A grasp on sports: Bill Walton loves collegiate athletics, but he doesn’t love UCLA’s proposed move to the Big Ten

SPORT AT HAND • We can hardly wait for next Tuesday. Neither did our postman, we think. It’s election day and his burden should be a lot less strenuous afterwards. That thought led to another. If UCLA grads were allowed to vote, how many of them would vote to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten?


• The two thoughts buzzed through our heads almost simultaneously, largely because it’s impossible to avoid campaign publicity, and Bill Walton, who seems like a great candidate for governor of California on the We Miss The 70s party ticket, spoke yesterday about the upcoming move of the Bruins.

We can’t help but wonder if everything is connected.

Walton has been quiet since UCLA announced in June that it would be joining USC and jumping off the Pac-12’s ship. The goal? Hicksville. A conference full of cities that resemble Pullman. At least in the eyes of most Los Angeles residents.

That’s a simplistic (and wrong) view, of course, but it’s also not one that’s easy to change. Even Walton feels that way.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone other than UCLA’s senior athletic directors,” he wrote almost in verse in a statement to John Canzano, “who think this proposed move to the Big 10 is a good idea.” Every argument made by these senior ADs and why they like it is about money.

“The same advocates of moving to the Big 10 are the first people I’ve ever met in my life to claim economic hardship and restrictions in Los Angeles, and so on The answer lies in the Midwest.”

Good dig, Bill. I hope ESPN isn’t asking you to get poetic at a basketball game in Iowa City this season. But we included the entire section of his testimony because even Walton acknowledges the real reason behind the move.

Oh yes, the money.

We all know that’s wiping out the Bruins’ Pac-12 legacy. A sense of fiduciary duty. But is one actually needed in collegiate athletics?

Walton cites a number of reasons why he doesn’t think so, at least not to the extent that moving to the Big Ten represents. They are worth reading. And before you say, “That’s just Walton, he’s weird,” think about it for a second. Maybe he’s right.

Where is the money really going? To help the athletes who actually play the sports we love to watch on TV? Or buildings that will be obsolete in a decade, or countless behind-the-scenes employees growing through football programs like Kudzu, or perks that attract better players but do little to further the mission of educating them ?

Every dollar spent on academic aid is a dollar well spent. Every dollar spent on a new barber chair, a new sound system, or a vibrating dressing room seems like nothing more than a move to keep up with the Joneses, which spurs even more spending.

Maybe it’s time football got off the intercollegiate bus. Move into your own space. Being spun off, as conglomerates will, into a separate entity with university ties but not fueling them.

Let the NCAA or a new, less traditional entity run basketball and everything else. Divide the tournament billions evenly and eliminate the shares that reward NCAA winners. After all, isn’t winning its own reward?

If you win an NCAA title, great. If you make it through the tournament, great. If you offer your students/athletes the opportunity to compete and learn the lessons such competition provides, great. Financially, the reward should be the same for everyone. And should be enough for a school to fund its sports needs

View in the future. Imagine where we are going. The path the schools are now taking is not sustainable. Some universities have progressed to the point where physical education departments are only tangentially connected to the rest of the school. Facilities and opportunities cast a shadow over the core mission and threaten to engulf the rest of the university like an evil entity in a Marvel movie.

A change is required. Someone has to draw a line in the sand. Bill Walton chose this week. Maybe others will follow.

But most likely he, and everyone who agrees with him, will be rolled over.


WSU: The Cougars would like to run the ball more. And to do it effectively. But the latter needs players who are good at it. healthy players. This is currently not the case. Colton Clark addresses such things in this notebook today. … Elsewhere in Pac-12 and college football, the ultimate goal of high-end programs is to make the playoffs. The first rankings were published on Tuesday. Jon Wilner examines them in the Mercury News. Remember that they are something of a first quarter score. Interesting, but things can change the rest of the way. … Wilner also looks at possible bowl goals and shares Walton’s thoughts. … We linked the Walton comments in Canzano’s column above. …women’s basketball will most likely have an impact on the forthcoming media deal. … What are the odds of Washington leading the table? We can pass on an answer. … Oregon State, saying goodbye to a bye, should give the Huskies a run for their money Friday night. Finally, the beavers run against everyone. … Colorado is in last place in the Pac-12. The Buffs play first place picker Oregon this week. And there’s a bit of trash talk coming out of Boulder. That’s an interesting strategy Cotton. … Utah appears to have a more than competent backup quarterback. … Utah, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Oregon State are in the first CFP rankings. … The Trojans have a good young offensive lineman. … The Bruins meet Arizona State this Saturday. … Jayden de Laura found a replacement for Nick Rolovich in Arizona. … On basketball news, Washington easily won an exhibition game last night. … Is Stanford a utopia for some? … Arizona hosted Western Oregon in an exhibition game. The result was as expected. … A guard from Oregon has been on the road for a while.

gonzaga: We could have focused on GU playing a different show tonight. But the game against Warner Pacific in the Kennel (6 p.m., KHQ) will not be a competition. However, it is an opportunity for you to revisit this year’s team and for Theo Lawson to explain how it came about. … Theo, a well-known drying racket, also has this story on the Zags’ uniforms for the Nov. 11 game against Michigan State at the Abraham Lincoln. … Kentucky is also on the schedule this month. … Elsewhere in the WCC, BYU is making some changes to prepare for being in the Big 12 next season.

EMU: There are enough Eagles in the CFL that meeting them in a playoff game seems a bit old hat. But as Dave Cook tells us, there’s a slight difference this week. … Elsewhere in Big Sky, Montana hasn’t found the end zone enough lately. … Northern Colorado meets Portland State this week after a bye. … Weber State stayed the same spot in the ranking. … UC Davis rolled the dice last week, which meant players were rewarded. … On the basketball news, Northern Colorado had to rebuild the roster.

Preparations: Football on a Tuesday? Yes indeed. Dave Nichols was at University High last night when the GSL decided on their three postseason spots. West Valley prevailed from Kansas’ tiebreaker.

Seahawks: Have the Hawks already set too high expectations? What if they don’t win the NFC West? … Seattle hasn’t struck a trade deadline deal. Why not?

seafarer: It looked like the Phillies knew what pitches were coming last night. Ironic right? But they beat Lance McCullers Jr. and hit five homers in a 7-0 win. The World Series continues tonight.

Octopus: Seattle fought off a 5-4 win in Calgary last night. …Shane Wright doesn’t play much.


• We are realistic enough to understand that our thoughts above will not change anything. The status quo is too ingrained to make any major changes. As much as we wish, we accept our impotence in this area. We are forced to confront what is, not what we wish for. Keep that in mind for the not too distant future as we analyze Pac-12’s latest media deal and all of its financial implications. Especially how it relates to school on the street. See you later …


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