Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 55° Clear

A Grip on Sports: A conference change caused by football could easily impact Gonzaga basketball in the near future

BYU Cougars center Sara Hamson (22) blocks Gonzaga Bulldogs forward LeeAnne Wirth's (4) shot during the first half of a WCC women's final basketball game on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)
BYU Cougars center Sara Hamson (22) blocks Gonzaga Bulldogs forward LeeAnne Wirth's (4) shot during the first half of a WCC women's final basketball game on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Being the 2021 college football season begins today, we will limit our discussions here to college football-related subjects. No golf. No baseball – darn Royals – and certainly no pro football. It’s college, baby. All the way.


• Sure, there are just a handful of college football games today. But a lot of college football news. And who would have thought one of the most interesting tidbits would impact Gonzaga, a school that hasn’t played football since World War II?

It seems the Big 12 Conference has decided its best candidate for expansion just may be BYU, currently the holder of the second-best-basketball-school-in-the-WCC title. That’s not good news for the Zags – if the weakest of the Power 5 conferences actually, a) survives and, b) expands. And if that expansion includes more than just the Cougars’ popular (and currently independent) football team.

We mention BYU’s popularity, because yesterday’s report in The Athletic is built upon it. At least how popularity translates into TV ratings – it does – and how those ratings are attractive to the Big 12. After all, with Oklahoma and Texas departing, the conference’s top two TV draws are heading south.

We understand why BYU would entertain the Big 12’s inquiries. Football independence is hard and destroys any chance the Cougars have of playing for a national title – something they actually won in the past 40 years. But there are a couple of roadblocks. One is the far-flung nature of the Big 12. This is just minor – unless the conference takes all of BYU sports. Flying a football team to Morgantown once every couple years is nothing. But sending the non-revenue producing sports all over the country? That’s a big deal.

And the whole no-playing-on-Sunday thing? That’s not a huge deal for the WCC, which is made up of almost all Catholic schools that understand. But it is a stumbling block – not a big one but still, it’s there – for a secular conference.

One thing is for sure. The Butterfly Effect initiated by Texas and Oklahoma will certainly spread throughout the college landscape.

• Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff made his first visit to Pullman yesterday. Not just as commissioner but the first visit on his life. He said and did all the right things. He admired the small-town feel. He praised the Cougars’ successes. And he met with everyone, including athletes.

In other words, he was the anti-Larry Scott.

Though he did share one thing with his predecessor. He touted what the future could hold.

One of Scott’s failing is he was always about tomorrow. With DirecTV. With football success. With revenues. Like that song from “Annie,” it would always be better tomorrow. And then tomorrow never came.

Kliavkoff painted a Bob Ross-like picture of national powerhouses possibly coming to Pullman soon to play football games. Of an eight-game conference schedule that allows such pie-in-the-sky hopes to become reality. All well and good, PR-wise, but there is, as the British say, many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.

The eight-game schedule won’t happen for a while unless the Pac-12’s TV partners, Fox and, most importantly, ESPN, agree to change the current rights deals. And the WorldWide leader may not be too quick to negotiate considering Kliavkoff’s stated desire to slow down the implementation of the expanded football playoffs – and the stated reason.

Do that, and ESPN can’t lock it up before other networks get to bid. The network surely can’t be happy about a strategy that could add competition, and possibly millions, to future costs. Why would it not propose a trade? Let us secure the rights to the expanded playoffs and we’ll let you (and the Big Ten) drop to an eight-game schedule. Of course, Fox, wanting a chance at the big brass ring, would take the opposite tack. Getting both to sign off might be impossible.

It’s really nice the commissioner stopped by. Held court. Met everyone. But if Scott taught Pac-12 fans anything over the past decade, he taught them to be wary of visitors bearing grandiose high-def images of a rosy future.

They learned their lesson. After all, instead of such a paradise, they usually had to settle for one more grainy video of a past glory day.


WSU: Of course, our Colton Clark has a story about Kliavkoff’s Pullman visit. And he spoke with Larry Weir concerning it and other items for the latest Press Box podcast. … The volleyball team won the first two sets in South Carolina, than lost three straight and fell in its season-opening match. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college sports, can this Alliance stand the test of time? Larry Stone wonders. … Jon Wilner looks at the Heisman race and how it is dominated this season by West Coast athletes. All playing for non-Pac-12 schools. … That doesn’t mean the conference is lacking in talent. … The first game for a conference school? That would be today at the Rose Bowl. UCLA hosts Hawaii. … Washington has a new defensive coordinator but the same scheme and a lot of talent. … Oregon has picked the starting quarterback everyone thought it would pick. And it is still trying to determine other roles. … Oregon State has a lot of questions heading into the last week before its opening game. … Colorado is preparing for its opener against Northern Colorado. … Utah compares favorably to the 2019 team that won the South. It might even have better quarterback depth. … Arizona State’s group of linebackers has a lot of experience. … The Arizona schedule is filled with challenges. Do the Wildcats have the talent to deal with them? … In basketball news, Tad Boyle has some thoughts on Colorado’s trip to Costa Rica. I’ve heard the food is great.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, UC Davis has a lot of returning talent. … Former Oregon State coach Gary Andersen is helping at Weber State. … The Montana State practices try to balance safety and physicality. … In basketball news, the Bobcats have put together a tough nonconference schedule.

Preps: Idaho high school football began last night. We watched some on SWX and through the NHSF’s live feed. Dave Nichols watched more and has this roundup.

Indians: Spokane swept a doubleheader at first-place Everett last night. The red-hot Indians are two games out of first and 1.5 behind Eugene and the second playoff spot.

Shock: Speaking of playoffs, Spokane begins the IFL postseason tonight at Frisco (Texas). A bunch of key Shock players should return, giving the sixth-seeded team a shot against the third-seeded Fighters. Justin Reed has a preview.

Paralympics: Tekoa’s Susannah Scaroni is an Paralympic gold medal winner. The racer secured the 5000-meter title in Toyko, leading the U.S. to a 1-2 finish.

Mariners: If the M’s come up a game or so short of making the playoffs for the first time since 2021, we must remember the past two nights. They blew a lead Friday and succumbed to the visiting Royals 8-7 in 12 innings. With a chance to leapfrog Oakland and take hold of the second wild-card berth this weekend, the M’s have choked. … Scott Servais will have trouble forgetting these two losses.

Seahawks: Holdouts (or hold-ins) and position battles. That seems to be the top news heading into tonight’s final preseason game. The Hawks host Los Angeles. No, not the Rams. The Chargers. … Geno Smith needs to show something when he relieves Russell Wilson tonight.

Storm: Since returning from the Olympics break, Seattle hasn’t played well. The Storm lost their fourth game since the return and this one, 73-69 to the Chicago Sky, came at home. Former Gonzaga star Courtney Vandersloot had seven points and eight assists for Chicago.

Sounders: Seattle lost two assistant coaches recently. They have hired at least one replacement. It’s Freddy Juarez, who resigned as Real Salt Lake’s head coach to take the assistant position. That does not happen much.


• The next 45 days will be about as nice of days as Spokane has to offer. The worst of the summer heat is over. The wildfire smoke should be limited by the weather. And winter is still a ways away. Yet, I can’t enjoy it. Mainly because I know the worst season is just around the corner. I know. Live in the moment. But, snow. Cold. Ice. Wind. Winter is coming. And I hate it. More than I hated the last season of “Game of Thrones.” Until later …

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the sports newsletter

Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.