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Commentary on Pac-12 news on and off the field, and court …
Falling: Oregon basketball
The outline of an unfortunate situation has emerged on the Oregon trail. It involves COVID — specifically, the apparent violation of conference protocols by Ducks coach Dana Altman.
We framed it that way because details are sketchy. What can and cannot be revealed about COVID is dictated by student and employee privacy laws, at both the campus and conference levels.
But here's what we know:
— Ducks point guard Will Richardson was wearing a mask during pre-game warmups last week at Oregon State.
— Richardson did not wear his mask during the game, which Oregon won 78-76.
— No Pac-12 protocols differentiate between mask-wearing in games and in warmups. Either you need one for both or for neither.
— The Pac-12 issued a private reprimand to Ducks coach Dana Altman at some point after the game, according to a report late last week by the Oregonian's John Canzano:
"Oregon Ducks' basketball coach Dana Altman has been 'privately reprimanded' by the Pac-12 Conference, per source. Relates to Monday game at Oregon State and violation by Ducks players of conference COVID protocol."
Now, there are several missing pieces and unanswered questions, including Richardson's vaccination status, whether the violation involved isolation or quarantine protocols and if Richardson was, in fact, the reason for the reprimand issued to Altman.
But the basics facts alone indicate the Ducks got sideways with COVID protocols in some form or another.
Are they the first football or men's basketball team in the Pac-12 to run afoul of COVID protocols since competition restarted in the fall of 2020?
Not if the allegations against Arizona State's football program are accurate.
Is Altman the first head coach to be privately reprimanded by the conference over a COVID matter?
We don't know.
Was there more to the private reprimand than a few stern words from HQ? Were any sanctions considered for the program?
But Pac-12 schools have devoted immense resources and incalculable effort into crafting and enforcing COVID policies that allow for continued competition while keeping players and coaches as safe as reasonably possible.
Any breach of those protocols — whether it's Oregon basketball or Arizona State football or any other team and any other circumstance — is both extremely serious and deeply unfortunate.
Rising: Washington football
What was a moderately interesting UW schedule has become markedly more intriguing with two moves in the past six months:
— First, the Huskies and Michigan State moved up a home-and-home series that had been slotted for the late-2020s and early 2030s. The teams will meet in '22 and '23 instead.
— Second, the Huskies have agreed to a home-and-home with Tennessee. It's the SailGate Series, if you will, because both stadiums allow for tailgating by boat.
Important point: The schools reportedly began discussions before the formation of the Pac-12's alliance with the Big Ten and ACC, clearing away the potential for internal resistance.
(Also important: The alliance isn't legally binding.)
With the agreement, Washington will visit Knoxville in 2029, with the return in Seattle in 2030.
Combine the two developments with a two-game series against Ohio State that's under contract, and UW's lineup of Power Five opponents now clears our bar for a program of its stature.
2022: vs. Michigan State
2023: at Michigan State
2024: vs. Ohio State
2025: at Ohio State
2028: vs. Michigan (rescheduled from 2020)
2029: at Tennessee
2030: vs. Tennessee
That leaves the '26 and '27 seasons to fill with an A-level opponent. The '26 game theoretically would be played in Husky Stadium and the '27 game on the road in order to align with the number of home dates each year on the Pac-12 schedule.
(Then again, the Pac-12 schedule could change if the schools approve a move to eight conference games.)
Washington's non-conference lineups through the 2020s also feature an assortment of Mountain West opponents, giving UW the option to follow the A-B-C scheduling model: one Power Five opponent, one group of Five opponent and one FCS opponent each season.
It's not easy for UW to convince SEC programs to visit Seattle, partly because the distance and time change involved in the return flight make SEC coaches fret about disruption to the game-preparation schedule for the following week.
The last SEC team to visit Husky Stadium was LSU, for the season opener in 2009.
Falling: Pac-12 football star power
ESPN recently offered a reminder of the Pac-12 pipeline problems with its early All-American team for the 2022 season — a list that will undoubtedly impact the pre-season media hype machines across the country.
The Pac-12 had just two representatives, and one was a punter: Arizona's Kyle Ostendorp was joined on the 26-man team by Washington edge rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui.
In case you believe ESPN only selected players from the bluest of blue-blood programs, it's worth noting that Army, Kansas State, Northwestern, Louisville and Pittsburgh each had one player selected — the same number as the entire Pac-12 (excluding special teams positions).
The Pac-12 not only lacks elite teams, it lacks elite players. It hasn't sent a finalist to the Heisman Trophy ceremony since 2017 (Stanford's Bryce Love).
The dearth of star power isn't for lack of talent in the region.
In fact, ESPN's All-American team features four players who are from the footprint but don't play in the Pac-12:
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (L.A.), Texas tailback Bijan Robinson (Tucson), Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (Napa) and Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo (Scottsdale).
Rising: ASU and Colorado football
By our calculations, both programs were a net negative entering this week — they had lost more talent to the transfer portal than they had gained.
But notable developments in the past 48 hours could signal trajectory changes in Boulder and Tempe:
— Arizona State received a commitment from Nesta Jade Silvera, a 300-pound interior defensive lineman from Miami.
His presence should help offset the losses of end Tyler Johnson and nose guard DJ Davidson. If Jermayne Lole manages to remain healthy, the Sun Devils might have one of the top defensive fronts in the South.
— Colorado landed offensive tackle Tommy Brown, a former four-star prospect from Southern California who played sparingly at Alabama over three years.
Brown's arrival doesn't offset the debilitating departures of tailback Jarek Broussard, receiver Brenden Rice, safety Christian Gonzalez or cornerback Mekhi Blackmon, but it's a start. It's something positive for the Buffaloes.
(Also positive for CU: the unveiling of 'Buffs NIL Exchange,' a platform that should help Colorado athletes forge name, image and likeness endeavors.)
We are months away from a final reckoning with the transfer portal. The chaos might not subside until the conclusion of spring practice, in fact. But every move counts — outgoing and incoming — when it comes to rotation-level players.
Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.
Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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