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The Front Row with MARK NELKE June 13, 2010

| June 13, 2010 9:00 PM

When music stops, grab a conference

At first glance, a Pacific-10 Conference with Oklahoma State in it looks as odd as, say, a Greater Spokane League that includes Coeur d'Alene High or Sandpoint High.

But anymore, what's in a name? The Big Ten has been the Big 11 for years, and now has 12 teams. The WAC isn't really the Western Athletic Conference as long as one of its members resides in Louisiana. And if you're old enough, you remember the real WAC as Utah, BYU, Arizona, Arizona State, etc.

Louisville at Marquette is not a Big East game, no matter what the schedule says. Syracuse at Georgetown is.

Shouldn't one of the requirements for the Mountain West Conference be that you have mountains somewhere near your school? Or reside in the West? Wouldn't that rule out the schools in the plains?

Change just for change's sake seldom seems a good idea. But if all this change in conference alignments eventually results in some sort of playoff for the national title in football, great. It's got to be a better way than the silly, computerized way they decide it now.

The Pac-10+1 needs the six Big 12 teams more than the Big 12 teams need the Pac-10, in order to improve the Pac-10's line of credit. When USC's football team would stumble once in conference play, that pretty much eliminated the Trojans from the national title chase. But if an SEC team lost in conference play, it pretty much got a mulligan.

However, if the Pac-10 does eventually become the Pac-16 - or the Six(teen) Pac - Just wait until Texas, which plays in 100,119-seat Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, is asked to trek to Pullman, to play in front of some 35,000. It could be like in the 70s when USC used to say to the Cougars when it was time to play football at WSU, "Uh, we'll meet you in Seattle."

AS FOR Boise State's seven-year flirtation with the Mountain West Conference finally resulting in a date, I guess only time will tell how big a step up that is. If the Mountain West ends up with any of the leftovers from the Incredibly Shrinking Big 12, it could turn into a huge step. Nobody knows yet how the new conference alignments will affect how the national title is decided, or how much moving to the Mountain West improves the BCS hopes of Boise State.

As for football, after having to beat the likes of Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii to win the WAC, Boise State will now have to knock off BYU, Utah and TCU to capture the Mountain West.

That's not exactly the same as having to plow through Ohio State, Michigan State and Nebraska in the Big Ten+2, or survive a three-week meat grinder against Florida, Alabama and Tennessee in the SEC, or even USC, Cal and Washington in the Pac-10+1, but as long as 12-0 gets you to a BCS game, who cares?

As for Idaho being left behind by Boise State again, the Vandals can handle it now. And who knows, they may see the Broncos again in a few years.

Boise State will adjust to the Mountain West with little problem, though hopefully former Gonzaga assistant Leon Rice will energize the men's basketball program. The Broncos can't continue to play their home games in tomb-like conditions before a few thousand fans in a building (Taco Bell Arena) which badly needs updating.

Especially if Kansas is asked to come to Boise at least every other year.

And while the mtn. is not exactly the Big Ten Network, at least it shows most of the conference teams' football and men's basketball games.

HOPEFULLY THE WAC won't try to pry Montana away from the Big Sky Conference - even though the Griz draw more for their home football games than the Vandals do. Do the Griz want to remain a I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) power, or try their luck with the bigger boys? I don't know how much bigger it can get in Missoula, but Idaho, Boise State and Nevada have all made the jump from the Big Sky to I-A (sorry, Football Bowl Subdivision). Sometimes a step up in leagues forces you to get better.

Idaho wants to continue playing Boise State every year in football and other sports, though the feelings don't sound mutual down in Boise. If the Broncos think they can put together a better non-conference schedule (for BCS purposes) without the Vandals, more power to them. But if Boise State chooses to play, say, Bowling Green instead of the Vandals, that might not sit well in Moscow. Or, if the Vandals want to continue to play them every year, the Broncos might insist that all the games be played in Boise. Idaho would rather the series continue as a home-and-home, where the game in Moscow would draw at least 16,000 every year. The games in Boise would draw twice that much.

If it's a money thing with BSU, fine. But if it's a "we don't want to go to Moscow" thing, not so fine. A couple of Boise State's new Mountain West buddies - San Diego State and Colorado State - came to Moscow last year.

One thing's for certain - a lot of people are anxious to see what happens with the Pac-10+1 and the Mountain West+1 this week.

And not that it would ever happen, but if you strrrrrretch the definition of "Greater Spokane," at least Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint would make some sense in a Greater Spokane League.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via e-mail at mnelke@cdapress.com.

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