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

A Grip on Sports: The Big-12 needs to make it worth Gonzaga’s time, a prodigal son returns and Idaho should roll

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Gonzaga to the Big 12? Jayden de Laura playing in Pullman, wearing the visitor’s uniform? Idaho hosting Montana as the favorite, maybe an overwhelming favorite? What has our world become?


• Halloween is just around the corner, right? It sure seems that way, considering the decorations we can see from our house and the candy displays piled high at the local supermarket. So it comes as no surprise another conference realignment rumor is rising from the grave.

We thought a stake had been driven through this one’s heart, though. Mainly because, no matter how hard we try, we can’t understand what’s in it for GU. OK, we get the money part – if it’s enough. Sure, the Big 12 can offer more than what the Zags receive from the WCC even if there is a discount involved. And there is some insurance come the next round of realignment – though the Big 12 still doesn’t look as secure as the SEC and Big Ten.

But in every other way, we see the move as neutral at best and a detriment at worst.

According to Seth Davis’ report that surfaced yesterday on a website entitled The Messenger – we always thought that was a religious tract that showed up under your windshield wiper after a Mariners’ game – and confirmed by the S-R’s Theo Lawson, Gonzaga and the conference are talking about more than just a basketball merger.

You mean baseball would be playing league games in Stillwater and Morgantown? Ya, that makes sense.

But how about going from an indispensable big fish in the WCC pond to an easily disposable cog in the Big-12 basketball machine? Yes, Mark Few loves challenges, but only as a way to help his team compete for national titles. Is that more or less likely in the Big 12?

And what happens to GU after Few, 61, decides it’s time to step away? Will whoever is next find it easier to keep the ball rolling in the WCC or in the toughest basketball conference in the nation?

Big 12 commissioner Brent Yormack seems to be enamored of the Zags – and of collecting baubles. Unless he’s willing to pay full price for this one, the Bulldogs should sniff, growl and saunter away.

• De Laura wasn’t happy when he left Pullman. The coach who had recruited him, Nick Rolovich, had been fired, hoisted on a petard of hubris, intractability and self-proclaimed medical knowledge. And de Laura was all in in with his coach, reportedly including his vaccine stance.

But unlike Rolovich, de Laura left quietly and found an immediate landing spot. He’s been, when healthy, Arizona’s starting quarterback ever since. Last season, he held that role in UA’s home loss to the Cougars, throwing four picks as WSU rolled to a 31-6 third-quarter lead and won by 11.

His Arizona tenure has been up-and-down as well. This season he threw interceptions on four consecutive possessions in an overtime loss at Mississippi State. He’s also had stretches of brilliance. And, recently, stretches on the bench, nursing an injury.

UA coach Jedd Fisch said Monday if he’s healthy, de Laura will start for the Wildcats in Pullman. That despite Noah Fifita’s outstanding performance (25-of-35 passing, 303 yards, five touchdowns, one interception) in UA’s near-upset of USC last week. Fisch, in his second season, did, however, state he’s not above making a quarterback change mid-game.

One thing is for sure. De Laura always brings fireworks wherever he goes. Saturday won’t be different.

• Is Ken Hobart back in Moscow? OK, we know it hasn’t been since Hobart held the Vandals’ quarterback reins – 1980-to-1983 – that they’ve felt as dominating – especially with UM headed in. But it sort of seems like it.

In fact, if third-ranked Idaho (5-1 overall, 3-0 in conference) doesn’t defeat the Griz (also 5-1, 2-1 in the Big Sky and ranked 16th) Saturday night, we feel we have to label it a huge upset. But maybe that’s just us.


WSU: Greg Woods has his first look at the Wildcats in today’s paper. It’s Homecoming, so it’s obvious how good Washington State felt UA was going into the season. … Will two key offensive cogs be ready? Greg shares the news the status of Lincoln Victor and Cooper Mathers is still up in the air. … The game Oct. 21 at Oregon will kick at 12:30 p.m. on ABC. Greg has more. It sure feels as if ABC is betting both will win this week, though the Ducks are underdogs headed into Seattle. … The Pac-12 released its preseason women’s basketball teams Monday and guard Charlisse Leger-Walker and center Bella Murekatete earned conference honors. That news is contained in the S-R’s most-recent local briefs column. … The de Laura/Fifita decision is centerstage in Tucson as Arizona tries to win a second conference game. … Former Washington State soccer star Morgan Weaver has not slowed in the pro ranks. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, Jon Wilner has his power rankings and a quick look at yesterday’s actions concerning WSU’s and Oregon State’s attempt to keep the conference alive, both on the S-R website. He has his Mountain West power rankings in the Mercury News. … John Canzano addresses the latter subject in two columns on his site. … Others examine those issues as well. … It’s Oregon vs. Washington week which means a bunch of stories, right? The Huskies are favored but the Ducks have the better, well, something. They must. … Washington introduced its new athletic director yesterday. … Best defense in the conference? One stat shows that moniker belongs in Westwood and not Salt Lake City. … The next team that will try to dent it is Oregon State, coming off a big win. UCLA will be another tough test in a season of them. … Travis Hunter has returned to practice for Colorado as the Buffs prepare for Stanford, which is coming off a bye. … Fun note. Utah has been dealing with quarterback questions every week. … One of the best rivalry games in the sports happens in South Bend on Saturday. USC vs. Notre Dame holds incredible memories. So did the Trojan’s latest win. … In basketball news, there is a face around Oregon State hoops that looks familiar. For good reason. … Colorado, like everyone else, is headed to Pac-12 media day.

Gonzaga: As we linked above, Theo has this story on the Big-12 reports. … The news hit hard all over the country, probably because realignment talk slowed so quickly after the football season began. BYU might be thinking “not them again.”

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Northern Arizona is rising, Weber State is falling. … Montana is happy to already have one road win against a top-25 team on its resume. … Montana State is rested for Cal Poly. … Northern Colorado is hosting its 100th homecoming celebration. … UC Davis was one of three home teams that lost last Saturday. There were only three conference games. … The Idaho State women’s basketball program has a tradition that involves a crab feed.

Preps: Dave Nichols has a roundup of Monday’s action.

Chiefs: There are five former Spokane players plying their trade in the NHL this season, including one with the Kraken.

Kraken: Seattle opens the season tonight hoping to crash Las Vegas’ title celebration. … This year begins with lots to prove, even after last season’s playoff run. … Young players will play a huge role. … There are no easy games.

Seahawks: It looks as if Jamal Adams will be cleared to practice today. … We mentioned yesterday Pete Carroll wasn’t happy with the way Geno Smith was tackled last week. He wants to do something about it. … After five weeks of the season, the NFC West status quo cemented at the end of last year seems to be still in play.


• Steve Garvey running for Senate in California? Is Ron Cey going to be his campaign manager? Davey Lopes raising money? Bill Russell doing the P.R.? Only the first of those questions have an affirmative answer. Either way, we chuckled at all of them. Again, maybe that’s just us. Until later …