LOS ANGELES (ABC4 Sports) – With USC and UCLA bolting for the big money of the Big Ten in 2024, it is unclear what the Pac-12 Conference will look like in the future, if it exists at all.
But as far as the 2022 season goes, the remaining teams aren’t focused on the pending defections.
“Not at all,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham at Pac-12 Media Day. “Control the controllables. What I’m concerned this season is our team, this season, recruiting, and that’s it.”
“It’s not my concern,” added Utes quarterback Cam Rising. “Just as a football player, you’ve always got to realize that what it comes down to is whoever is lining up against you. That’s the only thing that really matters, focusing on that. What you’ve got going on in your building, that’s where the main focus is.”
“With everything that’s up in the air with college football, it’s something that you can’t really ignore,” said Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III. “But it’s like, dang, if this happens, it happens. But for us as players, we’re going to play whoever lines up against us on Saturdays.”
As for the teams leaving, it still doesn’t really affect the current Bruins and Trojans.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m shocked from anything that I’ve heard,” said USC quarterback Caleb Williams. “I really don’t have too much to say about the move. I don’t know if I’ll be here or not.”
“I can see how other people wouldn’t like it,” added USC linebacker Shane Lee. “We’re USC and we’re going to focus on us. That’s what it’s about. It’s about us, our family and our team.”
“I was surprised, us moving to the Big Ten,” said UCLA defensive back Stephan Blaylock. “Change is bound to happen, though. That’s something we’ve all got to know that change comes in life. So we can’t be surprised that it came to the Pac-12.”
The consensus around the league, at least publicly, is that the Pac-12 will be able to get through this. Whether it sticks with its remaining teams or expands, coaches and players say the Pac-12 will remain viable.
“I do feel like the Pac-12 is still going to be an integral part of the major college landscape,” said Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell. “Because we’re still going to have options too. It seems like there’s going to be realigning still for years to come.”
“I think there’s still a lot of positives out here,” said USC head coach Lincoln Riley, who just arrived in Los Angeles from Oklahoma. “I think football out west, the recruits, the quality of coaches, and you see programs pouring more resources than ever before into their programs. I think the Pac-12 and those schools will be just fine.”
Some of the players understand why USC and UCLA are leaving, but that doesn’t mean they have to like it.
“If you want to really look at it in terms of revenue, they made a grown man decision, as other grown men would make,” said Colorado offensive lineman Casey Roddick. “So there’s nothing that I could say or do that would make USC come back into the conference.”
When these teams see USC and UCLA this year, there will be a bit more motivation.
“There might be a little extra love and some more hugs after the game,” Phillips said with a laugh. “Me being a California guy, those guys have a special in our heart. So we’ll look forward to playing against them.”