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A Grip on Sports: It seems more and more likely conference realignment will pull Gonzaga into a new orbit

Gonzaga coaches watch a rough second half of play during a NCAA college basketball game with Warner Pacific, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Gonzaga coaches watch a rough second half of play during a NCAA college basketball game with Warner Pacific, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • It’s not often we have a Thursday full of varied items to talk about. But here we are. Just how long can Gonzaga say that about the West Coast Conference?

•••••••

• One of the items we want to discuss in depth has to do with GU and the Big 12 Conference. ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported yesterday Gonzaga athletic director Chris Standiford met with Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark. It happened somewhere in the Dallas area, presumably as the Zags were prepping for their exhibition with Tennessee.

We are sure they weren’t talking about Rhianna or Shakira singing the national anthem at the next Bulldog home game.

Nope, the Zags are looking for a new home. In a more-upscale neighborhood. Maybe “looking for” is too strong a phrase. “Examining the possibilities” is better. In this time of conference uncertainty and conference realignment, they would be remiss not to listen.

Mark Few, who probably will have the last word anyway, made that clear when talking with Portland radio host and writer John Canzano last week.

His basketball team is a national brand. A national title contender every season. A gaudy bauble any Power 5 conference would love to have hanging around come March.

The Pac-12 seems a logical spot, especially for the Bulldogs’ “other” sports. The Big East seems a good fit if not geographically then philosophically, as many of its schools are Catholic basketball powers.

But the Big 12? Financially, the far-flung conference – next season it will stretch from Florida to Utah – can offer a lot. It just agreed to a new media deal after all. However, the “fit,” if that’s important at all, seems off.

The conference has basketball powers, sure. Blue bloods, like Kansas. Tradition-rich ones, like Houston. Nouveau extra-rich, like Baylor. Throw Gonzaga in that mix and wow. Just wow.

If it happens, though, we would be surprised. The Zags could get all it needs, financially and fit, with a move to the Pac-12. And that move wouldn’t demand the baseball team make a couple cross country trips each season. Besides, if commissioner George Kliavkoff can pull them into his reeling conference’s orbit, it would help anchor a tossing ship.

But maybe the Zags’ basketball programs are headed into a new world. And the rest of the athletic programs will stay put, or at least somewhere nearby. That may have been the meaning of some of Few’s thoughts shared with Canzano.

“We’ve always just done stuff because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” he said then. “It’s always been, ‘You’re in this league. You’re in that league. You guys stay in your region and you stay in that region.’ … I have no idea why we don’t have leagues different for every sport.”

Last night, after his team had rolled visiting Warner Pacific 101-70 in an exhibition, he was even more blunt.

“At the end of the day, like I’ve always said, we’re going to do what’s best for Gonzaga,” Few told the S-R’s Jim Meehan. “So we just have to analyze everything and where we’ve been and what we’ve done so far has been great. Let all the chatter happen and we’ll do what we’ve got to do.”

• We would be remiss if we didn’t share a few thoughts on last night’s World Series game. It was, after all, just the second no-hitter in Series’ history.

And it illustrated more than anything the change that’s occurred in the sport over the past 66 years.

When Don Larsen threw his perfect game against the Dodgers in 1956, it came during the day in early October. The journeyman went the distance, threw 97 pitches, striking out seven in the process. The Yankees won 2-0 in 2 hours and 6 minutes.

Last night, three Houston pitchers combined to limit the Phillies to a single baserunner. They struck out 14, throwing a combined 141 pitches (starter Cristian Javier also threw 97 in six innings). The 5-0 decision took 3 hours and 25 minutes to complete.

And, oh yes, it came on Nov. 2.

•••

WSU: Have no fear. The Cougars are sticking to their bread-and-butter offense. The Air Raid, this version of it anyway, is staying according to Jake Dickert. It just will take a while until it runs better. Colton Clark has more in this story. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, Jon Wilner takes a look in the Mercury News at the best in the West. Washington State is still in his view. … He also examines the Regents’ meeting about UCLA’s plans and picks this week’s games. … Washington still has some needs for this recruiting class. … Oregon would like to improve its punt returning. The game with Colorado may be the perfect time for that to happen. … Most football fans will agree with Utah’s Kyle Whittingham about this. … Arizona State may offer UCLA more of a challenge than the Bruins think. … A USC safety has worked hard to earn playing time. … Yes, Arizona’s offense is much better. … In basketball news, Washington, Utah and Arizona won their exhibitions last night. … Colorado is seeing unexpected contributions. … Stanford has yet to make the NCAAs under Jerod Haase. … Arizona already has under Tommy Lloyd.

Gonzaga: We covered the Big 12 news above (and linked Jim’s story). We also mentioned the exhibition result and we link Theo Lawson’s story here. … Colin Mulvany has a photo gallery available as well, though we can’t find a photo gallery online to share. The photos appear with the game story. … The women will host Western Washington on Friday. Jim Allen has a preview of the exhibition. … Elsewhere in the WCC, St. Mary’s women have some momentum entering the season. … BYU’s men won their exhibition.

EWU and Idaho: The cross-border rivals meet Saturday in Moscow. Dan Thompson has this preview as well as a Big Sky notebook. … Elsewhere in the conference, Montana gets a breather this week with Cal Poly. … Montana State has a unicorn at tight end. How does he get his helmet on? … Portland State is Northern Arizona’s opponent this week. … In basketball news, Weber State won its foul-filled exhibition. … Northern Arizona won its as well.

Preps: Dave Nichols has this roundup of Wednesday’s postseason action. … Speaking of the postseason, Chewelah’s cross country team hopes it finishes with a successful State meet. Keenan Gray has that story.

Seahawks: It is just fine Seattle didn’t make a trade deadline deal. … DK Metcalf says his knee is fine. … Will Dissly has become a big part of the Hawk offense. … Now the season takes a turn. … There has been a youth movement in the secondary.

Mariners: The grass in Philadelphia looked great last night. There is a local person who has a hand in that. Dave Nichols has this story on former Spokane Indians’ groundskeeper David Yearout. … You may not think so, but Seattle still has some intriguing prospects in the pipeline.

Kraken: Just because you like to have a good time doesn’t mean you can’t be a good hockey player.

•••       

• We wonder if any Gonzaga basketball alums will pull a “Bill Walton” and express public displeasure if the Zags leave the WCC? We think not. Until later …

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