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This is everyone’s fault

There’s no one person to put all the blame on for this. Everyone’s is to blame. Everyone.

2023 Pac-12 Football Media Day Photo by Louis Grasse/Getty Images

When something goes wrong, it’s useful to have a scapegoat. Someone you can turn to, point your finger at and say, “That person. That’s the sumbitch responsible for all of this”. If for no other reason, it offers a catharsis; you can find somewhere to direct that anger, that vitriol, that sadness instead of keeping it bottled up and trying to scatter it a million different directions.

You want to point it at USC and UCLA. You want to point it at UW and Oregon. You especially want to point it at George Kliavkoff. You really want to point it at Brett Yormark. You really, really, REALLY want to point it at Larry Scott.

But here’s the frustrating thing when it comes to the dissolution of a more than century old athletic conference: it’s everyone’s fault.

Television networks see their subscriber numbers. They see them trending in the wrong direction and so far, streaming isn’t the money making fire hose everyone, their shareholders included, thought it could be. The logical choice, the easy choice, is to consolidate. Grab all the valuable properties you can, tradition of a truly unique and truly American sport be damned.

USC and UCLA think they’re worth a lot more than what their current conference can give them? Give them a number they and their new membership can’t refuse, guarantees of exposure their current conference can’t give them. Do cross-country trips for the women’s basketball team with stops at O’Hare in February matter? You know they don’t.

Make the long play and bet that, eventually, Oregon and Washington will beg to follow. They do. All it took was your competitor putting the thumb on the scale of the worst fitting school around the last realignment shake up to break the teams you really wanted loose.

Take who you want. Leave the rest behind. What do you care?

“Surely, there’s no way a conference with so much tradition and conviviality and loyalty could ever be wiped off the face of the earth?,” we, the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors, say. “No, we ten original members and even our newest brethren care too much about what’s most important: the sanctity of college athletics.”

“Should we listen to our alumni, donors and fans who scream from every hilltop in this untamed and wild region of the world that the man leading our conference will surely run it straight into the ground? No, they simply know not what they speak. We can see that things are quite from the top of the ivory tower here. It certainly doesn’t look like the foundation is cracking. What’s that, liquefying dirt around the bottom? You don’t understand, we need this building in the most expensive real estate market on the continent because it’s close to tech!

“What’s that? The building really is crumbling? Well, might finally be time to fire the contractor. Put out bids for the new one? Heavens no, our longstanding tradition and conviviality and loyalty will carry the day no matter what!”

Walking into Pac-12 headquarters was surely no enviable task for George Kliavkoff. You’d be hard pressed to find a broom large enough to get everything in the bin. there’s a lot to clean up before we can even think about talking new television deal. Hell, there’s a lot to do before we can even think about expanding.

You may try, we’ll never really know if you did, to talk everyone in to striking while the iron’s hot after Oklahoma and Texas left. Regardless, nothing happened and two of your biggest brands were out the door not long after.

Even after that, the open market seems like the place to go with your television rights. You bet you can do better than what you’ve got now, especially since the Big 12 won’t be coming around for a few years yet.

Funny thing though: the economy slowed down. And the Big 12, the one who still has a while yet to negotiate? They saw it coming and hopped the line. Then they started bombarding you in public, belittling your negotiation process. Openly courting your members.

So what to do? Be as silent as a church mouse. Beg anyone who will listen to take the inventory. Someone finally listens ... but it’s not good enough. Even after a week of posturing.

You had a lot of different choices to make in all of this. Turns out, you made every wrong one.

Larry. Larry Larry Larry.

God, I don’t miss you.

You did your job right, for what? A couple years? Better sit back, do nothing and enjoy the champange! You remember that little nickname, right? Champange Larry. You got it when you stayed in a suite at the Arira during the Pac-12 tournament. Why stay there? To court more money, or something.

An unholy amount of smoke blowing. You managed, quite deftly, to make sure your closest friends within the conference were also your loudest supporters. The presidents will come and go, you can use that to your advantage, right? Whatever you need to do to keep the $4 million check gravy train rolling.

You could’ve kept building on a pretty damn good foundation. You could’ve kept innovating, of finding unique ways to stay ahead of the curve. You could’ve just told AT&T to take that share of the Pac-12 Network, swallowed your pride for the good of your bosses.

You could’ve done a lot. You did one thing. And then you stopped.

But why keep going if the checks keep clearing, am I right buddy?

I thought about my daughter a lot today. For her mother and I, the Washington State Cougars are such a central part of our lives. It’s how we spent our falls before she arrived, and still try to squeeze in as much as possible. It where her mother and I met. This school, these teams mean so very much to all of us, and I want to share that with her. Now, I’m not sure that I will.

The Pac-12 is dead.

And it’s everybody’s fault.