For ultimate parity, make it the Pac-16

By Sam Spiller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 19, 1996

The Pacific 10 Conference remains one of the elite conferences in the nation, but recently it has become almost mundane. Every year, Southern Cal, UCLA and Stanford are the Pac-10's top choices of young athletes. USC has money, UCLA has movie stars and Stanford is (as the Collins twins could tell you) Stanford.

Some years the other schools get a break. This year Arizona State is going to the Rose Bowl and Arizona has the top recruiting class in the country for men's basketball. Yet on the whole, the Pac-10 lacks parity.

Enter the Pac-16. It would consist of the teams already in the Pac-10, plus new members Brigham Young, Utah, New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Diego State and Fresno State.

The schools would then make up two divisions. The Pac-16 North would comprise Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, California, Utah and BYU. The South would have Fresno State, San Diego State, UCLA, USC, ASU, Arizona and the two New Mexico schools.

Imagine the possibilities: Jerry Tarkanian's resurgent Fresno State basketball team versus the Wildcats for the Southern Division title. In the North, Utah and Stanford would face off. The winners of each division would play each other for the overall crown and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The top three teams from each division would also make it.

The state rivalries would remain intact. The Trojans would still play the Bruins every year. The key to the new conference would be the establishment of new rivalries, such as Fresno State and SDSU.

An interesting, and perhaps essential, question is whether these schools have the type of athletic programs that would allow them to compete in the Pac-10. All of these schools are up and coming. The revenue that comes in from being a Pac-16 team would allow them to bolster any weak sports. Their recruiting would naturally improve, being that they are in the best conference in the West. From football to track, all of these schools could field competitive teams in less than five years.

It is a winning situation for all the schools. The established schools get to play in smaller divisions against smaller programs. They will most likely beat these new teams until the newcomers become acclimated to the level of competition.

However exciting, or even logical, this may sound, it will probably never happen. Then again, a bunch of university big-wigs might just sit around after reading my column and decide it was a good idea after all.

But I won't hold my breath.

Sam Spiller covers volleyball for the Wildcat.