Seriously, how did it get so bad? Who do we blame?
Watching Pac-12 teams play in this bowl season has been a gong show. First, UCLA cancels the Holiday Bowl against North Carolina State at the last minute. Then, Oregon lays an egg against Oklahoma. Washington State follows suit, getting beat by Central Michigan. Oregon State and Arizona State lost their bowl games as well.
So who do we blame here? For one, we must hold Larry Scott accountable. He did nothing after creating the Pac-12 Network, which didn't even survive Dish Network. He also relocated the Pac-12 headquarters from Walnut Creek, California to San Francisco. Seriously, when has San Francisco produced strong leaders aside from Steve Jobs (who was in Cupertino, by the way)?
There's also "Pac-12 After Dark," which doesn't produce good ratings. If Mr. Scott knew anything about making money, he wouldn't be trotting out 10:00 PM games for the Eastern Time Zone. He also loved himself some trap games and parity, which included Oregon occasionally losing to a team like Utah or Stanford. The Pac-12 should've never let Scott run around like a little kid, destroying everything in his path.
Yet, it's also the fault of various athletic directors in the Pac-12. Many football programs in the Pac-12 are regional programs, only pulling in recruits from the Western part of the United States. That includes Arizona, Oregon State, California, and Washington. These programs don't do enough to go for recruits in different parts of the country, i.e. the Midwest and the South.
Luckily, there's a beacon of hope for the conference. Enter Lincoln Riley, who's dominated the Big 12 with the Oklahoma Sooners. He has a knack for pulling in the best recruits from California, which was proven by him flipping old OU recruits Malachi Nelson and Raleek Brown to USC. He also got Domani Jackson back to USC over Alabama, making his class stronger. Thanks to Mike Bohn, USC's athletic director, there's some hope for a return to glory.
Riley will enter a similar situation at USC, where the Pac-12 is basically free real estate. Mario Cristobal left Oregon and there are the aforementioned regional schools like Utah and Washington State. The Conference of Champions will hope to find a resurgence with the Trojans' new head coach leading the way. Otherwise, the Pac-12 will continue to spiral into irrelevance.