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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: As the Pac-12 rolls to its finish line, the wheels are starting to come off and no one seems to be doing anything about it

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The Pac-12 is broken. In many ways. College football is fun, but overall, it is broken as well. And the cracks are starting to show. The NFL? It is whatever you want it to be. Those are our Sunday morning thoughts.


• Watching games from just after sunrise to well past sunset Saturday, we focused most of our attention on the West Coast rivals. And what we saw saddened us no end.

Larry Scott might have been the devil in the details in the Pac-12’s demise, and the schools’ CEOs might have been complicit in its death, but George Kliavkoff is the undertaker. In its final season, the conference office is burying what once was the best product in the nation.

We blame Kliavkoff et al because, as the conference rolls toward oblivion, nothing has been done to arrest the slide of ineptitude in game management that rears its head each week. At multiple games. In way-to-many instances to document.

Saturday was the worst, as just occasional forays into games seemed constantly interrupted with indefensible flags, off-target marks, incessant replays and downright embarrassing broadcasting faux pas.

College football games have a greater propensity toward such things than, say, their NFL counterparts. And such things happen all over. But never, it seems to the consumer – us – with the frequency its happening this season in the football conference that shall be no more come December.

Will such ineptitude cost a Pac-12 member dearly come playoff time? Will such issues carry into basketball season and into the spring? Or just continue to multiple as more and more conference employees smartly jump ship?

Yes. To all of it.

There are five power conferences today. Two of them are in court, with schools asking judges to order their conference office to change their tune. In this, the Pac-12 led the way. And the issue of who controls the decision-making process should come to a head this week in Colfax.

But no matter the decision, the disintegration of competence in running athletic events, the core purpose of a conference, will continue. Lame-duck status is making games just plain lame.

And, with playoff decisions coming down to three weeks of elimination, we’re pretty sure a major mistake is inevitable – and will end up costing the conference a spot in the final Final Four.

For the first time since a playoff structure has been in place, five schools are 10-0. Heck, there are six overall, but James Madison is out of this equation in many ways.

The five? Alphabetically, they are Georgia, Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State and Washington. Notice something? None of them are named Alabama. Or Oregon. Or Texas. And those schools are 9-1.

Yes, Michigan and Ohio State still have to play. The best that can happen is four Power Five schools finish undefeated. Anyone have faith if one is Washington, the Huskies will automatically still be included in the playoffs? Heck, what happens if Alabama upsets Georgia in the SEC title game? Nick Saban not in after that? Or Georgia, on a three-peat quest?

Those things happen. But what we worry about is something odd happening to either Oregon or Washington over the next two weeks – or against each other in the Pac-12 title game.

When you are dealing with a conference in which one of its most-trusted referees calls for a measurement when the line to gain is the 35 (after a touchback on a kickoff), and the ball is visibly short (as we saw yesterday), anything is possible.

Heck, what happens if a UW or Oregon player, seemingly healthy, takes a knee just as the ball is snapped with seconds left in the title game, and the Ducks or Huskies score the game-winner – something we basically saw yesterday as well. Think the conference hierarchy is ready for that? Or it will be adjudicated correctly?

Nope. And guess what? We’re pretty sure George Kliavkoff won’t be around to take the heat either.

The Pac-12 is cursed, it seems. Maybe it’s Bill Walton’s doing, because the big redhead is angry with the conference breakup. Or Reggie Bush, who just wants his Heisman back. Or Jack Thompson, ticked off by what the L.A. schools has done to his beloved Cougars.

Heck, maybe it’s Scott, who took enough of the schools’ money over his tenure to hire Mephistopheles himself.

Whatever, we figure the final playoff rankings will include two Big Ten and two SEC schools before we get to the first one from a conference that won’t be around anymore. And maybe that’s the way it should be.

Just try to tell someone in Seattle that. Then you better duck, with a lowercase d, right after.


WSU: If we didn’t know better we would have thought there were some hijinks in play in Berkeley. Then we realized it was just Pac-12 football. And it was the Cougars, circa 2023 on our TV. As Greg Woods writes, they just can’t seem to get out of their own way right now. … At least the running game perked up thanks to two guys who weren’t expected to contribute much when the season began. Both are part of Greg’s difference makers too. … And the Cougar defense made some big plays despite still not having its best cornerback. … Greg finished up with his highlight-filled recap. … Finally, we watched from home, was constantly assaulted by what we watched and wrote our TV Take. … We can pass along a couple stories from the Cal point of view. … Greg Lee was in Pullman late Friday, covering the Cougars women’s basketball win over Gonzaga. He has some thoughts about what it meant. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner talked with WSU president Kirk Schulz yesterday concerning Schulz’s vote – as the Pac-12 representative – on CFP changes. What was it that commercial used to say? It’s gonna cost ya. … Michigan and Georgia picked up impressive wins yesterday and, seemingly, punched their tickets to the playoffs. We’ll see. … The game at Penn State was notably for a lot of reasons. … In basketball news, is Tommy Lloyd the blueprint for the new type of college coach. After Arizona’s win at Duke, we guess.

In Saturday’s football games …

• No. 21 Arizona 34, Colorado 31: A last-second field goal gave the Wildcats another improbable win. Though maybe we should start believing in UA. They are headed to a bowl. Unless the Buffs win out against WSU and Utah, they won’t be. At least this week Colorado moved the ball all game long. It was unable to stop anyone, though.

• No. 5 Washington 35, No. 18 Utah 28: The Huskies aren’t perfect. But their record is. They even survived a nationally laughed-at mistake. Utah just didn’t have any way to score in the second half as UW’s defense picked it up a notch. And ensured another week of playoff speculation. It was also Kalen DeBoer’s 100th win as a head coach.

• No. 12 Oregon State 62, Stanford 17: OK, how did the Beavers lose to WSU? Or to Arizona? That last one, at least today, seems more plausible. And both losses came on the road. They get UW on Saturday in Corvallis. Yesterday, they demolished the Cardinal from the opening kickoff, setting records in the process.

• Arizona State 17, UCLA 7: The Bruin offense was operating without its best quarterbacks. And still the Rose Bowl fans weren’t happy with the inability to move the ball. After all, it was Arizona State on the other side. You know, the team that shut down WSU a couple weeks ago. Now the Sun Devils have another win and Chip Kelly’s seat is hot.

• No. 6 Oregon 36, USC 27: It was harder than expected, though the Trojan defense wasn’t any better. No matter. The Ducks have two more games to win and then they can get their rematch with Washington in the Pac-12 title game. If Bo Nix plays like he did Saturday, they’ll be tough to beat. As for USC, a 7-4 record with one of the nation’s best quarterbacks isn’t acceptable.

Gonzaga: The soccer team moved on in the NCAA Tournament for the first time, defeating visiting Idaho 1-0 Saturday night in a first-round match. Colton Clark was there and has this story while James Snook has a photo gallery. … Jim Meehan has a rewind of Friday’s win over Yale as the Zags try to figure out how to deal with a season without Steele Venters.

EWU: The trip to Bozeman is a long one. But it probably didn’t seem as long as the game, in which fifth-ranked Montana State ran right through the Eagles en route to a 57-14 rout, one of Eastern’s worst losses in conference play ever. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, whatever trap Portland State laid, it wasn’t enough. Montana rolled to a 34-10 victory. … Northern Arizona kept Northern Colorado winless. … UC Davis won the battle of the Hawkins (as opposed to the Battle of Hawkins, Indiana), handing Idaho State another close loss. … Sacramento State earned another win over Cal Poly, though it was close.

Idaho: The third-ranked Vandals had everything in their hands, including winning a conference title. Then they didn’t come to play in Ogden yesterday, falling to a mediocre Weber State team 31-29 after leading by double digits early. Peter Harriman has the game story.

Whitworth: We’ve seen it before. A special Whitworth team plays Linfield with the Northwest Conference title, and an automatic NCAA playoff bid, on the line. And the Pirates get boatraced. It looked like that would happen again Saturday, with the Wildcats jumping out to a 14-0 lead. And then the script switched, with Whitworth rallying late for a 28-24 road win and an undefeated regular season. Ethan Myers has the game story.

Preps: Gonzaga Prep did what it does. It plays defense. It uses timely special teams play. And it wins 4A State football playoff games, this one 24-14 over visiting Chiawana. Colton has the game story. … Mt. Spokane fell into a huge deficit, rallied but came up short, losing its 3A State opener 28-22 to visiting Garfield. Dave Nichols has that story. … Dave also has a roundup of other playoff action. … Freeman got to the 1A volleyball finals but fell to top-ranked Chelan. … One hundred years ago, Lewis and Clark High was headed to play Ohio’s top team in a high school football game. Such travel wouldn’t happen today, would it?

Chiefs: Dave was in the Arena later Saturday night and covered Spokane’s easy 6-3 victory over Kamloops.

Seahawks: Kenny McIntosh may make his debut today against Washington. The Hawks will try to move past last week’s blowout loss.

Kraken: Edmonton visited and went home with a win.

Reign: With the NWSL title on the line for the third time, Seattle was probably going to be leaning heavily on soon-to-be-retired star Megan Rapinoe. Except she went down in the first minutes with a suspected Achilles’ injury. And then the Reign lost 2-1.


• Did you know the top-ranked team in the NCAA soccer playoffs lost in the first round? Yep, UCLA went down Friday. To UC Irvine. For some unknown reason, that seemed important to me. Until later …