It's not the Pac-10 anymore.
The Arizona Wildcats were just standing around, minding their own business, when they changed conferences.
I hate that. I hate change. I like Arizona’s conference just the way it is. I mean, was.
The walls began to come tumbling down Thursday when Colorado accepted an invitation to the Pac-10 … and then will come an announcement that Nebraska is joining the Big Ten … and then, probably early next week, five other schools from the Big 12 will become members of the Pac-10.
Or Pac-16. Or Pac-XVI. Or whatever they want to call it.
The landscape that Arizona has known for the past 32 seasons is gone. Unless the runaway train of realignment gets derailed at the last minute, UA and Arizona State are set to be thrown into the non-Pacific Division of the Pacific-10 Conference, along with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Colorado.
Starting in the 2012-13 school year, they will have essentially switched conferences. Almost everything changes. Rivalries. Recruiting approaches. Competition. Culture.
Gone is the perfect symmetry of 10 conference teams. Five geographically aligned travel pairs. A full round-robin in football. The rhythm of Thursday-Saturday basketball weeks.
But now that ground-shaking change is here, there is only one thing left to do: Embrace it.
This is what we wanted.
This is what we asked for when we — that would be me and almost all of you, I would think — criticized the Pac-10 for TV deals that lacked sufficient exposure and cold hard cash for its members.
This is what we asked for when we begged for better bowl arrangements that could compare to other conferences.
This is what we asked for when we perceived a national lack of respect for the Pac-10.
We asked for it. Yeah, well, we got it.
New commissioner Larry Scott hasn’t just been nibbling around the edges of progress. He devoured it.
“My opinion is that we needed to be aggressive in our approach, and Larry has already shown that that is the approach he’s taking,” new Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said Thursday at a news conference.
“When you look at what’s taking place, whether anything happens additionally, I think the Pac-10 has been talked more about in the past 10 days than we probably have been across the country in years.
“And that’s a good thing for our brand, for our league, and that obviously has a big impact on the University of Arizona because that makes our visibility even stronger across the country.”
This change won’t be boring in football. Arizona in the same division as Texas and Oklahoma? Arizona in the same division as Oklahoma State and booster T. Boone Pickens, the Big 12′s version of Oregon’s Phil Knight? Good luck, right?
Arizona can’t compete right now with Texas Tech’s facilities.
But what is it that coaches always say as their teams prepare to take on a big foe? Don’t consider it an overwhelming obstacle, think of it as an opportunity.
Having Texas and Oklahoma come to Tucson every other year is exciting stuff. Shoot, those teams might even help Arizona State sell out Sun Devil Stadium.
The new yearly rivalries would take some getting used to, but we would.
“Any time you have change there is going to be resistance to it,” Byrne said.
“I’ve always said on my tombstone I want it to say, ‘People are always open to change as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them.’ I think just like anything else people will adapt. To say that you can go through life without any change would be a very boring life.”
Arizona, and the other Pac-10 schools, stands to make about $20 million a year from a new television deal in an expanded conference, at least double the current take.
With that kind of money doing the talking, the status quo had no chance.
Instead of the Pac-10′s old way of holding onto the past while everything changed around it, Scott is the one leading the charge.
Since the Pac-10 last expanded with the addition of Arizona and Arizona State in 1978, every other conference has undergone some sort of transformation — sometimes just a little (the Big Ten adding Penn State) and sometimes quite a lot (the Big 8 and Southwest Conference merging in 1996 into the soon-to-be dead Big 12).
In 1978, the Big East didn’t exist. Conference USA, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt conferences came much later. The WAC went from seven teams in 1978 to as many as 16 teams and now sits at nine.
Twenty-five Division I-A teams — including many of the biggest names in college football — were still independent in 1978. Now, there are only three independents.
The new Pac-10 will be different. But it will be good.
RELATED LINK: What does Colorado add to the Pac-10?