If the Pac-12 really wants to consider itself a major football conference, it needs to start providing something beyond a minor conference atmosphere.
Too many stadiums throughout the conference are waltzing stadiums, where a good team faces little resistance from the home crowd.
Here are some weekend examples: There were around 40,000 fans inside Memorial Stadium, which seats 63,000, for the Cal-USC game and many of those were Trojans’ fans. There was an announced crowd of 48,042 at Stanford Stadium to watch UCLA face the Cardinal. But the crowd count is irrelevant because Cardinal fans are renowned for their apathy.
The announced attendance was 36,651 at Arizona to watch the Wildcats play Utah, the Wildcats’ smallest crowd since 1997 and the second smallest since 1982.
Arizona is a waltzing stadium. So is Stanford. And Cal. And Arizona State. And Oregon State. And Washington State. And …
Washington (when it wins), Oregon State (when it wins) and Washington State (when it wins) are tough places to play.
But even if Washington State sells out Friday night’s game against fifth-ranked USC, it will still be less than 36,000 in the house.
Do you really want to compare this to the SEC? South Carolina had 71,821 at Williams-Brice Stadium for Louisiana Tech. Kentucky had a sellout crowd of 62,945 at Kroger Field for Florida. And lost, 28-27.
You think the crowd made a difference in those games? I haven’t even mentioned the traditional hostile atmospheres like LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee. The point is the crowd makes it more difficult. It makes the home team play better. It causes false starts.
USC and Washington won’t really deal with anything like tough SEC crowds. So there’s less chance for upsets. Remember that when a team goes 8-1 or 9-0 in the Pac-12.
Who is more likely to be fired first? Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez or UCLA coach Jim Mora? Rodriguez is in a little tougher spot because he was not hired by new Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke.
But UCLA ranks last in the nation in rushing defense (130th) and 124th in two other categories (scoring defense, total defense). Plus, there are always stories about Mora being difficult to get along with even during good times, so maybe he is on thinner ice.
With Josh Rosen expected to turn pro, there’s little reason to keep Mora. One question for Arizona is can they find someone better than Rodriguez, who did take the Wildcats to the Pac-12 title game in 2014.