nation we currently endure, there are fracture lines already blooming on social media between what is called the “coastal elites” of the Pac-12 and the labeled “flyover states.”

There are Pac-12 fans hopeful for Big 12 membership, others who are holding to hope the Big Ten, ACC or SEC will swoop in to the rescue. Still others say the Big 12 is a move they’d take whilst holding their noses.  

This banter is both entertaining and sad because it doesn’t reflect the majority of fans on either side. But a peek into this realm gets salty.

Shortly after news surfaced of USC’s and UCLA’s departure from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten, folks have been arguing over branding, value and who’s to blame. In Corvallis, Oregon, and Pullman, Washington, home to Oregon State and Washington State, this crisis has many afraid of what lies ahead.

This was voiced by KJR and Fox 13 Seattle sports anchor and reporter Ian Furness, a former radio host in the Salt Lake City market who appeared on 1280 the Zone. He has ties to the WSU Cougars and hates what has happened to rivalries and what may happen to the Pac-12 in the coming months. 

“I’m so filled with anger and emotion regarding this. I can’t even speak sometimes on it. It (is) ... beyond belief what’s happened to college sports.”

Furness, who has covered the Pac-12 for decades, said many want to blame the previous commissioner, Larry Scott, for the ruination of the league through bad deals, mismanagement and lack of foresight, but he said the blame should go to every league AD and president, including former Utah athletic director Chris Hill, who continually enabled Scott’s ineptitude.

Furness, who is no BYU fan, said the Pac-12 blew it when it did not expand and include the Cougars in Provo.

“This is where they dropped the ball. And you know, it’s really fun to blame Larry Scott for everything, and rightfully so. He was the guy in charge. There isn’t an athletic director, president/chancellor in the last few years, or sitting on duty, that isn’t culpable for what happened because they allowed Larry Scott to be Larry Scott.

“Everybody is to blame. They enabled Larry Scott. They let him get to this point. But one of the reasons they did and one of the things that has happened over the years — and I remember doing this show in Salt Lake many times — the Pac-10 never wanted to take BYU. Why? Well, because they’re not a true research institution. Who ... cares? It’s an athletic conference, right? Get over yourself. Just get over yourself.

“If people wanted BYU in the conference right now, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. BYU is a brand. ... BYU is a big enough brand. They’re a big enough deal. They mean that much nationally. You can survive without the LA schools thanks to BYU. If they were in your conference right now and you allowed them to go to the Big 12, like, come on man. Like really? Like how does that happen?”

Well, as has been bandied about in the media, there are schools in the Pac-12 who resisted allowing BYU into their conference for cultural reasons (religion).

So, in that regard, that take is moot, although intriguing. If the Pac-12 had invited BYU and SDSU along with Utah and Colorado in 2010, would it be in this situation where two defections blew away half the league’s value?

That question cannot be answered, only speculated about.

But it does make for interesting fodder. And consider this: UCLA must travel to Big Ten territory where California law has banned state money being spent for travel and lodging in 22 states, three of which are in the Big Ten — Ohio, Indiana and Iowa.

California’s AB 1887 law cancels out those Big Ten states that the California State Legislature disagrees with politically.

The Bruins athletic department, which is $100 million in debt, will be forced to use donor/ booster or other nonuniversity (state) funds to have all of its sports teams travel to those states at a time when they are hoping for NIL money from off-campus collectives to stay competitive in recruiting. Coaches coaching games in those states will be doing so on a voluntary basis and will not be paid by state funds.

Pass the popcorn.

This could be entertaining.


The Pac-12 logo is shown during game between Arizona State and Kent State, in Tempe, Ariz. on Aug. 29, 2019.

Ralph Freso, Associated Press