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 Roles reversed in finale as Cowboys look ahead to 2018 
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Nota Roles reversed in finale as Cowboys look ahead to 2018
It's hard to imagine the Pacific 12 Conference without Washington State University. For more than nine decades, WSU has been a member of whatever has passed for what is now the PAC 12, beginning with the old Pacific Coast Conference, which was formed in 1915 and joined by the Cougars in 1917 (one year before Stanford entered and five before USC signed on). Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Pac 12 football knows that there is money involved with it. Lots and lots of money.

A survey taken by USA Today in 2012 showed that the athletic departments of seven Pac 12 schools spent $55 million or more between 2006 and 2011 though the figures excluded big spenders USC and Stanford, which as private schools were not required to divulge figures. In that same period, WSU lagged Wholesale NFL Jerseys: Cheap Jerseys Black Friday Deals behind its conference brethren at just over $40 million.

Meanwhile, Colorado was spending $59 million in the Big 12 while Utah had $38 million in expenditures as Mountain West members. The University of Washington was second on the Pac 12 list behind Nike subsidized Oregon at $68 million. Conversely, a typical Mountain West school might spend $35 million to $40 million, while a WAC athletic department could be in the $20 million to $30 million range, according to the USA Today report.

That's a lot of money no matter how you look at it. Oregon, Washington and UCLA took the smallest subsidies of $2 million to $3 million each (or about 3 to 4 percent of their revenues), while Washington State (28.8 percent) and Oregon State (30.5 percent) received the most.

Granted, WSU received a smaller subsidy by percentage than every MWC school besides Utah and every WAC school not named Boise State or Fresno State. But that's still $11.5 million subsidized out of the $39.9 million spent in Pullman, where students and parents may have noticed a rise in tuition and fees over the years.

Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott speaks at a press conference before the Pac 12 championship game Dec. 7 in Tempe, Ariz. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Last month we learned the WSU athletic department is staring at a projected $10 million deficit by June 30. According to Sportspress Northwest's Howie Stalwick, athletic director Bill Moos attributed that to $8 million in bond payments kicking in for recent Martin Stadium improvements plus construction of WSU's new football operations building.

WSU athletics had been turning a profit the previous five years, and expected Pac 12 Network television shares should reduce the deficit the next two years before a projected return to profitability in 2017. Which brings up what may be a sore spot with Larry Scott.

Since taking over as the then Pac 10 commissioner in 2009, the Harvard educated Scott has been very proactive with the conference's growth, adding Colorado and Utah two years ago while starting up TV's Pac 12 Network. The latter has been a game changer as a collection of six regional networks (including Pac 12 Washington) and a national network through deals with various cable and satellite providers.

Although the it has resulted in a lot of nighttime football games to maximize exposure, the Pac 12 China jerseys Network has brought in millions of dollars that are split among the member schools money that has been a lifeline to smaller programs such as WSU and Oregon State. However, will that lifeline eventually become a noose in Pullman?

Scott is obviously a smart man who understands how media works and knows how many people live in Pac 12 markets, of which Pullman and Eastern Washington lag behind the rest of the conference. In addition, Scott presumably can watch his own network and see thousands of empty seats at Martin Stadium, where just 20,617 were on hand when the Cougars hosted 25th ranked Arizona last season and another 23,112 hardy souls showed up for WSU's win over Utah, which clinched the school's first bowl eligible season in 10 years.

If you're Scott, you have to be at least a little concerned that non league games against small time programs like Southern Utah and Idaho are outdrawing conference contests in Pullman, and all those empty seats don't look good on TV screens. In 2012, WSU once again brought up the rear in the Pac 12 attendance derby with an average of 30,252 people at six home games (including a well attended "home" game in Seattle against Oregon). Martin Stadium's capacity is 35,117.

Eleventh on the list was Stanford with an average 43,343 clicks of the turnstiles in Palo Alto, Calif. All kinds of reasons are summarily trotted out for the low turnout at Cougars home games. "It was at night. It wasn't on a Saturday. "Students were gone for Thanksgiving. The weather was lousy." But none of the excuses can replace unsold tickets.

It should be mentioned here that the Mountain West is not to college football what Elba was to Napoleon. The MWC is arguably the strongest conference outside the five "supermajors," with five current members averaging more than 30,000 in attendance (in general, the overall average is generally around 26,000, according to the NCAA) while six teams played in bowl games last December and broke even. MWC member Boise State proved a mid major can break through into a BCS bowl game, and win, when it played under new Washington coach Chris Petersen.

Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner played in college cheap jerseys for Utah State. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Some 150 MWC alumni played in the NFL last season, 10 of them suiting up for Super Bowl combatants. Perhaps Seahawks fans have heard of Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin? They both played for Utah State. It's not the Pac 12, but the Mountain West is hardly the Sun Belt Conference, either.

The bottom line is that Washington State University is trying to compete at the Pac 12 level with Mountain West level support, and the Cougs could be in real trouble if not for that TV money coming in every year.

Scott might wonder what kind of future his conference has in Pullman whenever he casts a glance toward Provo, Utah, where Brigham Young University draws 60,000 per game for football, another 16,000 for men's basketball, has its own cable/satellite TV network showing BYU games in several sports, and boasts a built in fanbase of Latter Day Saints church members numbering in the millions across the hemisphere. There are few schools in the West that can match up with that, and there's no way a savvy guy like Scott is unaware of that.

So after all this doomsday scene setting, do I think the Pac 12 will eventually drop Washington State and replace it with a more attractive option like Brigham Young? No.

If anything, the Pac 12 may be more likely to expand by another two to four schools than to cut out a weaker member like WSU, so I don't expect to see the Cougars aligning with the MWC and schools like Boise State, Hawaii or (shudder) Colorado State anytime soon. Plus, in Bill Moos and Mike Leach, Wazzu appears to have the right men in place at their respective jobs to help raise their program's profile within the Pac 12 and nationally.


Sab Ene 06, 2018 3:48 am
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