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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘What are we doing?’: Washington State coach Jake Dickert blasts conference realignment

Washington State head coach Jake Dickert watches his players run through drills during the first of the Cougars' fall practices on Wednesday at WSU's Rogers Practice Field in Pullman.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Jake Dickert has never fashioned himself a shy man. Washington State’s head coach is open about his beliefs, about the way he wishes college football could revert to simpler times.

Rarely, though, does he unload like he did Thursday morning. Moments after the Cougars wrapped up their second practice of fall camp, he walked behind a microphone and chatted with reporters. When The Spokesman-Review asked him about how much attention WSU’s team is paying to the changing college football landscape, particularly movement around the Pac-12, Dickert made clear the Cougars are focused on themselves – but he also shared his thoughts on the matter.

“I mean, not a single player has asked me one time about it. We gotta control what we can control,” Dickert said. “It’s amazing to me … the old question – how long would it take TV money to destroy college football? Maybe we’re here. Maybe we’re here. To think even remotely, five years ago, the Pac-12 would be in this position, it’s unthinkable to think that we’re here today.

“And to think that local rivalries are at risk and fans driving four hours to watch their team play in a road game, and rivalries (are) at risk, to me is unbelievable. And I know our place at the table. At the end of the day, Pac-12 football, Pac-12 brand, if we stay together, is really strong, and we’ll have a strong future. I firmly believe in that.

“So, it’s important that we stay focused here in the now in maximizing what we can. But at the end of the day, we’ll look back at college football in 20 years and be like, ‘What are we doing? What are we doing?’ Let’s let our guys stay regional. Let’s play. Let’s preserve the Pac-12 and what it is. So, I’ll let the people that make those decisions make those decisions. But at the end of the day, we can focus on right here right now and maximizing this team.”

Dickert takes issue with the way money is center stage in college football. The Pac-12 could be close to disappearing, in large part, because it hasn’t been able to agree on a new media deal. The Cougars also don’t top the Big 12 or Big Ten’s lists of schools to poach, so they could be in trouble if more teams bolt from the Pac-12.

Problematic about all these seismic changes, though, is geography. The Big 12 already features schools as far away from each other as Brigham Young and Central Florida, a gap of more than 2,000 miles. The Pac-12 could be looking at a similar trajectory, depending on which schools leave and join. That seems to be the part Dickert doesn’t like – the way conference realignment has wrangled together teams with little proximity, all in the interest in bigger TV contracts.

How WSU fares in all this remains to be seen. What isn’t up for debate is this: The Cougars’ head coach doesn’t much like the way college football’s ecosystem is changing.