* The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season (and twice-a-week in the summer). This edition, from Feb. 18, has been made available in archived form …
USC and UCLA: ‘Glory Daze’
The Hotline hit the history books Saturday to gain context on the current woebegone situations at Arizona and UCLA, which are in ninth and 10th place, respectively — a jaw-dropping double fail for the Pac-12’s top programs.
The Bruins and Wildcats have accounted for eight of the conference’s 10 berths in the Final Four — and its only two national championships — since the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams.
Fortunately, a friend of the Hotline has added even more perspective to the Pac-12’s issues writ large.
Chris Dufresne, the longtime college football writer for the L.A. Times, produced a column on the current state of the Los Angeles schools for his website, TMGcollegesports.
Dufresne placed the combined 2018-19 performance of USC and UCLA in both major sports in historical context and found that this shapes up as their worst year of competition in more than seven decades.
“What we are seeing this year, if this Marina Del Rey yacht isn’t turned around, could end up the worst collective since the early World War II years,’’ Dufresne wrote in a column titled ‘USC and UCLA Living in the Glory Daze.’
He added: “The larger point is this modern-day presentation of USC and UCLA is appallingly rare and is playing competitive limbo with a historical bar.”
The Hotline is frequently criticized by fans of the other 10 schools, who argue that poor performance by the L.A. blue bloods doesn’t preclude success in other corners of the conference.
While true, there’s a reason USC football and UCLA basketball have more national titles in their respective sports than all the other Pac-12 schools combined: tradition, resources and access to talent.
The Pac-12 hasn’t won a national title in football since USC ’04 or in basketball since Arizona ’97.
When the programs with the easiest path to the national championship flounder and flail, it reduces the prospects for glory for the conference as a whole. — Jon Wilner.
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Hot off the Hotline
• ‘Saturday Night Five‘ addressed USC’s underachieving season on the court — although the same could be said for the Trojans on the field — in addition to the rise of the Mountain schools, Washington’s grip on the regular-season title and changes on the Oregon football staff. And as mentioned at the top, we’ve got historical perspective on the Bruins and Wildcats.
• Hotline columnist Brian Bennett cast an eye to Las Vegas and broke down the race for the three available byes in the Pac-12 tournament (assuming Washington has one locked up). Not since 2012 has an opening-round participant won the conference tournament.
• ICYMI: The Friday newsletter piggybacked off the Hotline’s deep dive into the Pac-12 Networks’ audience and revenue issues: There are no good options for the networks specifically, although the conference has an escape hatch. (Note: The newsletter was delayed 10 hours because of a technical problem; it was resent this morning.) Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form: we need your support: Like so many other providers of local journalism across the country, the Hotline’s parent website, mercurynews.com, recently moved to a subscription model. A few Hotline stories will remain free each month (as will this newsletter), but for access to all content, you’ll need to subscribe at a rate of just 12 cents per day for 12 months. And thanks for your loyalty.
In the news
(Note: The Hotline newsletter includes links to sites that could require a subscription once the number of free views has been reached.)
• Why did Oregon cut loose defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt? Why might the move improve staff and team chemistry? NBC Sports Northwest takes a look at the friction between Leavitt and coach Mario Cristobal.
• Did the Ducks mislead recruits by waiting until after National Signing Day to announce Leavitt’s departure? Not according to 247sports analyst Greg Biggins, who addressed the topic with the Oregonian’s John Canzano.
• Washington defensive coordinator/recruiter extraordinaire Jimmy Lake once again said no to Nick Saban. The Seattle Times’ Matt Calkins writes on Lake’s happiness on Montlake.
• Washington State’s Robert Valencia has been granted another year of eligibility, boosting the Cougars’ depth up front. (They have four starters returning, plus quality backups.)
• Midway through spring practice, Arizona State has “too many balls on the ground,’’ according to Herm Edwards.
Select men’s basketball games included (all times Pacific).
Feb. 20: Stanford at Arizona State (6 p.m., ESPN2)
Feb. 20: Utah at Washington (8 p.m., FS1)
Feb. 23: Colorado at Washington (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Feb. 26: Start of NFL Scouting Combine
Feb. 28: ASU spring game (6 p.m., Pac-12 Arizona)
March 13-16: Pac-12 tournament (Las Vegas)
March 17: Selection Sunday
On the Hardwood
• Colorado athletic director Rick George never lost faith in Tad Boyle. His reward for sound judgement: A five-game winning streak.
• Oregon State swept the Civil War for the first time since 2010 with a dominant second half.
• Utah’s performance at home? Mystifying, to say the least. (The Utes have lost more conference games at home than they’ve won.)
• Arizona won’t continue to flounder, writes the Daily Star’s Greg Hansen: “This stuff doesn’t last with powerhouse teams.”
• Cal coach Wyking Jones said this weekend: “We took a major step back.” The Hotline says: How is that possible?
• Stanford swept the L.A. schools and appears to have found its groove, just in time for a Pac-12 tournament run. Then again, the Bruins and Trojans don’t present a high bar to clear.
• UCLA could not get Mark Few “for $100 million.”
• A section devoted to content on Pac-12 Olympic sports.
• UCLA has turned the floor exercise into art in coach Valorie Kondos Field’s final year.
• Register-Guard columnist Austin Meek traces the evolution of women’s college basketball in Oregon, from the dawn of the Title IX era to today’s expected Civil War sellout.
• The story of golfer Yu-Sang Hou, from Taiwan to Georgia to Arizona to a national title.
• Pac-12 basketball has crazy finishes on the women’s side, too: ASU stunned Utah with the final 20 points.
• Not specific to any category but noteworthy for sports fans in general: The late Irv Brown, a Colorado sports legend who passed away earlier this month, was honored Saturday night. The ceremony included video tributes from Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski. (Yeah, Brown was a big deal.)
What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
• Spring practice previews of the North and South divisions. One team is underway and a slew hit the field in the next few weeks.
• Exactly what would it mean for the Pac-12 to sell an equity stake in a newly-formed company holding its media rights? The Hotline has pondered, naturally.
• A new podcast should be posted Thursday. Our focus: the momentous legal challenge to the NCAA’s economic model. Judge Claudia Wilken could rule on the Kessler case at any time.
The next newsletter is scheduled for Wednesday. Like it? Please forward this email to friends (sign up here). If you don’t, or have other feedback, let me know: Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.