DAN BICKLEY

My favorite Pac-12 memories as Washington says goodbye with title game vs. Michigan

Jan 8, 2024, 4:01 PM

An Arizona State press row seating reservation reads 'Ban Dickley.' (Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports)...

An Arizona State press row seating reservation. (Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports)

(Dan Bickley/Arizona Sports)

As a child, I was traumatized by Big Ten football. Sloth racing offered more thrills and high-speed adventure. Everything about the conference seemed tired and boring. Every head coach seemed craggy-faced and tyrannical.

By contrast, everything about the Pac-12 looked tanned and glamorous. The vivid skies surrounding the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day were a color I had never seen before, the bluest of hues that lit my soul on fire. I had no idea a winter day could be so cloudless, and I found myself gasping at footballs sailing through the air.

I would later learn these were called “forward passes.”

That same great conference was slated for execution on Monday night — without any hope of a midnight reprieve — as Washington faces Michigan in the national championship game. Just like that, the Pac-12 will be killed off by greed and hubris and traitors within.

I am still numb from the sudden death. I am still hoping there will be a resurrection in the near future, a reunion born from the geographical absurdities and the outlandish expenses that come with reckless, ridiculous expansion.

Until then, a personal tapestry of Pac-12 memories:

Dan Bickley’s favorite Pac-12 memories

— James Harden was 5-0 against Arizona. And 0-4 against Washington State.

— I had my choice of which local basketball team to cover on a road trip to Northern California in January 2000. I selected Arizona’s 68-65 victory over top-ranked Stanford in Palo Alto, a thrilling contest where Richard Jefferson broke his foot and Lute Olson won his 600th game. I was certain I had chosen wisely.

Until Eddie House dropped 61 on Cal later that night.

— The Pac-12 produced Jackie Robinson and Pat Tillman. Robinson wore No. 28 at UCLA before switching to 42 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Tillman wore No. 42 at ASU before switching to 40 in the NFL. Try finding a more courageous pair of heroes.

— The Pac-12 has featured so much greatness, mythology, and personality. To wit:

The lineage of great running backs at USC, from O.J. Simpson to Marcus Allen to Reggie Bush; the lineage of towering basketball figures at UCLA, from John Wooden to Lew Alcindor to Bill Walton; the sight of Tiger Woods sitting courtside at Stanford with his hat on backward; or Marshawn Lynch running roughshod at Cal like a thoroughbred kicking up sod. Or road trips to Pullman in late November, where bones froze, where grey skies hung low, and it looked like the end of the world. And by contrast, those shimmery sublime Saturdays on Lake Washington in Seattle, home of the Sailgate.

— Arizona’s football team entered the 1999 season as national championship contenders, and I was dispatched to cover their season debut against powerful Penn State in Happy Valley. The overmatched Wildcats were exposed and emasculated, losing 41-7. Linebacker LaVar Arrington was a holy terror and chants of “Over-rated” rained down upon Arizona’s sideline. It was an awful blow to the state and the school’s psyche. It took the program a long time to recover.

Me? I had spent the previous night at a dive bar in Harrisburg with Norm Frauenheim, a great writer and former colleague. I’m not sure I’ve ever recovered, either.

— Remy Martin left ASU and won a national championship at Kansas. Jayden Daniels left ASU and won a Heisman Trophy at LSU.

— That special night when I gazed into the student section at Sun Devil Stadium and noticed an extremely proud ASU fan holding up a “Ban Dickley” sign he had assembled from posterboard and marker.

If it wasn’t his shining moment, it was certainly mine.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

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