Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule continues to skew conference race
|Colorado's Kelsey English,(1) and Taylor Simpson (16) hand Washington the first of two consecutive defeats in Boulder. (James Bradbury/CU Independent)|
Last November 13, Washington was 25-0, ranked #2 in the nation. The Huskies headed to Boulder, only to lose to Colorado, 3-2 (27-25, 26-24, 17-25, 23-25, 15-11).
The previous season, Washington was 10-0 and ranked #1 when it went to Boulder. The Buffaloes also won, that year by a score of 3-1 (25-17, 26-24, 15-25, 25-19).
The Huskies are a combined 62-6 since 2013; one-third of those defeats were in Colorado.
This fall, there will be no chance for revenge. The Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule means that the Huskies will not play in Colorado in 2015, nor will Seattle fans see Utah this season.
Since 2012, the Pac-12 has elected to play just 20 conference matches, which means each team plays home and away against every other school except for two. For Washington and Washington State, the light schedule in 2012 was against the Arizona schools. It was the Oregon schools in 2013, the Bay Area schools last season and the Los Angeles schools next season.
2013 was the first season in the history of Washington volleyball that Huskies fans did not get to root in person against the Ducks. That Oregon team had just reached the National Championship match the previous season, the same year (2012) of perhaps the greatest home match in Washington history. After Krista Vansant left that match with a fourth-set ankle injury, the sixth-ranked Huskies fought off 13 match points to upset the fourth-ranked Ducks 3-2 (26-24, 16-25, 21-25, 32-30, 25-23).
Last season, Stanford won the conference with a 19-1 record, one game ahead of 18-2 Washington. Stanford’s only loss was at Washington, before the second-largest crowd (8,646) in Pac-12 history (9,141 saw Stanford @ Arizona on October 11, 2002 in McKale Center). The Huskies could have shared the 2014 Pac-12 title with a win in Palo Alto, except that there was no match in Palo Alto last season … Washington @ Stanford was one of the 2014 skipped matches.
In 2014, Stanford fans were deprived of the chance to see reigning National Player of the Year Vansant play during her senior season. In 2015, those same fans won’t see longtime rival UCLA, and USC’s fans won’t see Stanford’s lineup of senior All-Americans.
The Pac-12 plays four weeks of nonconference matches to start each season. Most Pac-12 coaches are loathe to follow the lead of several other conferences by cutting one of those weeks for the sake of the conference standings’ integrity. The logic? A Pac-12 title pales in importance compared to an NCAA berth. That means coaches want as many weeks as possible to schedule probable nonconference wins to boost season-ending RPI.
As fans have noticed, the fourth week rarely features marquee games. Power conference schools have either started their league season or decline to fly west. At a time when the conference should be building excitement, the week before conference play is usually deadly dull. And the final week of conference play can be pretty infuriating if the schools the home team have skipped could have made a difference in the final standings.
- While all other power conferences (Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big-12) have already released their entire 2015 schedules, the Pac-12 continues its tradition of waiting until summer. Tweaks to the Pac-12 Network lineup is usually cited as the culprit, even though the delay only serves to dampen early enthusiasm for season ticket sales. C'mon, Pac-12: if everyone else can do it, so can you.