The definition of manipulation: “The action of manipulating something in a skillful manner.” The Pac-12 scheduling committee fell short of this definition.
While the intention of fixing the schedule to get Oregon and USC in the conference championship worked out, it worked out in the exact worst way possible for the Conference of Champions.
The funny thing is, the Pac-12 got exactly what it wanted, and exactly what it deserved at the same time.
This article is going to examine how the west coast’s premier conference became the laughing stock of the nation.
Before the shortened season began, it was obvious that the preseason slate of games favored certain teams. In particular, it appeared that the Ducks and Trojans were offered a fast track to the conference championship, with the potential of making the College Football Playoff.
Oregon opened up their season against Stanford, who was coming off a 4-8 campaign and was tasked with replacing their starting quarterback after K.J. Costello transferred to Mississippi State.
Their next three matchups didn’t appear much tougher as they faced UCLA, Washington State, and Oregon State.
All things considered the Ducks were primed for a 4-0 start before ending their season at Cal, and hosting rival Washington.
But things didn’t turn out as planned and UO suddenly found themselves 3-2 and fighting just to make the Pac-12 Championship Game.
You guys know the rest, but what about USC’s preseason schedule.
With the exception of the Trojans home opener against Arizona State and sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels, the rest of their matchups appeared to be cakewalks.
Arizona is Arizona, Utah lost almost every notable player on their roster, and WSU/UCLA were not considered real contenders.
SC took advantage of their slate and unconvincingly marched their way to the Pac-12 Championship Game, a miracle onside kick against also ASU helped their cause.
We’re not going to go through all 12 team schedules, but for reference, here’s Arizona’s preseason slate – In their six-game campaign, they drew USC, Washington, Arizona State, and Cal. All four of these teams were thought to be at the very least, outside contenders to win the conference.
If you combine the Ducks and Trojans schedules, they drew three of the aforementioned squads.
But this isn’t a referendum on UO and USC; the respective schools did a phenomenal job of stacking their schedules before the pandemic hit. The Ducks had the third hardest slate in the country and were primed to the play Ohio State in the non-conference. SC had the most difficult slate in the nation and was scheduled to play Alabama and Notre Dame.
Enter the Pac-12 scheduling committee …
They let greed and the $6 million CFP bonus alter a level playing field.
As it stands, the conference got a $66 million base payout and a $4 million bonus for Oregon’s berth in the Fiesta Bowl.
But at what cost?
While the Pac-12 likely lost a large sum of money due to all of the teams dropping out of bowl games, the tarnished reputation may be the outstanding issue.
Nationally, The Conference of Champions was already thought of an inferior football league. After 2020, forget the inferior moniker, we’re now pitiful.
A non-division winning conference champion and a 0-2 bowl record speaks for itself.
Manipulation is an abhorrent tactic, but don’t worry the Pac-12 didn’t manipulate anything, there was nothing skillful about their actions.