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A Grip on Sports: A week later, no one is sure what the next move is in college sports’ newest money game

UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) raises a finger to the sky as he heads to the locker room after defeating WSU during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, September 21, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. UCLA won the game 67-63. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) raises a finger to the sky as he heads to the locker room after defeating WSU during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, September 21, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. UCLA won the game 67-63. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • A week ago the West Coast’s college athletic landscape was rocked by a San Andreas-level earthquake. In the seven days since, has anything changed?

•••••••

• Other than the Pac-12 opening up media-rights negotiations with its current partners, Fox and ESPN, not really. Every conference in the nation – big or small – has frozen their fans in a wait-what-just-happened mode, and has for the past week.

When Oklahoma and Texas bailed on the Big 12 a year ago, it was shocking. But those two middle-of-the-nation powers were just following a path blazed earlier by Missouri, Arkansas and Texas A&M when they committed to the SEC. It was a big deal, a stunning deal, but it wasn’t earth-shattering. And it didn’t mark the end of the college world as we know it.

UCLA and USC, the tent poles of the Pac-12 and most dominant big-city entities college athletics knows, were not only leaving their geographic rivals, but joining the league that has been the West Coast’s sworn friend-enemy of the past 75 years.

Talk about a sea-change. This is Pacific Ocean-level change. It has the potential to touch every aspect of college sports, from Notre Dame’s eternal independence to the smallest of the FBS conferences, as another round of eat-or-be-eaten realignment commences.

Yes, such moves are all about football. And the money that sport generates. But as every school uses that money to offer other athletes chances to compete, a lacrosse player at Penn State or a soccer player at Clemson very well could feel the fallout as well.

Strange times, huh?

Nothing has changed in a week. Will anything change over the next one? Over the month or year? And if it does, what will that change look like?

Nostradamus would have trouble answering that question. There are more than enough options – pretty much all of which having been discussed publicly on endless ESPN shows as well as sports-talk radio, podcasts, newspapers and on-line publications – that would change the landscape dramatically. There are also small tweaks available that would tide us over for the next year or so.

Which options that will bloom are unknowable. There are too many variables, too many forces pulling schools this way and that, too many players with bags of cash, to know for sure.

All that the past has taught is this simple lesson: Be ready. The surprise is coming.

• Say you just have to know what’s next for good ol’ State. The suspense is killing you. Then we have some advice. If money is the driving force behind these changes – it is – than try to figure out what move will bring the most bucks for your favorite school. That will be the most logical move.

That doesn’t mean it will happen. It just means it is the most obvious step. It’s why you need to be reading any story or listening to any podcast or show that discusses the financial ramifications of any move. It’s boring. But it’s also crucial.

Follow the pot of gold. It will lead you to the end of the rainbow.

•••

WSU: Jon Wilner posits there is no move the Pac-12 could make now that would increase its value enough to merit addition. How about adding Notre Dame, the golden-domed goose? Seems silly, huh. Even sillier than USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten? … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the uncertainty is having an impact on football recruiting. … Washington and Oregon seem to hold the key for the conference. … The Ducks’ football program is new in a lot of ways but still the favorite behind a talented offense. … Does Colorado really bring value for the Big 12 or anyone else? … In basketball news, UCLA and USC leaving could hurt other schools’ recruiting in the L.A. area. … Arizona is getting the point guard it needs.

Gonzaga: Funny thing. The Zag roster has churned a bit since last season. And yet a strong core has remained intact. How will Mark Few meld it all together? No matter how it happens, it will be fun to watch. … Around the WCC, San Francisco has enough players back to make a run, despite a new head coach on the bench.

EWU: Cooper Kupp’s Rams jersey is flying off the (virtual) shelves. … Around the Big Sky, next season’s basketball schedules are out and we pass along stories from Montana and Northern Colorado. … Weber State finished up its recruiting class.

Indians: It wasn’t the best night for the Spokane pitching staff. Tri-City took advantage of every mistake and rolled to an 11-1 victory at Avista Stadium.

Golf: Two golfers with local ties qualified for August’s U.S. Amateur recently. Jim Meehan has the details in this story.

Boxing: This might come as something of a surprise but boxing is experiencing growth. At least among women. Or in the case of this Charlotte McKinley story, girls. Two local Spokane girls will take part in a Saturday fight card downtown.

Mariners: And there you have it. The M’s have climbed all the way back from the huge hole they dug themselves early on and are at .500. An 8-3 home win Thursday behind Marco Gonzales put them there. … When everyone is healthy, will Seattle have enough to not make a deadline deal? Ty France rejoined the lineup last night. … If we had our way, this is the player we would take in the first round of the upcoming draft.

Seahawks: Jody Allen says the team won’t be sold in the near future. But will she have a choice? There has been some bad news lately behind the scenes.

Kraken: Seattle had just the fourth pick in the NHL’s draft last night. But when it came time for the Kraken to select their player, the consensus No. 1 player was still available. They took Shane Wright. Yes, there are some questions there. But there is also tremendous potential.

Storm: The shots fell and so did red-hot Los Angeles, as Seattle rolled to a 37-point win in L.A.

Sounders: Brian Schmetzer says he’s dealing with COVID-19 but he might be able to be at the match with Portland on Saturday.

•••       

• Don’t hold your breath for the next change in the college sports landscape. You might suffocate. But even if you get to breathe, the resulting change may render you speechless. Until later …

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