Loyalty

It is uncertain how the travel time to Minnesota and Iowa will affect the two LA schools moving to the Big 10 conference. (Stock image)

When one writes a column a few days in advance of publication, it’s usually pretty safe to assume there will not be any huge upheavals between the time of submission and the moment it reaches the public. 

Such is not the case with the shifting landscape of college football, because the two Los Angeles schools sold their institutional souls for a few extra bucks and the chance to play Rutgers some Saturday morning in the near future. 

The way things happen these days, by the time this comes out, the University of Arizona could be joining the Big 12 Conference, which for a long time only had 10 teams, while the Big 10 had 12 teams. The Big 12 may soon have 16 teams, and U of A may be one of them — or not. 

Maybe the remaining Pac teams will tough it out, go back to being the Pac-10, or add some teams. Maybe the Pac will be no more, which would be a travesty. 

I was born and raised in Southern California, and my first memories of college football were of the Pac-8. I remember one year, UCLA suffered a weird upset loss but rose up and beat USC in the rivalry game. Both teams ended up 6-1 in conference play, but UCLA had won the head-to-head matchup and should have gone to the Rose Bowl. Somehow, the conference athletic directors got together and voted to let the losing USC team go to the Rose Bowl instead.  

I thought it was terribly unfair, and for quite a long time, I felt bad for UCLA. Though, after the Bruins and the Trojans sold out, I don’t feel bad for either of them. I hope they both lose all the time. I hope they lose to every Big 10 opponent, and when they play each other, I hope it ends in a 0-0 tie and the game has really lousy TV ratings. 

(I know a college football game can’t end in a tie, but then, I also used to know for an absolute fact that USC and UCLA would never leave a conference in which their geographic and situational settings are perfect and one in which their roots go back a century.)

This nonsense has been going on for a while, but it really picked up steam last year when Texas and Oklahoma decided to leave the Big 12 and move to the Southeastern Conference. 

They were perfectly positioned so one — or maybe even both — of them would be in the four-team College Football Championship every year. Now they’re likely to be the sixth- or seventh-best teams in the SEC. Oh, they’ll go to bowl games, but there’s no way that they’ll be sniffing a run at the championship. 

Not only that — neither school really needed the money. Texas has its own TV network. It’s like the Pac-12 Network, only way better and it has viewers. Oklahoma is awash in booster money. It makes no sense for either of them to leave their geographic coziness in the middle of the country to have to go play in Florida and Georgia.

But if that was considered crazy just a year ago, it now seems just mildly impulsive compared to what the LA schools are doing. UCLA is just a few miles away from the Pacific Ocean and will now be in the same conference with a school that’s less than an hour’s drive from the Atlantic Ocean.

Over the year, I’ve read how basketball players at the LA schools loved making the Arizona swing and didn’t mind going to the Bay Area or Oregon. But they were not fond of the cold and altitude of the Utah/Colorado trip and downright hated the lousy weather on both sides of Washington state. But that will be nothing compared to the 10-hours-in-the-air road swing through Iowa and Minnesota in late January. Maybe the extra few bucks will help keep them warm. 

The LA propagandists claim their new conference affiliation will help with exposure with recruits and athletes. Yeah, well, they’re going to have to be worrying about a different kind of exposure when they make that trip to Nebraska in midwinter. 

There are serious concerns as to what effects all the long-distance travel will have on the athletes — both physically and in the classroom. Time will tell. In the meantime, I have to say I sincerely hope both schools fall on their collective athletic faces. It was a craven thing they have done. 

And I really hope when UCLA comes calling and asks if the Wildcats would like to play a nonconference men’s basketball game to keep the rivalry sorta alive, I hope U of A Athletic Director Dave Heeke tells them to drop dead.

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