Bigger college football leagues, more games, maybe a playoff

Just when Seattle sports fans can hardly take any more Mariners, college football jumps up to provide a distraction.
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Just when Seattle sports fans can hardly take any more Mariners, college football jumps up to provide a distraction.

The college sports-league shuffle came as a fragrant relief for Seattle-region sports fans. The local enthusiasts all week (actually for most of the season) had been straying (well, fleeing) from the strengthening scent of a Mariners season that may prove even more odoriferous than the eye-watering 2008 campaign.

Many thought the Wednesday (June 9) date with Texas was the rankest game all year, with Ian "The Smell" Snell and Luke "The Stench" French giving up runs like threatened skunks give up you know what. To paraphrase the song, they called it fetid Wednesday but Thursday was just as foul, what with Ryan "The Rancid Whiff" Rowland-Smith giving up 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings and bloating his earned-run average to a revoltin' 6.62.

Indeed, with the M's now on a pace to finish 62-100 (though they'd have to win 39 more times to make that happen), local sports enthusiasts would've gladly changed the subject to lawn darts, dwarf-tossing, or blind-fold tennis ("endless love," as it's known).

Mercifully, then, we have college sports, which is to say, THE college sport: football. As I write this Friday (June 11) midday, it still isn't clear how the expanded Pac-10 conference will look in 2012. There had been rumors that league officials, locked in something of a go-fish grudge match with the nominal Big 10 (it's actually been the Big 11 for the two decades since Penn State joined), may have been looking beyond the acquisition of five more south-central programs to go along with the corralling of the Colorado Buffaloes.

But why stop there? As long as they were shopping, shouldn't Pac-10 and Big-10 officials also consider annexing, say, from the Canadian Football League? Why not also add to each conference some of the more popular fantasy-league teams?

Various astute observers have noted that the program-grab, which may soon result in a Pac-16 and a Baker'ꀙs Dozen Big-10, is about revenue. This is scarcely profound because isn't just about everything about revenue?

From the perspective of Pac-10 conference officials, it's also about time zones. Historically, the only two time zones of interest to the world sports establishment have been the Eastern and Central. Anything that happens west of the fold in the map may as well have taken place in, well, fantasy leagues.

Sports arbiters from the right-side half of the United States had believed that there is only one program west of Texas. Now, with the University of Southern California having been emasculated by sanctions, there evidently is no college football on the sunset side of the Rockies.

The East Coast bias is understandable. Those who have traveled back there during autumn are aware of the scant regard given to West Coast college games, especially the growing number played at 7 p.m. Pacific time. You don'ꀙt believe in an East Coast bias? Then think about this: If Jake Locker played for Notre Dame, Ohio State, or Florida, wouldn't he already have been given the 2010 Heisman Trophy?

One way to mitigate the bias's time-related problem would have been to play West Coast games at 9 am Pacific (or "noon," as it'ꀙs known Back East). But there wasn't much support here for this idea among the many who believe that, while 9 am is a suitable time to start drinking beer in stadium parking lots, the actual game-playing should wait until 1 or 4 or 7 pm.

Much of the advantage of having expanded college-sports conferences is said to be the prospect of season-ending playoff games. The winner from the traditional Pac-8 (Huskies, Cougs, Ducks, Beavs, Cardinal, Bears, Bruins and, someday, perhaps, Trojans) could meet the champ among the eight Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas schools.

The money would be lovely but college-football schedules already have been expanded to levels that calendars can't accommodate. In 2008, for example, the Huskies played games during parts of the final five months of the year.

Adding playoff games also creates a layer of postseason activity that may well lead to an eventuality backed by sports fans from Barack Obama on down, which is to say, a national college-football playoff tourney.

There's a way to crowd in all this college football that might not be seen (or smelled) as bad by those who have self-identified as Mariners fans. If the latter could anticipate Husky football starting in, say, early August, it would mean only having to endure the malodorous M's for four months a year.


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