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A great day for the future of the Pac-10

Posted by Jeff Nusser on June 10, 2008

Tom Hansen, of “worst commissioner in the country” fame, is going to retire from his post at the top of the Pac-10 at the end of next year. I could not be more ecstatic that the conference can finally now move out of the early ’80s and enter the 21st century with the rest of the BCS.

Hansen takes a lot of pot shots for a lot of things — most notably the hideous television contracts for football and basketball — and almost all of that criticism is fair. But don’t tell him that. In his mind, he’s merely carrying out the wishes of the institution presidents who sign his paycheck.

For example …

“Hansen said ESPN has never really been a viable option ‘because they have never had available time slots because of their other commitments that would fit our scheduling patterns. And because they didn’t have good time slots, they never wanted to make an attractive financial offer. … They would have given us Monday nights at 9 p.m., but some of our academic heads and presidents were not the least bit interested in that.’ ”

What he neglects to mention, of course, is that there’s no room on ESPN for the Pac-10 because when ESPN started becoming a major player in both college football and basketball, Hansen, rather than seeing an opportunity and aggressively pursuing a television contract with a national cable broadcaster, sat on the sidelines while more progressive commissioners passed him by.

In the other parts of the interview with the Times’ Bob Condotta, Hansen goes on to explain why the Pac-10 plays in just one New Year’s Day bowl game: “There are already four games (that morning) so the networks are either already taken or going against three other bowls, so (the presidents) are not interested in that.” Never mind the fact that it seems to be good enough for the other BCS conferences who seem to be thriving despite the morning “competition.” He also said that the presidents love the Holiday Bowl, and the conference’s strategy is to grow its smaller bowls into bigger bowls: “We think the Emerald Bowl (in San Francisco) will grow quite a bit in stature.”

So, let me get this straight: He loves the Holiday Bowl, where our second place team — which more often than not gets shafted from the BCS bowl picture thanks to a chronic lack of exposure — takes on the fourth place team from the Big 12? Or the Sun Bowl, where our third place team takes on the fifth place Big 12 team? Or the Emerald Bowl, where we take on the SEVENTH place ACC team?

Oh, and let’s not forget that Hansen is the one who said the Pac-10 would walk away from the BCS if a plus-one bowl model were ever instituted, because that would lead to an inevitable playoff and the other bowls would either become irrelevant or disappear altogether — pretending in his delusional state that they haven’t already diminished in stature thanks to the current BCS system.

Seriously, folks, this is the guy who has been leading your conference. And I bristle at the notion that he can do little more than just carry out the whims of his presidents, although Bob Condotta seems to sympathize with Hansen.

“That last comment reiterates a point I made in my earlier post on Hansen — a lot of these things involve a lot more than him. He’s an easy one to blame for some of these things, but if the presidents don’t want to do it, it’s not going to get done. As he told me at one point today ‘I don’t speak as an individual, but I reflect the institutions’ views.’ ”

Agreed, Hansen does work for the presidents. But, through athletics, what the institutions want more than anything is to, in no specific order, 1) Make money for their university; and 2) Raise the profile of their universities, which adds to enrollments, donations and grants, resulting in … you guessed it — more money. For the presidents, and for everyone else.

I guarantee, any commissioner that does those two things well will have the support of the Pac-10 presidents. And a strong commissioner who sees himself as more than a shill for the presidents can do those things. But it takes guts. Hansen never had those guts; he viewed himself as someone with little more power than an impotent Bud Selig at the beginning of his Major League Baseball commissioner reign. He was never willing to take a risk, never willing to put his job on the line with a gutsy decision.

There’s something to be said for protecting your job, but don’t play it safe on the one hand and then say you’ve done a great job on the other hand by pointing out that the conference has won 200-plus national championships on your watch and try and take credit for it — as if your “leadership” had jack crap to do with Arizona State’s fastpitch championship. Puh-leeze.

This is designed to be a year-long search, hence the timing of the announcement. And the timing couldn’t have been better. The awful TV contracts for both sports run out at the same time in 2011-12, and while that’s still a few years away, it will give the new commissioner plenty of time to work a new deal that actually will benefit the conference. And bowl affiliations are often reworked from year to year, so there’s plenty of work that can be done there right away.

My greatest fear, though, is that the Pac-10 doesn’t see any need to deviate from what it’s been doing and will hire one of Hansen’s underlings to toe the party line. Here’s to hoping that these presidents are forward-thinking men — stop laughing! — who want to hire someone to take this conference into the future.

Hansen’s right that this is the conference of champions. The fact that it doesn’t get more money or recognition for that is a travesty for which he is directly responsible. Good riddance.


16 Responses to “A great day for the future of the Pac-10”

  1. […] about devoting a whole post to this, but I really can’t say it any better than Nuss over on WSU Hoops. I echo the sentiment that it is time for the Pac-10 to move forward, with a new commissioner that […]

  2. Grady said

    Excellent post. It is so easy to hide behind the university presidents as if they are some dark force working together to maintain the status quo in the Pac-10. And yet Tom Hansen has refused to make many of the improvements that have come so easily to the other BCS conferences.

    It’s obvious that Hansen has good intentions for the conference, but just like the Doba era in football good intentions do not always lead to great results. I hope the Pac-10 uses this as an opportunity to move forward.

  3. Grady said

    And ignore the first comment – it’s weird how wordpress does that whenever you link another blog’s post.

  4. Nuss said

    The good news is, there’s been an influx of forward-thinking presidents, athletics wise, starting with the two in this state. Let’s hope they can convince some of their brethren that there’s more to this thing than what Hansen sold them on. I’m guessing Hansen just told them all, “This is the way it is,” and they bought it. It’s time to start rocking the boat, Dr. Emmert and Dr. Elson.

  5. Other Mike said

    I knew the Pac-10 was poorly run, but I had no idea it was this bad. Thanks for the enlightenment.

    I just hope this change starts us down the road to hiring competent officials.

  6. Neil Diamond said

    A mentally challenged monkey would have accomplished all Hansen has and more. Can’t imagine anyone who would be worse than Hansen? Along the same line, how can our officials get any worse?

  7. Phil said

    I could have done without the picture of Hansen, however. Looks creepy, like he got his start in Roger Corman movies. Reminds me of a former vice principal in junior high whose name also was Hansen. Possibly his dad?–It was in San Francisco, 1961.

  8. Andy said

    Is it just me, or does Hansen resemble the corrupt warden in the Shawshank Redemption?

  9. Nuss said

    You decide.

  10. MikeR said

    Is it just me, or does Hansen resemble the corrupt warden in the Shawshank Redemption?

    “I’ll cast you down with the Sodomites!”

    Personally, I think he looks like Kenny Mayne, if Kenny was 40 years older and beaten down by life.

  11. Nuss said

    And uglier.

  12. Sean said

    You forgot to mention he is a Husky and was also one of the original people who pushed to keep the Cougs out of the Pac-10 for a while (when it was the Pac-5).

    The guy lets a personal agenda, whether it be with individual teams or personal glory of attaining a regional network contract vs a National contract, dictate what happened in the conference.

    The bad Pac-10 officiating has also been noted many times in the West Coast papers – I’m thinking this is the same guy that turned a blind eye to that as well.

  13. Bongo said

    Hi, mi name is Bongo!

    I like to typ on the Cmputr! Please mak me the new Pac-10 commisioner!

    I do better job than Tom! I promize!


    Bongo the typing Chimp!

  14. Mike L said

    Bill Moos time!!!!

  15. Dave said

    Do you think Tom uses hairspray or gel to get that look? Maybe some mousse?

    That my friends is the best I can say about Tom Hansen, someone should investigate him for allowing Pac-10 refs to get so bad.

  16. Phil said

    Please take the picture down. I am having nightmares seeing this face in my sleep. Put up Rachel Welch or Jessica Simpson, or Golda Meir. Anyone but him!

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