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Dick Harmon: Pac-10 will snub BYU, Utah

Published: Wednesday, July 29 2015 5:59 a.m. MDT

Longtime commissioner of the Pac-10, Tom Hansen is leaving his post, and a new face will replace him. This has brought on a debate whether the Pac-10 will once again revisit the issue of expansion.
I've had several people ship me a well-researched speculative piece on Foxsports.com by Greg Welch, making a case that BYU and Utah present excellent candidacies for membership in the Pac-10. The story chronicles and compares Pac-10, BCS and non-BCS football and basketball attendance, athletic budgets, market rankings and rivalries. It spells it out pretty well.
Yes, BYU and Utah would make great members of the Pac-10. In fact, I'd bet my most prized material possession, my golf clubs, that Utah and BYU would be better Pac-10 programs than Washington State and Oregon State.
But if it happens, it won't be any time soon. Changing commissioners won't change a general philosophy in the Pac-10 that they've got the money and the TV exposure, a gob of money and others do not. And they're not sharing.
Simple as that.
Reading this piece by Welch, the quickest reaction I had is of a wayward premise that a new commissioner might matter.
A conference commissioner like Hansen, or even Karl Benson of the WAC or the MWC's Craig Thompson, do not make such decisions.
They carry out policies decided by university presidents.
They have a staff that studies issues and makes recommendations, but they do not decide. It's akin in politics to a city manager doing the bidding of a city council and mayor.
University presidents in the Pac-10 have no desire to expand. Their conference deploys a system where every team plays one another and a true champion is crowned. It has a train-load of money from an ABC-TV contract shared with the Big Ten until 2014.
The Pac-10 has the Rose Bowl, which is exempt from the $6 million fee other BCS bowls must pay to have the BCS label by its name. It keeps Rose Bowl money and BCS coin, and it's a league that isn't going to divide it with new kids on the block.
Imagine a president at USC or chancellor at Washington sitting in his living room during the holidays, turning on the TV to watch the Rose Bowl and seeing BYU or Utah as the Pac-10 representative.
Won't happen until gasoline is back to a buck a gallon or the left coast becomes one big, long beach.
So, an otherwise excellently researched piece with fascinating figures is more fodder for discussion than staple for an actual move that has a voice of flesh and bone. The Pac-10 is set.
When Utah rattled the BCS back in 2004, native Utahn Greg Hansen, a sportswriter in Pac-10 territory, floated the idea of BYU and Utah in the Pac-10. He made a good case, working as an astute observer from the front lines in Pac-10 territory.
But this issue isn't about what makes a good brief or a solid case. It's not about what makes sense or what might be fair or is simply a good idea. It has everything to do with exclusion, money, idealism, politics and a simple better-than-you-don't-need-you attitude among these presidents.
Tom Hansen and his replacement are lap dogs with muzzled barks and appointed fire plugs to frequent — nothing more.
Greg Hansen explained the Pac-10's four-part, no-expansion platform as follows: 1. We don't want to share our TV money. 2. We don't want to split up our bowl-game money. 3. We don't want to compromise our academic standards. 4. We can't realign into divisions because no one is willing to be placed in a group that doesn't include USC and UCLA.
"The academic leaders at USC, Stanford, Cal and UCLA see themselves as a coterie of Ivy League schools, West Coast division, and as long as they live, the Pac-10 will not be taking on lowbrow academic entities, not San Diego State and especially not Fresno State or UNLV," wrote Greg Hansen.
In the above edict, you can sense the Pac-10 administrative mindset.
No matter the positives Utah and BYU might bring to the table, Pac-10 warlords can't get over their own self-interests to expand. Even if doing so would mean getting a program like BYU, which has more seasons (15) ranked in the Top 25 than half the Pac-10, higher average football attendance than six Pac-10 programs, and a basketball average attendance higher than every single Pac-10 school but Arizona.
Doesn't matter.
They're not sharing.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com

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