We know what Utah thinks of the Pac-10 move. How about Cal fans? Wanting to get an idea of what they thought about Utah and this whole expansion process, I did a short Q&A with California Golden Blogs. The questions and answers are after the jump...
1. What do Cal fans believe Utah brings to the new Pac-10?
Well, first and foremost 2 potential National Champions. I mean in 2004 and in 2008, Utah had undefeated seasons with great bowl victories. In 2004, USC won the championship, but now with all these sanctions, it throws their Championship into doubt. Of course, Auburn fans are right there to beat their chests and rent their clothes, but Utah has to be in the discussion, too. In 2008, any claim to a championship is much less tenuous. After thrashing a Alabama team that would go on to win the National Championship one year later, Utah looked as good as any team in the nation.
And now they'll apparently face USC each year! Now, they were a bit down this past year, only going 10-3, but as Cal fans know they were a good team. Utah defeated Cal in the Poinsettia Bowl, so we don't have any right to trash talking.
Utah also brings the fastest growing market in the nation. They are positioned to become a major player with this move to the Pac10. They can claim strength in the Utah market, of course, but also will grow fans in surrounding markets, such as southern Idaho and Wyoming. I realize that those states might not seem like much compared to Seattle or Los Angeles, but every little bit counts. Also, like I said previously, they are growing markets and hopefully these trends will continue.
I also presume that the Utah Rock Climbing team is at National Championship caliber!
2. The Pac-10 seems ripe with parity at the moment. With SC down, do you see another team stepping up and dominating the way the Trojans did from 2002-2008?
Of all teams in the Pac-10, I think most Pac-10 fans would probably say that the closest team to an SC-type domination would probably be Oregon.
Back in 2005, they were a hot 10-1 in the regular season, and finished with a narrow bowl loss to Oklahoma.
In 2006, they started off a hot 4-0, lost to Cal, won a few more games, then just fell apart finishing a mediocre 7-6 overall losing to BYU in a bowl game.
In 2007, under a renewed Dennis Dixon, they went a fiery hot 8-1 (only loss to Cal!) and looked to be a legitimate national title contender until Dennis Dixon got injured against Arizona. Oregon then lost to Arizona and lost all their remaining regular season games -- although they rebounded in their bowl game with a win.
Even in 2008, without Dennis Dixon, but instead with Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon went 10-3 overall.
In 2009, Oregon went 10-3 overall (all three losses coming to respectable teams: Boise State, Stanfurd, and Ohio State).
Oregon certainly has a lot of recent successes to capitalize on when it comes to recruiting. Now, the only thing they have to work on is recruiting players who stay out of trouble and will actually be on the team so they can play in games. If that happens, they could probably be the Pac-10's next dynasty.
3. The Pac-10 struggled last year in basketball, how long until they're back to being one of the strongest basketball conferences in the nation?
I'd probably give it another year, though some optimists believe the Pac-10 could be more or less back to normal next year. The Pac-10 managed to graduate some talent last year despite being so far down. Some of the best players from Stanford, Washington, Arizona St. and particularly Cal are gone and it's unclear if younger players are ready to fill the gaps. But most teams have been recruiting well, and there is certainly no lack of talent coming out of high schools in the west, so the general assumption is that it's just a matter of time.
The question is how quickly marque programs like Arizona and UCLA can return to past levels of success. Arizona had a rough few years as Lute Olsen was gradually phased out, and UCLA completely whiffed on a hugely important recruiting class that needed to replace the core of a group that made three straight final fours. With its two most consistent programs in a down cycle at the same time the Pac-10 struggled. But Arizona discovered the freshman of the year in Derrick Williams and UCLA continues to bring in highly regarded recruits and they have a great coach in Ben Howland. When you consider the stability that Lorenzo Romar has brought to Washington and the pedigree of success that Mike Montgomery has brought to Cal one can't help but feel optimistic about the Pac-10's future as a major conference. If newer coaches in Oregon and USC can revive moribund programs, all the better.
4. Will Utah compete for a P-10 crown right out of the gate?
I believe they will be able to compete, yes. It's doubtful they will be favored or anything, but I don't see why they wouldn't compete. Utah, along with BYU and TCU, are the class of the MWC. Last year, Utah was only a touchdown short against the eventual Pac-10 champion Oregon team that went to the Rose Bowl. Although there isn't really a transitive property in football, they were only a field goal down against BYU, a team that absolutely demolished Oregon State, which had tied for 2nd in the conference. And of course, try as we might to forget it, Utah straight up beat Cal in their bowl game matchup. So, sure, I absolutely believe Utah will be competitive right away when they join the Pac-10, and if the cards fall right and they play well, they certainly have a shot at winning the Pac-10, especially with U$C dealing with its self-inflicted wounds.
5. I remember a great deal of Pac-10 fans being opposed to the idea of expansion just two years ago. What changed?
I was personally never against expansion, but I think what changed is that we all became a lot more aware of the vast sums of money being made by other conferences and their ridiculous TV deals like the SEC's, or by having their own network like the Big Ten. When you see other schools, many of whom are smaller, less athletically successful, and in less desirable television markets than your school, absolutely raking in tens of millions of dollars annually, it's natural to want a piece of that action. And while I don't think expansion was absolutely necessary just for negotiating leverage, I think it helps the conference's position. The erstwhile Pac-16 proposal would have really shifted the balance of power in college athletics westward.
You can see my answers to their questions here.