Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Rain 35° Rain
Sports >  NCAA basketball

Pac-12 stock report: Neutral ground in the CFP debate, the clock ticks in Westwood, managing the hoops disruption

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 14, 2022

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

Commentary on developments on and off the field, and court …

Rising: Pac-12 messaging on the playoff impasse

A weekend without progress on College Football Playoff expansion ended with a scramble for the high ground, as several commissioners attempted to position themselves as voices of reason amid an escalating, debilitating turf war.

The Pac-12 responded to the posturing by staking out neutral territory — a proactive move that stands in contrast to its public position in years past.

On Monday afternoon, it released a statement expressing support for “all of the six most-discussed expansion models that would allow for expansion to occur in time for the final two years of the current CFP agreement.”

It added:

“The Pac-12 will continue to take a solution-oriented and flexible approach to allow for CFP expansion to occur as soon as possible.”

Now, let’s not kid ourselves. Behind the scenes, commissioner George Kliavkoff is undoubtedly pursuing options that best suit both the Pac-12 and the Rose Bowl, which stands to lose influence if the playoff expands to 12 teams and four rounds.

But while his peers make their preferences known publicly, Kliavkoff seemingly wants to impress upon his constituents — and the college football world at large — that the Power Five conference most in need of expansion hasn’t taken an entrenched position on either of the trickiest issues:

• Whether to expand to eight teams or 12

• How to allocate the six automatic bids (to the highest-ranked conference champions, or to the Power Five champs and the best Group of Five team)

Whether the approach results in the Pac-12 getting exactly what it wants remains to be seen. But in regards to optics, the conference’s proactive move to neutral ground was shrewd.

Falling: Chances of coaching change in Westwood

On Sunday, Chip Kelly’s buyout drops from $9 million to zero. Will he coach the Bruins next season — the final season covered by his current contract? He has not, as of yet, signed an extension.

A few weeks ago, the Hotline wrote the following in an analysis of the situation:

“We believe it’s more likely than not that Kelly will coach the Bruins next season. But by no means is his return guaranteed.”

Our view hasn’t changed, although defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro’s purported resignation — as reported by FootballScoop and others — supports the notion that Kelly will probably return.

Azzinaro’s continued oversight of the defense stood as a potential hurdle.

In our opinion, a commitment by Kelly to change the defensive leadership could lead to UCLA adjusting its negotiating stance.

Once Kelly’s situation is resolved, there will be only two potential vacancies in the conference:

1. Utah, where our projections continue to indicate there’s a non-zero chance of Kyle Whittingham retiring following the Rose Bowl run.

2. An unexpected departure somewhere, by someone, for a not-yet-known reason – in other words: a major offseason surprise.

The likelihood of that scenario playing out is probably 5 percent and exists every offseason.

Rising: Pac-12 basketball scheduling

Well, well, well. Just two weeks after so much sound and fury over the decision to postpone the Arizona-UCLA showdown, a make-up date has been found.

The sixth-ranked Wildcats and third-ranked Bruins will collide Jan. 25 in Pauley Pavilion — a date that works well for both teams:

• The Bruins will have played at Colorado three days earlier and have a home game two days later.

• The Wildcats will have played at Cal two days earlier and have a home game four days later.

In terms of limited wear and tear on the players, that’s as good as it gets.

Of course, Jan. 25 is a Tuesday, and tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m., so coast-to-coast viewership for a marquee game won’t be optimal.

But our guess is that slotting the game into a premium window wasn’t an option for two reasons:

1. The Pac-12 plays make-up games on Mondays and Tuesdays in order to give the participants a buffer from the regularly-scheduled round-robin matchups on weekends.

2. ESPN is all booked during the primetime windows on Mondays and Tuesday with ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC games.

The conference also announced the rescheduling of four other games recently impacted by COVID, including Oregon-Colorado, which could carry implications for Pac-12 tournament seeding:

Jan. 17: Utah at ASU

Jan. 24: ASU at USC

Jan. 25: Colorado at Oregon

Feb. 1: Cal at Stanford

To date, no conference games have been declared no contests.

(The UCLA-Washington game in early December was originally declared a forfeit by UW but has since been placed in the pool of games to be rescheduled.)

In all, 15 league games have been postponed by COVID, according to the conference:

• Three have been rescheduled and played.

• Five have been rescheduled for the coming weeks.

• Seven are awaiting make-up dates.

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.