From anticipation to shock to despair. I guess Cal fans are used to this, so you'd better sit down at this grim rumor.
Figures we should have yet another surreal bit of news in a day full of surreal news stories. Block U is pretty firm in its belief that Utah will be receiving an invite very soon, so the Pac-12 is probably happening (of course, we all thought the Pac-16 was happening). The biggest news developing? The potential breakup of the California schools. Cal and the Furd could end up in the Pac-12 North while USC and UCLA find themselves on the other side of the bracket.
Sources close to C.U. have told CBS4 Sports the Buffs are projected to be in a 6 team division in the new Pac-10. The Buffs will be joined by USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State and probably Utah, which is expected to receive an invitation to join the Pac-10.
The remaining teams in the conference that will make up the Pac-10 North are: Cal-Berkeley (WTF. WHAT OTHER CAL IS THERE?), Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State
This perplexes me a little geographically (I don't know any map where Boulder and Salt Lake City are south of the Bay Area), but it makes sense financially--stacking one division full of California schools would've been very unbalanced in terms of television, recruiting, ticket interest, you name it. Cal, UCLA & USC have dominated Pac-10 TV football telecasts for much of the last decade, and there was no way the Northwest schools would've agreed to this sort of division unless they got at least two of the four California schools on their side of the bracket to guarantee better distribution and ability to recruit in the southern markets.
Additionally, they learn from the Big 12's mistake of having all the Texas schools placed on one side of the conference. By default that transferred the center of gravity to the Big 12 South, part of the reason Colorado and Nebraska were eager to flee the conference in the first place. The more geographical breakup of divisions would've relegated the Pacific Twelve Northern division to an inferior position while the Pacific Twelve Southern division would've prospered.
The biggest beneficiaries athletically have to be USC & UCLA. The two schools no longer have to make their dreaded northwest stops to the Oregon schools every year (and now with Washington rising, they don't have to worry about them either until the conference title) and who knows what happens with their Bay Area ties. Utah would be their most daunting challenger, but it's a far cry from the madness of Autzen or Husky Stadium. Both of those schools with their vast Los Angeles and Southern California recruiting pools are in prime position to dominate their division if they have the coaching to make it work.
The biggest losers have to be us (well the Furd too, but no one cares about the Furd). We do have to make the northwest stops, and even though we've won at every one of those stadiums the past decade, those are FAR tougher places to play than the LA schools or the Arizonas. We've only won once in Autzen, and we haven't won in Seattle since 2005.
But the biggest issue for us would be the dissolution of our traditional matchups with USC and UCLA. If we move to an eight game conference schedule, there's no way we'd play each other every year anymore. A nine game schedule allows for flexibility (maybe play both of them with one flex opponent, or one of them alternating years?), but the mere possibility of losing these rivalries would be a tough pill to swallow. The Northwest schools will want their LA matchups too, and there just aren't enough games to go around. Someone is going to lose in this scenario, and Cal could be hurt.
The other potentially feasible breakup of divisions came from Scootie, who gave this zipper division format:
The idea of the zipper is that it is a logical split that splits up the rivalries. Unless it’s the world’s most complicated zipper, it sort of has to go up the center of each of them. If it’s done any way other than east/west, it would be a bit odd, don’t you think? Hot colors/cool colors? North/south in the rivalries? That would be North: WSU, OSU, Cal, UCLA, ASU, and Utah, and South: UW, Oregon, Stanford, USC, Arizona and Colorado. I’d like our chances of winning the division, but doubt the Souths would go for it. :)
This way every California school would be guaranteed at LEAST two opponents, as the rivalry games would be played at the end of the year and each team (and safe to say that the California schools steer the wagon in the Pac-10 now that Texas is out of our crosshairs). The Northwest schools each get two games against California schools. Logistically, everything works...except one division looks mildly prettier than the other in terms of the sexy matchups (hint: It's not the one with USC in it).
I didn't like the zipper scenario too much the first time I saw it. I like it a lot more now, as every Golden Bear in California ponders the possible end of our state football rivalries eight decades old.