Potential Winners and Losers from Pac-12 deck shuffling
We’re two weeks removed from the twin bombshells that UCLA and USC were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten, and we’re two years from them actually doing so.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t take an early stab at winners and losers, does it?
Here’s a look at some players, coaches and programs who could see their fortunes rise—or fall—in the coming months and years.
Winner: UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond
Has there been a more impactful AD in the country than Jarmond over the past two years? Long an administrative star in the making, Jarmond took over for former athletic director Dan Guerrero in May 2020 and inherited a department in disarray, an underperforming sponsorship deal with Under Armour, and a budget deficit. Weeks into his tenure, UA backed out of its record-breaking $280-million deal with the Bruins, right in the middle of a pandemic that was continuing to wipe out UCLA’s finances. So how did Jarmond respond? By inking a massive deal with Nike and now leading the program into the open arms—and checkbooks—of the Big Ten. This deal will mean billions for the Bruins, with a B. Talk about making a splash.
Loser: Arizona men’s basketball
One of the more exciting rivalries in college sports is the UCLA/Arizona feud, as both teams have been in constant contention for more than three decades. UCLA won 22 of the first 25 matchups in the rivalry, but the Wildcats have gone 43-40 against the Bruins since 1985, including their past two matchups after dropping six straight. Now what will become of the West’s best basketball brouhaha? This leaves Arizona wanting. It’s not like Arizona State is much of a hoops rival. And every great basketball program has a nemesis. Imagining the Wildcats not being held up to the UCLA standard—and vice versa—is a sad turn.
Winner: Utah athletics
Strange as it may seem, the Utah Utes might just end up winners when all is said and done. Of all the teams ripe for plucking by either a bolstered Big 12 or even ACC or retained by a retooled Pac-12, the Utes should rise in prominence no matter how it shakes out. And deservedly so. Coming off its first Rose Bowl appearance, the Utah football team ranks among the best in the country, with maybe the most underrated coach in the country in Kyle Whittingham. The Utes men’s basketball program is top-10 nationally in both wins and NCAA Tournament appearances. And the gymnastics program is among the nation’s best.
Loser: Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff
By all indications a steady voice during turbulent times, the still-new Pac-12 commissioner certainly couldn’t have expected to be tasked with holding the league together by a thread just a year into the position. Even if the conference does manage to join forces with the Big 12 or ACC—heck, even with all their powers combined—losing the nation’s second-biggest media market is a direct hit. Kliavkoff seemed well-prepared for the role. But no one could’ve prepared him for this. And yet …
Winner: … George Kliavkoff
It’s certainly too early to write the book on the future of the Pac-12. But who among us gets the chance to truly act as an earth-mover? This is Kliavkoff’s time to shine, serving as the ringmaster of a circus of athletic departments, school presidents and stakeholders. Consider me crazy, but it’s going to be exhilarating being on the precipice of history. Here’s his shot.
Loser: The Mountain West Conference
In this game of musical chairs, there are only so many decent seats to go around. And with an attractive top tier of schools in San Diego State, Boise State, Fresno State and UNLV, commissioner Craig Thompson has to be nervous. Any or all four schools would jump at the chance to join one of the coming super-conferences. Who will that leave for the MWC to chase? Sacramento State? New Mexico State?
Winner: USC freshmen Raleek Brown, Domani Jackson and CJ Williams
The trio from nearby Mater Dei High School will now get to play a better brand of football in their advanced college years, and if all three live up to billing, that bodes well for their Sunday prospects, as well. Brown could be used all over the field by Lincoln Riley, and Williams will have a pretty good quarterback looking his way in Caleb Williams.
Loser: Oregon State football
The Beavers, once among the most consistent postseason teams in the country, had fallen into an almost decade-long funk before securing a 7-5 regular-season record last year, their best since 2012. Just when things are starting to look up for Jonathan Smith and Co.—and just when Oregon State decided to put $153 million toward a Reser Stadium renovation—the Los Angeles schools leave the rest of the Pac-12 in a lurch. Along with Washington State, the Beavers are one of only a handful of teams that could get lost from the super-conference shuffle.