June 30, 2008

We just want our share.

It has now been a full 30 years since the Arizona schools joined the Pac-10. This makes it the perfect time to look back and see how everyone stacks up after three decades of competition.

The law of averages says each team in a ten-team league should win the league championship once every ten years. That means if you’ve got more than three championships since the Pac-10 expanded you’re above average, and if you’ve got fewer than three you’ve lagged behind.

For this exercise only one championship is awarded each year. If you tie for the title you get a half a championship, and if you split with two other teams you get a third of the crown. That may not look good in a trophy case but it makes the math easier. Bust out your calculator and let’s take a look at football:

Rank – School – Football Championships
1. USC – 10.83
2t. UCLA – 5.33
2t. Wash – 5.33
4. ASU – 2.5
5. Ore – 2.33
6. Stan – 1.5
7. WSU – 1
8. Cal – 0.5
9t. ARIZ – 0.33
9t. OSU – 0.33

As you can see only three of the ten schools have met their championship quota. The conference had that run from 1994 to 2000 when seven different Pac teams went to the Rose Bowl but that certainly hasn’t been the norm.

It’s interesting to note that if ASU had won one more league game last year they would be perfectly average. Three championships in 30 years and no more than one in each decade. But that should come as no surprise since average is what they do best.

One might assume there was a lot more parity in the league in the 22 years B.C. (Before Carroll) but that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t a farce of a competition like it is now but USC still won more titles than anyone:

Rank – School – Football Championships (1978-1999)
1. USC – 6.33
2. UCLA – 5.33
3. Wash – 5
4. ASU – 2
5. Stan – 1.5
6. Ore – 1
7. WSU – 0.5
8. ARIZ – 0.33
9t. Cal – 0
9t. OSU – 0

USC’s longest stretch in the Pac-10 era without at least a share of a championship? 6 years. That’s like complaining about a drought on Mt. Waialeale. It’s really OK to go ahead and not like those guys.

In basketball, we are USC. At least we were, in the 27 years B.C. (Before Championshipswonbybenhowland) But the Cats have still done way better than hold their own in this new little league we joined:

Rank – School – Basketball Championships
1t. ARIZ – 10
1t. UCLA – 10
3. OSU – 4
4. Stan – 3.5
5t. Ore – 1
5t. Wash – 1
7. USC – 0.5
8t. ASU – 0
8t. Cal – 0
8t. WSU – 0

So there are two haves, six have-nots, and two have-a-lots. I like this list a-lots better.

Which Pac school has been the best when you look at both revenue-producing sports together? UCLA, and it’s not even close. Not only do the Bruins have the most combined football and basketball championships but they are the only school above average in both sports. In fact, only one other school has more than one full Pac-10 title in both sports, and you have to count Stanford’s 1.5 football championships as more than one.

The worst school over the past 30 years? Cal. The Bears were completely shut out except for half a football championship in 2006. So, yes, it can get worse.

Rank – School – Combined Football & Basketball Championships
1. UCLA – 15.33
2. USC – 11.33
3. ARIZ – 10.33
4. Wash – 6.33
5. Stan – 5
6. OSU – 4.33
7. Ore – 3.33
8. ASU – 2.5
9. WSU – 1
10. Cal – 0.5

We are USC and USC is us, just in different sports.

Baseball is complicated because the conference was split in two for the first 20 years and you had the likes of Portland State masquerading as a Pac-10 team. If we just go by the ten years since the league was unified (and even that isn’t perfect since Oregon didn’t field a team) everybody should have one conference title.

Rank – School – Baseball Championships
1. Stan – 3.33
2. ASU – 2.33
3t. OSU – 2
3t. USC – 2
5. UCLA – 0.33
6t. ARIZ – 0
6t. Cal – 0
6t. Wash – 0
6t. WSU – 0

Oregon State showed how quickly you can go from the basement to the penthouse, so hopefully Andy Lopez’s boys find that elevator soon.

When you look at all these lists you can see why the current Lute curiosities are so distressing. When it comes to making long-lasting waves in the Pac-10, Coach Olson’s basketball program is all we’ve got. If that goes away (or stays away, depending on your perspective) then we’re a lot closer to the Washington States and Cals of the league than we are to the UCLAs and USCs.

But there’s no reason to write off the next 30 years so soon. We have a fresh new decade ahead of us and only nine other teams to beat in order to win a championship in the fall men’s sport of your choosing. The law of averages says we’re way overdue.

Wouldn’t it be nice to share?

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