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

A Grip on Sports: Money matters in college sports and it will matter this weekend – as well as into the future

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Sure, there are bowl games. One or two or, on New Year’s Day, a handful of games, each day. But in reality Saturday is the last day of college football as we love it in the fall. A bunch of games spread out across the country. Then why is the most important matchup on Friday night? The answer, as always, is money.


• The Pac-12’s most-connected reporter, Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, posted an interesting column Thursday. He looked ahead to 2033, and what the college sports landscape would look like 10 years in the future. And guess what? The entire premise was built upon money, and it how its pursuit changes the panorama significantly.

You know, just like yesterday. And today. And tomorrow.

We, however, are most concerned with tonight. When the Pac-12’s fortunes will be decided for the final time. And its football title as well.

Undefeated Washington, once more into the breach against Oregon, which got its shot at the Huskies in October and came up a couple points short in Seattle. A 13-0 team against an 11-1. No. 3 vs. No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings. A 5 p.m. kick on ABC. Winner into the four-team invitational. The loser into the oblivion of a New Year’s Six bowl game. Or something like that.

One of the Power 5 conferences’ title games had to be on tonight as to not overcrowd Saturday. Even then, there are two at 5 p.m. tomorrow, which means Fox’s Big Ten matchup (No. 2 Michigan against who-cares-what-number Iowa) and ABC’s ACC title game (No. 4 Florida State against also-irrelevant Louisville) will split the crowd.

The Big 12 finale, between an Oklahoma State team that lost to South Florida this year, and No. 7 Texas, could still have significance when it kicks at 9 a.m. on Fox. And we all know the winner of the 1 p.m. SEC game on CBS, either No. 1 Georgia or No. 8 Alabama, will make the final four. Actually, both might if everything breaks just so.

Then we wait until Sunday at 9 a.m., when the CFP’s Boo Corrigan pops up on ESPN and tells us what schools (actually, their conferences) will rake it $6 million. Each. In an instant, an era ends. And every other bowl game scheduled for this month and next is rendered irrelevant.

If you don’t think so, just check out the ever-growing list of players who have already announced they’ll skip their school’s bowl game. Mainly because, they are skipping out of “their” schools. The transfer portal opens for everyone Monday and, like a George Lucas movie in the 1970s, you don’t want to be fifth in line. The money might run out.

As if. Maybe at places like Washington State or Indiana or Iowa State. But not anywhere the alumni base is willing to pony up to pound Rivalry U. In any sport.

For example, a journey is beginning at WSU this weekend as well. The Cougars are hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA volleyball tournament, with their first game tonight at 7 against Grand Canyon. To watch, you’ll have to access ESPN+, the Worldwide Leader’s streaming (read: pay us) arm. Welcome to the new world order, which isn’t all that new actually. But will be the norm in two or three years – even for football.

• There is also a heck of a lot of college hoop available this weekend. The highlight, around here at least? Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPN+ (again). Cal Poly at Idaho.

OK, just kidding. Gonzaga is in Las Vegas to meet USC (7 p.m., ESPN) in what was supposed to be a scintillating matchup of two ranked squads. The Trojans’ lackluster start has eliminated the ranked part but everything else holds true.

The Seahawks’ expected-yet-disappointing loss Thursday night in Dallas – on Amazon Prime, a pay-to-watch service – means Sunday’s NFL games aren’t as must-see as usual, but San Francisco meeting NFC-leading Philadelphia (1:25 p.m., Fox) is probably top of the list.

Unless, of course, you want something different. May we suggest third-ranked Stanford visiting Gonzaga in women’s hoop action? In this area you can watch on SWX at 1 p.m. Everywhere else? It’s on ESPN+. The future is now.


WSU: Before we get to the football news, we want to highlight Greg Woods’ story on the men’s basketball player who has produced the most highlights thus far this season, Myles Rice. The play has been spectacular but still takes a backseat to Rice’s journey. … The Cougar receiving corps will have to be rebuilt once more. Greg shares the news Lincoln Victor is headed to the NFL draft and Josh Kelly is headed to the portal. … We mentioned the volleyball action that begins tonight. To preview it, Jim Meehan has this story on Magda Jehlárová’s one-of-a-kind career. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner’s interview with Alabama athletic director Greg Bryne is in the S-R this morning. As is his preview of the Pac-12 title game. … As for coverage of the game itself, there are a lot of stories about Washington and Oregon. Previews of the game. Stories about the players. The usual with the added twist the game is actually a quarterfinal of sorts for the CFP. At least most everyone thinks so. … Oregon State and new coach Trent Bray has lost most of their offense before the school’s bowl appearance, including quarterback and running back Damien Martinez, though for different reasons. … California finally found the right guy to coach its offense. Now Jake Spavital is leaving again, this time headed to Baylor for big bucks. … UCLA is losing its quarterback of the future to the portal. … There is optimism in Colorado still. … And there is always a great cornerback at Utah. … Was USC’s season disappointing? Heck yes. … Why is Chip Kelly back next season? Someone who wanted him fired is ticked at the reasons. … Arizona’s defense has improved by most measures. … In basketball news, USC’s Bronny James has been cleared to practice again next week, meaning he won’t be ready to face Gonzaga. … Oregon State had little trouble with UC Davis. … UCLA didn’t have its coach and came this close to not earning a win last night. … Colorado is not playing well on the road. … Utah pulled away from Hawaii last night. … You can put John Wooden on your mail these days. … The Oregon women were blown out at Portland. … Finally, Stanford’s College Cup appearance also comes with something of a heavy heart.

Gonzaga: We make it our mission to link every story on the S-R website, even if it seems a bit early. For example, the Zags don’t play USC until Saturday night. But we can link Jim’s preview of the game as well as his key matchups. Yep, matchups.

Idaho: The Vandals will host their first FCS playoff game in 30 years tomorrow and it will be quarterback Gevani McCoy leading the way. If he’s healthy. As Colton Clark explains in his preview, the sophomore star missed the regular-season finale with an injury but is expected to be ready to go Saturday against Southern Illinois. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Dan Hawkins retirement at UC Davis immediately started conjecture his son Cody would leave Idaho State after one year. … Sacramento State has to figure out how to score against North Dakota’s exceptional defense. … In basketball, Rocky Mountain College went into Bozeman and defeated the Montana State men. … Montana welcomes in San Jose State tomorrow. … We missed this yesterday, but Northern Colorado lost Wednesday at USD.

Preps: Basketball season is in full swing and we can pass along this roundup.

Seahawks: Of course we watched last night’s 41-35 loss to Dallas. And when it was over, with the final play leaving any Hawk fan scratching their head, we finally joined our eldest in his desire to see the planning for next season to begin. Seattle is 6-6. They have two consecutive games in which it will be an underdog. A big underdog. Rightfully so. At 6-8, even a three-game winning streak to end the season gets them no better than a seventh seed in the playoffs and a return date, probably, with the 49ers in San Francisco. But a 6-11 record might mean a chance to trade up in the draft and pick a game-changing star. … The offense actually shone, even with Geno Smith making a couple of horrendous decisions and missing some wide-open receivers by unfathomable margins. … The defense? Our guess is it was flagged five times en route to the airport last night. … There are always grades. And things to learn. … The game against Philadelphia in a couple weeks will now be on Monday night.

Kraken: Seattle flipped the script in Toronto. Rallied late. And then lost, again. In overtime.

Sounders: It’s a key offseason. Maybe more so than any in the past decade or so. What does Seattle have to do? All that matters is this line from the Times’ Jayda Evans’ analysis: “The Sounders can’t score when it counts.”


• We woke this morning to an inch of snow on the ground. Kind of a cliché, right? The calendar flips to December and it starts snowing? C’mon Mom Nature. You’re better than that. Change the narrative. Bring us some 50-degree weather. We know you have got this. Until later …