PULLMAN – The less said about the razzle-fizzle backward pass/fumble the better.
Now, it could be argued that it’s better for the Washington State Cougars to go down swinging instead of just, well, going down. Aggressiveness and gadget plays are good, but one minute we’re being told this team is still on training wheels and the next they’re being handed the keys to a Vincent Black Shadow.
Besides, since Arizona’s defensive ends had been in the Cougar backfield all evening, didn’t it seem likely one would be there again when James Montgomery turned to sling the ball back so Jeff Tuel could launch it downfield?
That little fourth-quarter fire drill pretty much ended Wazzu’s chances of filing its encounter with the Wildcats under something other than Good Tries, Grim. A 24-7 loss to the nation’s No. 17 team makes it three of those in a row now.
The expectation is still that the Cougars will lose, but no longer must the customers expect the worst.
The day’s only revelation was the Cougar offense backsliding and the battered defense showing a little sand, and if Wazzu can continue to send the opponent’s starting quarterback to the sidelines every game, maybe there is hope on that side of the ball, too. Somebody must think so. After the smallest homecoming crowd in 30 years turned out last week, this Dad’s Day assembly was only the smallest in 19 years.
Now that’s progress.
And speaking of lack of revelations, Pacific-10/12 Conference commissioner Larry Scott made a drive-by – he would turn up across the state at Oregon State-Washington later Saturday night – to speak eloquently about the revenue sharing/division splitting issues without saying anything at all. Not even that Pat Haden is a blabbermouth.
USC’s new athletic director grumped last week that his brethren had voted 7-5 to recommend that the California schools be split up – Stanford and Cal to join the Northwest schools, with the Trojans and UCLA in the south alongside both Arizonas and the newbies, Utah and Colorado. This isn’t final, supposedly; the league’s presidents meet Thursday to vote on it and how to split up the harvest when the league renegotiates its TV rights next year.
But Haden said it with an air of finality, so if it changes it will be an upset along the lines of the Cougars beating Stanford next week.
The alignment issue was important – Utah and Colorado and the Northwest schools may as well have been called the Afterthought Division – but not nearly as much as equal revenue sharing. That seems to be in the wind, too – though Scott hinted around that the L.A. schools may not have to give up their advantages of having the biggest TV market all at once.
“As a practical matter, it’s appropriate that there are compromises and transitions and migrations that respect the history,” he said, “but still allow us to move forward.”
For whatever he did or didn’t achieve in his summer raid on the Big 12, Scott’s greater triumph might be in forging those compromises. And the refreshing thing, in this fractious election year, is that the rich guys didn’t hear the words “equal revenue sharing” and scream the S word.
At least, we have Scott’s word that they didn’t.
Part of the Pac-10’s new realism comes from the fact that some of the policy shapers have arrived from places where share hasn’t been a dirty word. Scott pointed out that three ADs – UW’s Scott Woodward, Arizona’s Greg Byrne and Oregon’s Rob Mullens – were recently at SEC schools. Stanford’s Bob Bowlsby came from the Big Ten. In both conferences, TV revenues are shared equally.
“We’re looking to be in the same league as the biggest conferences out there,” Scott said, “so there are strong arguments for following the same model.”
Remarkably, Scott suggested that the L.A. schools haven’t been that tough of a sell on the concept.
“From my earliest conversations with USC and UCLA, there was a sense they would be the biggest beneficiaries of having the strongest conference,” he said. “There has been a lot of frustration that they haven’t been generating the kind of revenue or getting the national exposure they should get. They’re a definite proponent of a stronger conference.”
Now, of course, that conversation could have started with a question to Scott along the lines of, “What are you going to do about Washington State?” But his answer may have been just as blunt.
“You need to have comparable resources and comparable access to different markets,” he said, “for a strong, healthy, balanced conference in the long term.”
Or he may have phrased it differently.
“Everybody,” he insisted, “is about to get a lot healthier than they’ve ever been.”
Comforting words for the Cougars on an afternoon when solace was once again elusive.