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Dan Bickley

Pac-12, ASU still playing from behind in college football’s 2020 landscape

This Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, file photo, shows the Pac-12 logo during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Arizona State and Kent State, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

Before college football was so rudely interrupted, Arizona State was in the fast lane.

Its program was gaining real momentum and elevation. The Sun Devils were recruiting at an elite level. Capitalizing on a profound down cycle at USC. Flourishing under Herm Edwards, a paternal figure perfectly suited for a new era of college football, a man who is more servant-leader than ruthless exploiter of young talent.

The pandemic halted all of that. The Pac-12 only made things worse.

The conference finally addressed its football problem on Thursday, taking the plunge, voting on a return to play on the weekend of Nov. 6-7.

Or one week later than necessary.

They will play a 7-game season that will likely earn zero consideration from the College Football Playoff selection committee, even with ASU’s Paola Boivin entrenched on the selection committee. Unless Oregon or Jayden Daniels runs the table and blows everyone away, nothing good will come of this. Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and Oklahoma will be chosen to compete for a national championship. The obvious solution of an 8-team playoff and guaranteed conference participation will never cross anyone’s mind. This entire exercise will go down as a net loss for ASU.

Don’t get me wrong. More football is good. I deeply enjoy the Territorial Cup. And, locally, ASU president Dr. Michael Crow helped score a $14 million investment from the state of Arizona for its three major universities, providing “point-of-need” testing to all students.

That tells me ASU and the conference were very concerned with the appearance of overserving its football players at the expense of everyone else, and not treating its students the same. That would be a logical assumption if ASU suddenly offered rapid-result testing to its football players, allowing them access to university activities currently denied to others.

Crow is smart enough to know that kowtowing to short-term football money would cost the conference a fortune in the future, thereby strengthening the players’ demands for unionization, a share of the profits and a seat the bargaining table.

They most definitely don’t want that.

But unless the Pac-12 surprises everyone on the football field, the SEC, the Big Ten and the Big 12 will divvy up the postseason jackpot. And the Pac-12, a conference emasculated and exposed as the Big Ten’s wagging tail, will have a hard time living down their performance during the Pandemic of 2020.

Here’s when the bill comes due:

In most criminal cases, defense attorneys need only create reasonable doubt to save their clients. The same is effectively true of recruiting in college football and basketball. And there will be many questions raised by those seeking to steer West coast talent from ASU to elsewhere, to the Big 12 or SEC.

Questions like:

Why was the Pac-12 so late to the voting table, stuck with the low-ceiling of a 7-game season?

If the conference had “game-changing” technology on Sept. 3, why was there so much inertia? Why wasn’t anyone jumping on tables and screaming for football?

And really, son, do you want to give your precious college career to a conference that operates like this? Where fans don’t care if you play or not? Where even the head coaches were way too OK with no football in 2020?

And what about that gravy-sucking pig of a commissioner? Ewwwww.

The conference has been terribly damaged during this pandemic. Many of the wounds are self-inflicted, as usual. So celebrate the return of Pac-12 football, but don’t expect too much. Not now or at any point in the near future.

And that’s a shame for the sleeping giant in Tempe, the one that was finally out of bed and brushing his teeth in the bathroom.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier