The UCLA and USC moves to the Big Ten are a short term investment that leads to a destabilization of Pacific Coast athletics.
Growing up as a Bruins fan, we all watched those games in Corvallis and Seattle, in Pullman and Tempe, seeing our heroes put on the gold helmet to fight to become the “Best Team in the West”.
For us as Bruins, our culture of winning has always been tied to the teams that elevated our success, and those were the Pacific schools around us.
The Pac-10 for some seemed too much of a change due to it including schools in Arizona, not on the Pacific, but with it, we got some great rivalries and football shrines. Tempe was home to the Cardinals and Sun Devils for so long, as well as the Fiesta Bowl, and ASU always filled a team with great athletes. U of A proved tougher on the basketball court overall, but for the Bruins, we feared traveling to Tuscon, especially for Football! For some reason, we just struggled there. And as a whole, the state had some very good baseball and softball!
So, the Arizona schools became the new normal.
As for the Washington and Oregon schools, they were our fierce Northern competitors. Washington was always the team with the most promise because they were in Seattle and on Lake Washington! As far as an on-campus stadium went, there was hardly a better place to play. Washington also proved to be like Tuscon for us Bruins, but for basketball!
Washington State in the meantime, was just such an odd place for us in the Pacific and really anywhere with the Polouse. It is hard to explain how strange it is, but you basically just see so many rolling hills in what appears to be the middle of nowhere until suddenly, you get to the border city of Pullman, with the Idaho Vandalls across the street. Washington State proved to be the true agricultural school of the PAC and displayed a completely different Washington to the Huskies.
Oregon and Oregon State were amazing places to travel too. Playing in Oregon in the Fall and seeing the Autumn trees turn all different colors with the flowing rivers and sometimes, snow too, was such a welcome site to the often overpopulated Pac-12 cities and the very dry Pac-12 cities. And Corvallis was even more unique because unlike Eugene, it truly was a small-town, not just a college-town. With the investment of Nike into the state home to the Willamette River and Crater Lake, these schools soon became home to the best and most technologically advanced athletic company the world has ever seen. And this would have never been possible without the Pac-12.
Lastly, there were the Northern California schools, our immortal enemies besides ourselves in LA. Us 4 dominated so much of the Pac-12 and so much of the NCAA. Between Stanford, UCLA, USC, and UC Berkeley, we could have one of the highest Olympic gold medal tallies, have probably more NCAA D-1 titles than the rest of the country combined (most likely an exaggeration), have a super high GDP, and be one of the most powerful and innovative countries. Why? Because we were California, the home base of the West! These schools challenged us academically and athletically in a way no other school could, not even the football juggernaut Alabama or the academic juggernaut Harvard could.
And that left us with Los Angeles! Los Angeles was not only the home of the West and the Pacific, but also the home of the world! It presented the world with the best athletes and entertainers with two Olympics held at the Coliseum and two World Cups held at the Rose Bowl (men’s and women’s), plus Hollywood and Disney to bring us the movies that instilled in us the greatest tool in sports, never giving up. UCLA Football really took this to heart so many times with their Washington State and Texas A&M comebacks proving to be some of the most exciting examples of perseverance college football has ever seen, as well as UCLA basketball’s historical 2006 comeback against Gonzaga. LA featured the best athletes in football, basketball, baseball, track and field, volleyball, water polo, and so much more like gymnastics, and most likely featured these top stars because from day one, we were taught to dream and to shoot for those dreams! Our music industry created the energy and our movie industry created the belief.
This was the super conference for so long, and the super region! Our conference went past just sports, it was a conference of partnerships, of innovation, of commradery.
It was the conference that created the first bowl game, the Rose Bowl.
It was the conference that won the first NCAA Basketball Championship with Oregon, and then went on to feature the best team of all-time in UCLA!
It was the conference that featured Hollywood, Disney, SpaceX, McDonalds, Apple, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Tesla, Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks, Nike and so much more! It featured the home for the twenty-first century.
And, it was improving too in many ways. Tempe was becoming a hub for all sorts of businesses and tech with ASU’s Business School rivaling that of the best! We saw the additions of Utah and Colorado, and while this may have not been the best for the longevity of the conference, we ended up getting two great schools that fitted in much better than expected, and added another Olympic stadium with the Utes as well as another city that provided the home to a world community in Salt Lake City!
This conference was historic!
Remember going to the Staples Center to see UCLA play the Lopez Brothers at Stanford in the Pacific Life Pac-10 Conference Tournament Final?
Remember seeing the Rodgers brothers dominate with the Beavers and become a household brand while Pete Carroll’s USC dominated the rest of the country?
These are the memories of the West, of the Pacific, where we belong!
Do not congratulate the athletic directors or the deans or presidents or anyone at UCLA and USC for what they did because that took no intelligence! They were never brought in to put Los Angeles in the Midwest.
Rather, true leadership would have not abandoned the schools that made their own schools into the national powerhouses the Big Ten would want anyway.
We do not belong in Ohio or Pennsylvania or New Jersey in the Fall. We belong in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado! We belong in the West!
How can we be the “Best Team in the West” if we do not play there anymore?
True leadership would have found a way to make the Pac-12 work, and loyalty and tradition would have stayed with it to see it regain national prominence. In a conference that brought you the internet, it could figure out a way to bring the Pacific together once again into the Conference of Champions it had always been.
I know the last few years had been tough. But, I also thought our Pac-12 family meant more than just a paycheck. I did not realize the people that ran the Los Angeles schools did not think of the West as their home. I did not realize that in an ever globalized world, that we would think it was best to leave a network that connected the world’s most important ocean to the world’s most important countries, companies, and innovative human capital.
We were a conference that had a connection to each other. That connection, that familial bond of over 100 years, something 100 million dollars could never buy is now gone, and for what?
Now when our schools compete in the National Tournaments and playoffs, we will no longer be representing the West, the Pacific! We have abandoned one of the most important parts of our cultural connection we shared with many of our surrounding states. These are our neighbors and family. These are the people we lean on when we need help the most. And it was not necessary to leave them. We could have spurred the Pac-12 back into national prominence. Or have we lost our sense of leadership and become followers and bystanders to the demise of our own region?
The downfall of the Conference we love is upon us and our leaders are the ones that initiated it!