Patrick Kinahan: Pursuit of money destroys rich Pac-12 tradition

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By Usa Express Daily

Estimated read time: 3-4

SALT LAKE CITY — Chalk it up to greed, the motivation behind the choice to trash a century of rich tradition.

In a span of 13 months, with UCLA and USC leading the way, the dollar obliterated the Pac-12 and much of its 108-year history. Take the money and run, but never again spew on about the best interests of the student athlete.

Nothing matters more than the bottom line in college athletics, as last week proved beyond a doubt.

Once Oregon and Washington announced plans to join the two Los Angeles institutions in leaving for the Big Ten in time for the 2024-25 academic year, Utah and the two Arizona schools had no choice but to follow Colorado in going to the Big 12 next summer. For Utah, the love affair with the Pac-12 that began with a celebration on the capital steps in 2011 ended with a disappointing thud.

It’s hard to blame Utah bosses and the like bolting for bigger bucks. They have plenty of mouths to feed.

Five months ago, with his infamous “Give me a break” tweet, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan insisted the remaining 10 schools in Pac-12 were unified in staying together. Fast forward to Friday, after a tumultuous week for the conference, he’s now selling that joining the Big 12 “represents the best interests of the University of Utah, our-student athletes, staff, alumni and our tremendous fans.”

He’s right; Utah’s hand was forced. But all those exhausting plane trips thousands of miles away to the Eastern time zone can’t be in the best interests of the athletes, some of whom care about academics.

Bad enough that late Saturday night kickoffs often force visiting football teams to arrive home early Sunday mornings, throwing off body clocks for an entire day. Games at far-flung locations will make it worse, a truth that already has led to athletes across the Pac-12 to air their grievances on the impending extended travel.

In a social media post, Arizona State softball player Shannon Cunningham spoke for many peers by writing: “I chose to play in the Pac-12 because of the ability to play close to home and in front of family. I chose the PAC so my family didn’t have to worry about far travel or giving up all their vacation time just to come see me. This affects athletes in every sport + academics.”

“I think the charm of college athletics is unfortunately leaving the building as we speak,” prominent Oregon booster Pat Kilkenny told The Athletic. “It’s not about conference alignment. It’s just about the prioritization of money over everything.”

No argument here. On many levels, locally and throughout the western region, it stinks.

For decades, the Utes dreamed of making the big-time and finally the fantasy became reality. The relationship was a match made in heaven between the conference and the community, with each lavishing love on the other.

Pac-12 officials were giddy over the enthusiasm Utah fans generated around the state. The conference was thrilled to see a regularly packed Rice-Eccles Stadium, accompanied by year-round media attention directed at the football program.

Just like that, now it’s all over. That old phrase in this case needs to be amended to “hard-come, easy go.”

But, hey, the Big 12 television deal doles out more dinero than the conference Utah fans worshipped practically to the point of a religious experience. In the name of money, it was essentially buck off, Pac-12.

Get ready for those history-rich battles with West Virginia, Iowa State, Central Florida, et al. At least the four defectors to the Big 12 didn’t blow off in-state conference rivalries like Oregon and Washington did.

At least Utah and BYU are back together, instantly making it the best rivalry in the Big 12. Let’s hope commissioner Brett Yormark doesn’t believe the ridiculous Rumble in the Rockies (Utah vs. Colorado) was anything more than another conference game.

As always in these situations, we play the blame game. From former commissioner Larry Scott to the current boss, George Kliavkoff, and university administrators, culprits are aplenty.

Not that it matters anymore. The Pac-12, as we know it, is dead, killed by money.

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Patrick is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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