To the dustbin of history, the Pac-12

  In 1978, the Pacific-8 Conference welcomed in the Arizona schools, and members of the league’s “Skywriters” – a roving band of reprobates who visited the campuses and wrote preseason football, when they weren’t pouring another drink – all were given blue windbreakers. The inscription on the breast was “Pac-10 Conference” and below that, “The First Year.”

  I wore mine everywhere, wore the hell out of it. It finally disintegrated, which, 45 years later, is now the fate of the Pac-12 Conference.

  I want to know where I can get one that says “The Last Year.” Or perhaps “Pac-12 Conference, Dead on Account of Money, Vanity and Stupefying, Forehead-Slapping Administrative Incompetence.”

  Realignment was going to come, certainly. Things were going to look different, but it was going to be a decade or so out, not now.

  The money was going to speak, and loudly. Lately, it started shouting, and Oregon and Washington are off to the Big Ten, the Four-Corners schools have been scavenged by the Big 12, and there’s a carcass of four left in the Pac-12.

  File this under a decades-old maxim: “Them that has, gets.”

  If you’re Washington and you’re located in a world-class city (well, it used to be, anyway), with industry recognizable around the globe and well-heeled alums, you get. And if you’re WSU, and you can almost count the stoplights in town, you don’t get.

  As pained as are the Cougars, and I’m one, it was always sort of a quaint notion that they could find themselves equals to the Huskies in conference affiliation, given the sprawling difference in resources. But it’s not Washington’s job to subsidize WSU, and Cougar fans are misguided to pin this indignity on the Huskies.

  You know who really deserves a shoulder to cry on? The Beavers.

  I worked in Oregon for 17 years, and we always considered the Ducks and Oregon State as equals. They were very different, but ultimately very similar in size, resources and importance. They were even geographic siblings, just 45 miles apart.

  Then Phil Knight came along and Oregon acquired a brand, and facilities, through his largesse, and it gets the Big Ten invite. Them that has, gets.

  Down the road, imagine the Beavers christening their half-rebuilt football stadium next month with this cheery advisory on the tail of a squeeze on donors for that upgrade: “Coming soon: Colorado State and Nevada!”

  Meanwhile, there’s the OSU baseball program, one of college sports’ all-time great stories with three national titles this century. In the trickle-down of cash, are there a lot more of those banners in the offing?

  We can blame TV networks for this, but they’re merely reflecting viewership. Yet they’ve helped turn football into a studio sport, where the live gate doesn’t matter much anymore and the schools pant after every dollar they’ll throw at them, willing a week out to change day games to night and putting fans on highways at hours when bars are closing.

  The facilities arms race fed into the thirst for more cash. When the Pac-12 signed its $3-billion deal with ESPN and Fox in 2011, everybody went hell-bent for football-only buildings, suites in the stadium, and how could you think of enticing recruits without the ubiquitous barber chair near the refurbished locker room?

  Coaching salaries went nuts. As of last December, the buyouts for Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M and Mel Tucker of Michigan State – what it would cost to fire them for won-lost record – each stood at $86 million.

  Some leadership would have helped, say, in the form of a national commissioner of football, somebody to urge some sanity into the enterprise. Failing that, the Pac-12 had Laurel and Hardy as commissioners – no, wait, that was Larry Scott and George Kliavkoff. And it had presidents who mostly buried themselves in the cocoon of other matters. Collectively, they seemed to misread the national temperature on realignment as collegial rather than cutthroat, and let the league go completely off the rails.

  Yes, the stability and certainty of the Big Ten’s cash will be comforting to those who are outbound. An Oregon-Michigan game at 5 p.m. on an October Saturday will be appealing. But I’m guessing the tedium and toll of three time-zones travel across an entire athletic department is going to inspire some blowback.

  I’m left to recall a lunch I had in Walnut Creek, Calif., with Commissioner Tom Hansen for a profile I did on him in 2007. Hansen was from the old guard, a commish seen as too set in his ways to advance the Pac-10 into the 21st century. He was traditional, conservative and not especially forward-thinking.

  On the other hand, he never blew up a league.