Channeling my Inner Fire Joe Morgan

Fire Joe Morgan, by the way, is a sports blog dedicated to cruelly ripping apart a wide variety of poorly written sports articles.

I didn’t think I would post again before I leave on my trip (see post below), but I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity, courtesy of The Columbian (his words in bold, mine in not bold). It’s not poorly written, I just feel like defending my anti-Hansen stance:

Commentary: Pac-10’s Hansen often gets bad rap

When Pacific-10 Conference commissioner Tom Hansen announced his retirement earlier this week, there were likely more responses of “It’s about time!” than “That’s too bad.”

Yeah, that seems about right.

And that’s too bad.

Okay, Skip Bayless. I’ll bite. Let’s see if you can back it up.

Hansen has had plenty of critics during his 25-year tenure as the league’s commish. He didn’t land marquee television slots on ESPN, stuck the league with a lackluster bowl game lineup, wasn’t proactive enough in the BCS mosh pit, and took an unpopular stance against a college football playoff.

Exactly. Now blow me away with the counter-argument.

To listen to some, it’s as if the Pac-10 is on a par with the Patriot League.

Now I can start diasagreeing. It’s not that we think of the Pac-10 as the Patirot League, it’s that we feel it is not on par with the other BCS conferences. A reasonable assertion.

That’s just dumb.

“dumb”?!?!. Hey, I’m not insulting your intelligence – don’t insult mine (which happens to be in agreement with a huge number of people).

Because you can make a case that the Pac-10 is as strong as any college conference in the country, despite its time-zone challenges.

Alright – bring down the pro-Hansen Hammer.

Foremost, the Pac-10 wins like no other league in America. With 13 national championships this school year, the Pac-10 is on pace to break its own record of 14, set in 1996-97.

The Pac-10 routinely leads the country in all-sports national championships; is 42 of the past 48 years good enough?

Tom Hansen has nothing to do with this. UCLA softball has everything to do with it. USC football has everything to do with it. Cal rugby, UCLA basketball, even a freaking Washington Husky football team has something to do with it. This is entirely because of the teams and the individual univerisities the make up the Pac-10. It’s also because the Pac-10 dominates select sports like softball and water polo, but that’s a different story.

Teams win championships. Tom Hansen does not.

Under Hansen’s watch, the Pac-10 has produced two mind-boggling results: Oregon State winning back-to-back NCAA baseball championships, and Washington State playing in the Rose Bowl two times during a five-year period.

How is that mind boggling? And how does Hansen have any impact on the fact that Mike Price and Pat Casey built both of those programs into national powers? I apologize if Hansen isn’t the first name that comes up when I think of people to thank for our two Rose Bowls. Furthermore, OSU and WSU are not some second-rate universities that fail to compete with the big boys. We can hold our own – and oddly enough are part of the reason the conference has had all that winning you just mentioned.

That’s harder to do than Larry King staying married for life.

ZING! OK, that was sarcastic, but my jokes probably aren’t that much better.

Now, Hansen isn’t directly responsible for the Pac-10’s on-field successes.

Bingo.

But give him a little credit for creating an environment that paved a path to the gold.

OK – fair argument. What’s the reasoning?

Hansen provided the conference with plenty of money through negotiated television deals, especially from its partnership with Fox. And while Fox may not be ESPN, that television network gives the Pac-10 prime time exposure, as opposed to what ESPN offers, such as absurd late Monday night slots for hoops.

Gonzaga seems to be doing just fine with those absurd late Monday time slots. And yes, FSN is more powerful in the Northwest and West than in other regions, but money from the deals does not necessarily equal national exposure. What good is being on prime time if only 1/8th of the country can see the game?

Hansen has been willing to play the role of punching bag for the Pac-10, because while he is the league’s face, it is the school’s presidents and athletic directors who call the shots. If they want, or don’t want something, it is Hansen’s charge to make it happen, regardless of his belief.

This is true to a certain extent, but it is also an excuse many of us feel Hansen has been hiding behind to justify his questionable decision making. I feel like if there was one conference where the ADs and Presidents would fall to the more conservative side on ideas like the BCS, it would be the SEC – the ultimate “traditional” conference. And yet the SEC is fully behind a plus-one model and could someday be the driving force for a playoff. I don’t think the presidents alone are the cause of the Pac-10’s woes.

To survive this position for 25 years working for 10 schools with wide-ranging agendas says something about Hansen’s flexibility and leadership.

Or, in my opinion, it says something about the stubborness of the Pac-10 and has a fishy “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude to it. And often those wide-ranging agendas were compromised by whatever Hansen wanted to go with.

“He’s had got a bad rap when in fact he’s done a great job,” Washington State athletic director Jim Sterk said.

Et tu, Jimmy? I am a documented Sterk fan, but we don’t agree on everything. I was irate when the school failed to get back-to-back games against ranked teams (Cal and Oregon) televised in the past (even though I attended both in person). Sterk and I have different philosophies on what the Cougs should do (e.g. move game times) to get on TV, and I may touch more on that subject sometime later.

Hansen, 70, is old school, and that has got him into some trouble with outsiders in recent years. He believes in the bowl system, and in particular, the tradition of a Pac-10 vs. Big

Ten Rose Bowl. Hansen is staunchly against a college football playoff; he once threatened to pull out of the BCS if it went to a plus-one model.

That’s a pretty big reason to dislike him, as far as I’m concerned.

Let’s look at some of the criticisms:

The Pac-10’s bowl slate. Outside of the Rose and Holiday bowls, the Pac-10’s bowl schedule is unattractive. But because of its West Coast proximity, there isn’t a lot the Pac-10 can do to improve it.

Most of the Jan. 1 bowls are in the south, and in particular, Florida. They’re not looking for great games, they’re looking to put bodies in seats, restaurants and hotels. Most of the

Pac-10 schools are not going to send tens of thousands of fans to the East coast for a less-than BCS bowl game.

There aren’t a lot of options. The Pac-10 could do a better job of mining Texas, and perhaps strike up conversations with the Cotton and Alamo bowls. Anything outside of that is wishful thinking.

The other criticism is that the Pac-10 isn’t getting good matchups. Like our second-place team against the fourth place Big XII team, or the seventh-place ACC team etc. By the way, if the seventh-place ACC team can travel to San Fran, I think we can send a team or two across the country and see who shows up. By the way, USC fans are everywhere.

The Pac-10 basketball tournament in Los Angeles. Fox owns the tournament, where it will be held in Los Angeles through 2012 because of its sponsors are located in Southern California.

Hansen shouldn’t have allowed this to happen. The goodwill and spirit the Pac-10 would create by rotating the tournament to cities such as Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and

Phoenix outweighs whatever Fox pays the league to keep it stationed at Staples Center.

Woohoo! We agree on something!

No expansion. The Pac-10 is the only BCS conference that hasn’t expanded or rearranged itself during Hansen’s tenure. While there’s been talk of adding a Colorado, a Texas, a Utah, a Fresno State, it hasn’t happened, and is unlikely to happen in the near future.

Hansen’s reason? The Pac-10 already owns nearly 20 percent of the country’s television market share. Unless a new school — and Pac-10 presidents would require that it be a major research institution — can add more than two percent to the bottom line, it’s a loss.

I’d argue Utah and BYU could add a good bit to that 20% share. And that’s a bad argument, because the vast majority of the aforementioned 20% is the L.A. market. Take that out, and that percentage could fall into the single digits. By the way, I don’t think Texas Tech added much to the Big XII’s market.

And frankly, a 10-team league is a good number when it comes to making up a round-robin schedule. Because of it, the Pac-10 is able to crown a legitimate regular season football champion, something none of the other BCS conferences can say.

I am a fan of that. However, an expanded conference means a conference championship game. And a conference championship game means an opportunity to get one Pac-10 team into the BCS that doesn’t necessarily deserve it. The Big XII has been riding that wave for years. How often do you see two Pac-10 schools in the BCS?

Hansen has been far from flawless, as you’d expect from someone on the job for 25 years. The Pac-10’s referee and replay policies have rightly been criticized in recent years. It would be nice had Hansen told Pac-10 presidents to put a cork in it when they trot out the hypocritical athletes-missing-class-time argument during football playoff discussions.

I hate that argument as well, especially when a playoff could be done over Winter Break (by the way, the basketball team had no problem playing right before finals week this last winter).

But largely, Hansen should be remembered for presiding over a league that has flourished when he walks away in June of 2009.

My contention is still that the teams have flourished in spite of the commissioner, not because of him.

“I think being the leader of the conference of champions is not a bad tag line for Tom Hansen,” Sterk said.

Meh. Can’t the next commissioner say the same thing, even before he does anything? Again, huge Sterk fan, but I’d rather Hansen be remembered as “a great leader of the conference”, not just “the leader”. Of course, Sterk isn’t going to call him a doodoo head or anything, especially when Hansen still runs the Pac-10 for one more year.

To recap, here are the big arguments in favor of Hansen:

-Some Pac-10 teams won championships
-Hands tied by conference leadership
-Can’t have Pac-10 bowl games in the East or South, logistically

That doesn’t do much for me. In fact the article brings up about as many logical criticisms as it does positives of Hansen’s leadership. It is still time for change at the top of the Pac-10.

Apologies to Nick Daschel, who wrote this article, because Heaven knows it would piss me off if some internet blogger came along and picked apart one of my columns. But it’s all in good fun, mind you, nothing personal.

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3 Responses to “Channeling my Inner Fire Joe Morgan”

  1. lk615c Says:

    Grady,

    Where’s the love for WSU’s very own national champion Jeshua Anderson?

  2. Grady Says:

    Just got back from my trip (which is also why your comment didn’t appear until now) but there should be a mention in my next post – exciting news for JA and WSU.

  3. Nuss Says:

    I agree with most everything you said. I’m not a proponent of adding two teams to the conference, though — I like the round-robin style schedule in both major sports. The fact that a conference championship gives you a better chance of getting a second team into the BCS says much more about the brokenness of that system than it does about the Pac-10’s makeup.

    Also, there’s a reason why Sterk is where he is — he’s diplomatic to the nth degree, and well liked by just about everyone. He’s equal parts CEO and politician, and he’s certainly not going to say anything different than what he said when there’s nothing to be gained by rocking the boat.

    And don’t apologize to Daschel. If he doesn’t want you to pick apart all his words, he shouldn’t mail it in and write something stupid.


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