Patrick Kinahan: Pac-12 mess further destroys charm of college football

Utah Utes running back Micah Bernard (2) sits up after being hit by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Ben Bywater (33) as BYU and Utah play an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. BYU won 26-17, ending a nine-game losing streak to the Utes.

Utah Utes running back Micah Bernard (2) sits up after being hit by Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Ben Bywater (33) as BYU and Utah play an NCAA football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. BYU won 26-17, ending a nine-game losing streak to the Utes. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — For many of us, in an increasing bygone era, college football represented a form of charm not found in any other sport.

There was nothing like fall Saturday afternoons, the pomp and circumstance that included the high-stepping drum major prancing on the field as the marching band played your team's fight song. The NFL, no matter how widely popular, never could match the pageantry.

Those were the days, my friends. We thought they'd never end — yeah, right.

Even with all the changes — the late-night starting times, rivalries tossed aside, coaches demanding complete buy-ins and then fleeing before the season ends, etc. — the diehards stayed the course. They could never desert their schools, even if the sport began to resemble more and more like the NFL.

For decades, every New Year's Day was the best for college football lovers. All the big-time bowl games, highlighted by the Big Ten vs. a West Coast team in the sun-drenched Rose Bowl, was must-see TV long before any network coined the phrase. In the name of progress, we tolerated the likes of Oklahoma, Texas and even Texas Christian playing in Pasadena, California, on the most sacred college football day.

This time, though, the sport is pushing the boundaries of tolerance. Any more change and they might as well play the games on Sundays.

Over the last two years, the sport has gone bonkers with the transfer portal creating a constant roster flux and the new NIL (name, image and likeness) that allows players to choose a school based on financial windfalls. Academics be darned, cash is king.

The players deserve some form of compensation, but as athletic directors and coaches say, it's already spiraling out of control only in a matter of months. Rich boosters, who were already catered to more than necessary, will gain more leverage over programs.

Pony up or fall by the wayside. The new order has arrived.

Speaking of falling by the wayside, bid a fond farewell to the Pac-12 as we know it. Rooted from humble beginnings dating back to 1915, the conference that became the Pac-8 in 1964 is now gasping for air.

Thanks to the stunning announcement that staples USC and UCLA are bolting to the Big Ten in two years, the conference could implode in a matter of days. Loyalties have nothing on television media rights, which produce millions of dollars.

All along, the nation has been clamoring to watch USC battle Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey, on a beautiful late November afternoon. Hey, at least Ohio State or Michigan no longer need to worry about losing to the Trojans on New Year's afternoon anymore.

Sad to say that all those Utah fans who proudly plastered Pac-12 stickers on their cars may have to scrape them off now. Or maybe they could tape over the first part and make the stickers say Big 12.

Without the two Los Angeles universities, the Pac-12 can only survive by becoming a glorified Mountain West Conference. The possible solution could leave Utah administrators pleading to their Big 12 counterparts for admission.

"Not to panic, but it's a serious, serious deal, obviously," former longtime Utah athletic director Chris Hill said during an interview on The Zone.

One year ago, after Oklahoma and Texas announced intentions to leave for the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12 expanded to bring in BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston. At the time, the conference wanted to include Power Five teams and now could get its wish.

A 16-team Big 12 that includes Utah, Colorado, and both Pac-12 Arizona schools makes sense. And unless the Big Ten or SEC comes calling, Utah might have no other option.

Even then, it may only be a temporary home. Many prognosticators expect in the coming years to see the Big Ten and SEC gobble up more programs to form two super conferences, anywhere from 32 to 48 teams, leaving all the others to pick up the scraps.

"You've got to be one of the upper levels of the Big 12 because I think they're going to be cannibalized in eight years and there's going to be 30 to 40 schools in probably two leagues. Maybe 20-team leagues or something like that," Hill said.

"It's obviously monkey-see, monkey-do. If the SEC goes to 20, then I'm sure the Big Ten is going to go to 20 or vice-versa."

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Patrick is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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