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A Grip on Sports: The war between the star conferences of college football has taken another plot twist

Pac-12 Conference Commissioner George Kliavkoff fields questions during the Pac-12 Conference’s football Media Day Tuesday in Hollywood, Calif.  (Associated Press)
Pac-12 Conference Commissioner George Kliavkoff fields questions during the Pac-12 Conference’s football Media Day Tuesday in Hollywood, Calif. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • When the word “alliance” comes up in conversation, the first thing we think of is Star Wars. As in the Rebel Alliance, that gallant group of misfits that stood up to the evil Galactic Empire. Just substitute SEC for Galactic Empire – the evil part fits – and you have a good summary of what’s going on in college football today. Heck, you can even hear the music if you listen hard enough.

•••••••

• Some time this morning the three commissioners of the Pac-12, Big Ten and ACC will stand before the world and announce their conferences have officially formed an alliance. What that means may be revealed today or it may not – speculation centers round a scheduling agreement and solidarity in discussions concerning media rights and football playoff expansion. It really doesn’t matter though.

The mere fact 40 of the 65 Power 5 schools have come together to stand resolute in the face of the SEC’s recent power grab – the virtual annexation of Texas and Oklahoma – is all that counts.

Solidarity against aggression and oppression is crucial. Even if it means the poor schools remaining in the Big 12 are left behind like forgotten refugees. This is war, college sports style, and the SEC is winning. Has been winning for years. And seemed just a few weeks ago ready to control the entire universe.

Is this the Rebels’ last gasp? Can they fight back?

Like any good entertainment franchise – and don’t kid yourself; that’s what college athletics, especially football, has become, entertainment – the goal is a financial viable trilogy.

In our first episode, everyone joined in the realignment battles. When it was over, the college landscape seemed out of whack. But time smoothed over the rough edges and there was some semblance of stability. And yet, in the past year or so, there has been a disturbance in the force. Sadly, it was only detectable to a few folks with Southern accents.

Then, in July, the sequel was announced. Texas and Oklahoma joining the Storm Troopers’ ranks? Oh, the horror.

New Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, new ACC commissioner Jim Phillips (the former Northwestern athletic director) and relatively new Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren looked around and realized if they didn’t stand up to the SEC’s aggression now, their jobs and their conferences could be gone tomorrow. So they drew a line in the sand and the three are uniting behind it.

Do they have the firepower to fight the SEC, and its Death Star equivalent, ESPN? Or will they be blasted apart like so many Alderaans?

Today’s press conference, scheduled for 11 a.m. PDT, should outline the basic plan (or should we call it a script?) to fight back. Games between the conferences in the major television sports (football, men’s and women’s basketball, maybe baseball if there is an interest). A united front as the college football playoff expands. The Big Ten and Pac-12, who have contracts coming up soon, working together to get the most money from their media rights.

And then we will have to sit and wait. Like any good cliff-hanging series, we will be left with a bunch of questions, mainly revolving round whether the strategy can work.

Will Fox or CBS or NBC jump into bed with the Alliance? Will there be cracks in the solid front? Will traitors, like, say, Clemson, appear and jump ship? What happens to the rest of the Big 12 schools?

Grab a tub of popcorn. A big ol’ drink. Get comfy. Stay tuned.

As for our part, we have a very bad feeling about this.

•••

WSU: You can go all the way back to the 1970s, ancient history really, and find exceptional Washington State receivers. Heck, the 1960s if you count Hugh Campbell. But the past decade or so has been the zenith, what with depth at the position rarely matched over the years. That seemed in jeopardy as this season began, what with graduations, transfers and injuries hitting the program. But as Colton Clark tells us this morning, the Cougar coaches feel much better about the position now than they did when camp opened. And Colton explains why. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college sports, Jon Wilner shares his thoughts about expansion, realignment and such in today’s S-R. … He also has his All-Pac-12 preseason team (in the Mercury News), which includes WSU’s Max Borghi and Abraham Lucas on the first team. There is also his pick for each game. The Cougars? He predicts a 5-7 overall mark but just a 2-7 conference finish, last in the North. … Stewart Mandel has the Cougars worse in his Athletic predictions. … Who has stood out during Washington’s preseason practices? Besides Dylan Morris, of course. … Oregon’s depth chart will always include the Ducks’ best player as long as he’s healthy. But who is the No. 1 quarterback is still to be determined. … Rest seems to be a crucial part of Tristan Gebbia’s bounce back season at Oregon State. … California is relying on quarterback Chase Garbers to lead it back to respectability. … Last season Stanford had to travel all over just to practice, let alone play. This year is different. … Colorado wants its program to be player led. … It looks as if Charlie Brewer, the Baylor transfer, has earned the starting quarterback spot at Utah. … The opener is Saturday and UCLA has some surprises on its depth chart. … It doesn’t look as if the LSU game is a burning hot ticket. … Arizona State is adjusting to the loss of its starting right tackle. … There is a new fight song for Arizona and it is not universally loved. … In basketball news, former Washington player Kelsey Plum had a golden Olympic experience. … Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd talked with the media Monday.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Weber State’s offensive line is ultra-experienced. … The weather turned milder in Bozeman and that’s a good thing. … Cam Humphrey earned the starting nod as Montana’s quarterback.

Shock: Larry Weir spoke with Justin Reed in the run up to Spokane’s first playoff game in the IFL. The conversation is the centerpiece of the latest Press Box podcast.

Mariners: Entering the top of the ninth inning last night, the M’s were on the verge of falling once again to a team above it in the wild-card standings. Then Ty France homered, Jake Bauers delivered a two-run single and Seattle had taken an improbable 5-3 victory in the series opener at Oakland. … Kyle Lewis is getting closer to a rehab assignment. … Fans will have to wear masks indoors at T-Mobile.

Seahawks: With Ben Burr-Kirven and John Ursua out for the season, the Hawks are bringing in other players for tryouts. … As is the case in any game, some players did well and others didn’t against the Broncos.

Storm: Seattle visited the White House yesterday and the Storm were feted by President Joe Biden. He even went off script a bit. … The roster changed a bit yesterday and there is a sibling connection.

Kraken: Will Seattle use two goalies interchangeably this season?

Golf: It isn’t easy to hold a professional golf tournament no matter the level. Jim Meehan delves into the behind-the-scenes work in this story. There’s a lot of it.

•••       

• Not sure about you, but we have a tendency to stop the remote when we land on a Little League World Series game. It’s a bit different in this pandemic year without foreign teams. Until later …

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