How the Pac-16 Pods Might Hurt Husky Recruiting in Los Angeles


Revised at 20:37pm 9/19/11 to clarify the effects of the pod-system. Thanks Horns4Pac…

With the Pac-16 right on the horizon, it seems as though you have to be careful what you wish for. Most people seem to think that if the Pac-16 comes to fruition, then the football divisions will be the old Pac-8 in the western division and the new-comers plus the Arizona schools in the eastern division. While that would make a lot of traditionalists very happy, and the coaches of the Pacific Northwest schools happy as well, that apparently is not what is being discussed with Texas and Oklahoma during these current talks. Instead, a “pod” system is apparently on the table. Given the choice between the old Pac-8 style division and this pod-system, the pod system would have potentially significant effects on the ability of the Washington Huskies to recruit the Los Angeles area (the prime recruiting area for football outside of Washington state).

Let’s look at the two possibilities and see what would happen in each;

In a Pac-8 style division, teams would play every team in their division once and then would play two teams from the other division on a rotating basis for a 9-game conference schedule. This would mean that once every 8 years, Husky Stadium would host the Texas Longhorns one year and the Oklahoma Sooners another.

Under this scenario, Washington would also return to playing in Los Angeles every single year.

In addition, they would host an L.A. school every year and those games (especially USC) are major revenue boosters. But, access to Los Angeles is probably even more important to the Huskies. Returning home to play in front of friends and family every year is a major selling point to recruits. In addition, having exposure in that media market and the coaches on the ground to meet recruits and parents is an important part of the process.

However, under the “pod” scenario being discussed, teams would be broken up into four pods (Northwest, California, Desert, and Red River – names I made up). Under this scenario, teams would play everyone in their pod every year, but only two teams from the other pods each season.

Under this scenario, the Huskies would only get to play in Los Angeles every other year and would only get to host an L.A. team every other year. While it would increase the Texas and Oklahoma home games to once every four years, is that really worth the loss of exposure in Los Angeles?

So, let’s examine why the pod system seems to be gaining traction. First of all, the pod system would make no difference to UCLA, USC, Stanford, and California because they would still get to play each other every year. In fact, they might prefer it since they could swap bi-yearly games against Oregon State or Wazzu with home games against Oklahoma and Texas. While some might think USC would rather have the gimme game against WSU rather than playing top-ranked Oklahoma. But, one has to think that in terms of local interest and ticket sales, revenue would be higher for the L.A. schools when UO and UT come to town.

Colorado would definitely prefer the pod system because they joined the Pac-12 specifically because their recruiting and alumni base is in California. To go from a trip to Los Angeles once every four years to every other year would be greatly advantageous to them. In addition, they would get more games in the Bay Area and fewer in Stillwater and Lubbock.

Arizona and Arizona State are also in the same boat. Instead of yearly games in Boulder or Norman, they could get in more games in Los Angeles for recruiting purposes. The Arizona schools also have a long-standing relationship with Southern California and not so much with the Great Plains (Arizona’s recent recruiting of Texas notwithstanding). So, I would imagine those two are not keen to being thrown into an eastern division.

Texas and Oklahoma would also like to have big-time nationally televised match ups home-and-away with USC on a more frequent basis. One would also think Oklahoma State and Texas Tech would prefer to play more games in Los Angeles and fewer in Salt Lake City or Tempe.

So, who would oppose it? As far as I can tell, the only schools screwed by the pod system are the Pacific Northwest schools. Less recruiting access for Washington, Washington State, and Oregon State means potentially fewer recruits from one of the most prime recruiting areas in the country. At this stage, perhaps only Oregon wouldn’t mind it since they recruit over a larger area, including in Texas. In addition, Oregon thinks so highly of itself that they would appreciate the chance to play more games in Norman or Austin (or Dallas).

So, in the end, I believe that the pod-system may very well happen and it will be to the detriment of the Washington Huskies compared to the Pac-8 model. Perhaps Steve Sarkisian has the recruiting magic to keep the L.A. pipeline going. Perhaps he can even take advantage of those trips to Austin, Lubbock, and/or Dallas to extract a few of those local recruits. But, I am worried that such a system will only work to further isolate the Pacific Northwest schools (who already have a geographic disadvantage) more than they already are into a pod of irrelevance that may be difficult to pull themselves out of.