SEATTLE -- More than a year ago, when the Pac-12 Conference was entertaining all sorts of tortured proposals about how to align divisions, there was an operative mantra of sorts:
Not everybody's going to be completely happy.
That remains the de facto marketing slogan, one that works famously with the news that in the next few years, a handful of rivalry games are going to be uprooted from traditional dates and moved closer to Halloween. A Stanford-California game is shortly to be staged in October.
Meanwhile, unless something changes at the eleventh hour, the 2012 Apple Cup is headed for a Friday, Nov. 23 landing spot -- in Pullman. The day after Thanksgiving, time still to be determined.
Gee, couldn't the league have found a window on Christmas Eve?
You've heard about the squeeze. The playing calendar in some years is compressed by one less available Saturday. Another weekend (the last one) is freshly taken by the Pac-12 title game. Of course, the prevailing mentality in the league now is to maximize television opportunities, and to do that -- to get that $3.billion deal with ESPN and FOX -- it offered up more Thursday and Friday games.
On a general level, I get the nod to TV. It covers a lot of athletic-department bills. In theory, it keeps athletics from draining subsidies from places where it's more important -- the general university budget.
But if fans in the seats are part of the allure of the television presentation, I'd suggest a lot of tight camera shots for the 2012 Apple Cup. Students will be on Thanksgiving break -- most of them surely unlikely to return to campus that early. Unless there's a run on the game from Spokane, the Tri-Cities, from the Puget Sound area, the atmosphere is liable to approximate that of a poetry reading.
This isn't the same as putting the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry in Tucson that Friday, or Oregon-Oregon State. With every other rivalry duo in the league except the two newbies, Utah and Colorado, the population base is clustered so distances are easily drivable.
There is one possible release valve. Notre Dame's games with USC and Stanford also are impinging on the schedule. The Irish annually come west to play the Pac-12 schools alternately late in November.
"It's sacrosanct for us," USC athletic director Pat Haden told me earlier this week. "We have to play them."
I wouldn't argue that. The USC-Notre Dame series began in 1926, and except for three World War II years, has been played annually ever since. Haden says he has the Irish scheduled out to 2022.
The tradition isn't quite so hoary at Stanford. The two schools have played 25 times, but only since 1999 has Notre Dame been finishing up at Stanford every other year. Stanford is locked up with the Irish through the 2019 season.
Could either, or both, Pac-12 schools angle to move their host game with the Irish into, say, mid-October, thereby taking one for the good of the other 10 schools -- you know, the ones with whom they form a conference?
As for a scheduling switch with the Irish, Haden said, "I think it's pretty important for them, the way they kind of set up their schedule now. It's a great way to end the season, TV-wise."
An Apple Cup in Pullman, Wash., on Thanksgiving weekend is a massive inconvenience for fans of both schools. In genuflecting to television, the league also might want to remember the people buying tickets.
AND WHAT'S MORE
A Pac-12 spokesman says a replay official assessed Marquess Wilson's goal-line catch at the end of regulation Saturday and determined officials were correct in spotting the ball at the half-yard line -- without stopping play and calling up replays. Given that there were at most 15 seconds between the tackle of Wilson and Washington spiking the ball, that's hard to fathom.
After 58 straight scores in the red zone this year, Stanford finally flinched on a missed field goal against California the other night. So it's 61 of 62 now.
Robert Woods has 99 receptions for USC, three behind the Pac-12 record of Trojan Keyshawn Johnson in 1995.
Stanford coach David Shaw went on the offensive for QB Andrew Luck on Tuesday's Pac-12 conference call. Asked what he thought of Luck slipping in Heisman polls, Shaw said, "I think it's a joke. It's an absolute joke."
There are five natural geographic rivalries in the Pac-12. Utah and Colorado, not so much. The teams, which meet Friday in Salt Lake City, haven't played each other since 1962. "I feel kind of on the outside looking in," said Buffs coach Jon Embree. "This isn't a rivalry yet."