Carol Folt Forever Put Her Stamp on the Pac-12…

USC president Carol Folt ‘shut down’ potential Pac-12 expansion plans last year

J. Brady McCollough & Ryan Kartje (LA Times)  —  Late last summer, opportunity knocked on the Pac-12’s door. Texas and Oklahoma were off to the Southeastern Conference, leaving the leftover Big 12 schools in the dust with no other choice but to gaze westward for what appeared to be an increasingly safe “Power Five” conference home.

Sure, the Pac-12’s football product had been down for a decade-plus, in large part due to USC’s decline. But the Trojans still represented a blue-blood, flagship program located in the nation’s No. 2 media market. As it was for Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12, USC’s rooted presence equated to stability. And, in the formation of college sports conferences, such a tide can raise all boats.

First-year Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff was fielding calls from desperate Big 12 schools and had zeroed in on a few that he felt added enough value to strongly consider expanding the Pac-12 footprint into America’s Great Plains.

Kliavkoff assembled a committee of three presidents and three athletic directors to decide whether or not to recommend expansion to the larger group. The group met on a Zoom call to go over a 20-slide deck. But the Pac-12 was only about 15 minutes into its hourlong presentation before USC president Carol Folt spoke up.

Folt told the group that she did not understand why the Pac-12 would expand and expressed surprise they were even talking about it, according to multiple sources who were familiar with the call but not authorized to speak publicly due to the sensitivity of the subject.

“Carol shut it down,” one source said.

“She cooled the whole process,” another source said.

In late August, the Pac-12 announced it would not expand.

Ten months later on June 30, USC and UCLA announced they were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten starting in August 2024, continuing college football’s movement toward two superpower conferences that Texas, Oklahoma and the SEC began the previous summer.

Now that USC and UCLA are headed for the Chicago-based Big Ten, Stanford, Washington and Oregon have been reported to be among the next wave of Big Ten targets after priority Notre Dame, placing the Pac-12 in further peril.

Meanwhile the Big 12, which banded together as the remaining eight schools added four new members, appears poised to poach any Pac-12 schools with a wandering eye.

The Pac-12 could have added top Big 12 schools last summer, positioning itself as one of the top four conferences regardless of the L.A. schools’ long-term intentions. Instead, USC’s negative response combined with its escape to the Big Ten a year later, has put the Pac-12 in a precarious spot.

“We’re not going to respond to anonymous comments or hearsay,” Folt said in a statement to The Times.

At the time, there were clear reasons USC would not want to expand. Adding members would mean dividing the Pac-12’s already frustratingly small revenue pot among more hands. And, considering USC had not yet been invited to the College Football Playoff, adding more competition within its own conference would only make it harder to accomplish that elusive goal.

At Pac-12 media day Friday, Kliavkoff recalled he was vacationing in Montana with his family on that surreal Thursday morning when he got an urgent text message from a Pac-12 official. Driving in Idaho, he found a place with cell phone reception and pulled over. He quickly turned the car around, feeling blindsided by the news that his Los Angeles linchpins had betrayed their near-century-old relationship with the league and its peer institutions.

Not even a year into his tenure as Pac-12 commissioner, Kliavkoff didn’t have much time to make his premier program happier. He was certainly in the process of trying. Removing the division tie-in to the league’s championship game would definitely help USC. But now the Trojans were gone, without any warning, as Kliavkoff was given no indication of the Trojans’ wanderlust.

USC coach Lincoln Riley said Friday the school’s openness to evaluating its future conference affiliation was discussed with him before he took the job in late November.

“I had a little bit of a heads up with it,” Riley said. “We had conversations when I took the job, not specifically about the Big Ten, not about an imminent move, but we knew we were going to have to monitor the landscape of what’s going on. You have to be on the forefront, and so I’m glad our people were progressive enough to seize what I think is going to be a great opportunity. I certainly understand the reasons behind it and fully support it.”

(Genaro Molina / LAT)

A year after the Pac-12 could have seized the moment by expanding leading into its upcoming media rights negotiations — the league could have added Texas Christian, for instance, to add the Dallas-Fort Worth media market to its offerings — Kliavkoff is now fighting for his league’s future from a much less advantageous position.

Asked Friday at his press conference whether USC “misled” him, Kliavkoff said, “I’m not going to talk about that. We’re going to take the high road and not talk about what happened in the past.”

Kliavkoff said the last month has been a “whirlwind.”

“We’ve had two board meetings a week for the last four weeks,” Kliavkoff said. “Looking my colleagues in the eye, understanding their commitment, that their first priority is making sure that the Pac-12 survives, thrives and grows and is successful. They’re committed to the conference. I think the best thing to do is to ask them about it.”

The natural follow-up given recent events: Why would Kliavkoff — or anyone in college athletics, for that matter — trust anybody else?

Later Friday morning, Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens spoke with a group of reporters about his school’s situation. Oregon is the Pac-12’s top remaining football brand and is presumed to be coveting a spot in the Big Ten. But, without an invite in hand, the Ducks have no choice but to stick it out with the Pac-12 and make the best of it.

“Your initial reaction is one of personal emotion and what it means for your league and for my school,” Mullens said, “but at the end of the day, what else were [USC and UCLA] supposed to do? They’re in a difficult position, too. I try to step back from it.”

It was a media day unlike any other in Pac-12 history. The event, ironically, was held at the Novo Theater in downtown L.A., and yet, USC athletic director Mike Bohn and UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond did not attend, skipping their customary appearances to support their football coaches and players just miles from their campuses.

For the next two years, the Pac-12 presidents and athletic directors and coaches will be dividing their meetings into two parts — one that the Trojans and Bruins can be privy to and one that they are now barred from joining due to a conflict of interest.

Kliavkoff tried to “take the high road” Friday in his prepared remarks about USC and UCLA, expressing his disappointment but saying “we cherish our relationship with their student-athletes, coaches, staff, faculty, alumni and fans.”

But, listening to him lay out his displeasure with college athletics’ prioritization of money over athlete welfare, one didn’t have to wonder where he was pointing his finger in judgment.

“We should be measuring … our ability to provide the highest level of athletic competition to our student-athletes without unnecessary travel, time demands and other burdens on competition impeding their academic success,” Kliavkoff said.

“We are at a critical juncture and the decisions we make in the near future will determine whether we head towards a world in which a small handful of conferences are playing professional sports at the expense of tens of thousands of academic opportunities.”

latimes.com

________

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Rock2112
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July 31, 2022 11:37 am

I am sure it is just because I have been busy as hell, but I don’t see much talk here about Malachi Nelson taking a visit to Texas A&M. Is that a big nothing, or are we worried about it? I see it as a guy looking to “renegotiate” his NIL deal to get top pick money now that he jumped Arch Manning in the rankings (to #1 overall recruit). Any word on what is really happening here?

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July 31, 2022 3:16 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

The only football reason I would think would influence him to make a jump is if someone promised him he could start immediately. I have no idea whether Texas A&M is in a position to dangle that carrot.

Jamaica
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July 31, 2022 8:12 am

Seems Jumbo Fisher “gets it” in recruiting defense, a boatload of 5/4star players in these next few years. Jumbo is an offensive minded HC but at least in the SEC, you don’t play good defense, you won’t win championships. And I gather it is that way in the Big Ten.

TrojanRJJ
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July 31, 2022 8:53 am
Reply to  Jamaica

Jamaica, I think Jimbo was a first mover on the NIL “pay for play” model, where the boosters form an LLC or corp, declare it a media company, fund it and then “hire” a recruit to act as spokesperson for this phony media company. I think he raised $30 Million using the “pay for play” NIL. As no one else had yet figured it out, Jimbo had a huge advantage over everyone. He then used this advantage to sign a ton of great DL (I think he signed the top 4 or 5 in the nation). The SEC was always… Read more »

Last edited 10 days ago by TrojanRJJ
Jamaica
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July 31, 2022 11:45 am
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Thanks RJJ. Your reply is full of information and you are right about NIL. And unless some type of authority, that gets everyone’s attention, regulates it properly, it will be a free for all and ruin CFB. My post was meant to note who Jimbo is recruiting: defensive players. All coaches say it, even the offensive minded ones like Jimbo, but they will first load up on offensive skill players at the drop of a hat, even at the expense of their defense with a depth issue. It is still true as far as I know, in the last 20-some… Read more »

Last edited 10 days ago by Jamaica
ATL D.D.S.
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July 31, 2022 6:33 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

My assistant took her family to Flowery Branch yesterday and got to have a nice chat with Drake. He made a great first impression asa really nice young man. Signed a football for her son….😎

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July 31, 2022 7:24 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Great that the ankle injury fully recovered. Thoughts initially were that it could be career ending. Another great USC receiver in the pros, to bad we didn’t get to see more of him as a Trojan. Boy what LR would have done with him.

Golden Trojan
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July 30, 2022 1:06 pm

It may be a couple of months till George K has any news. Till then we can speculate. The Pac 10 adding SDSU and UNLV would not be a bad move. The media markets are good and Vegas would give some glitz. SDSU can compete with any in the Pac in basketball and would be average at this point in football. UNLV has a BB history that could be ressurected by joining the Pac and Bishop Gorman could supply the football players.

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July 30, 2022 2:47 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

You are correct Allen. Getting into UNLV is easier than ASU.

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July 31, 2022 5:41 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

There now will be acrimonious infighting amongst the Universities of the P10, USC/UCLA will not be privy to those discussions. Best we leave them to their dilemma.
Time to shine our shoes and get ready for the big show…’Prime Time’
The PAC for the last 10 years has been an afterthought in CFB
and I seriously doubt that will change no matter what they do.

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July 30, 2022 2:46 pm
Reply to  Golden Trojan

I don’t think UNLV basketball will ever be resurrected, there is only one Tark. Keep in mind there were very shady recruiting practices going on there in those days.
I went to a few game in the Thomas & Mack back in those days. That place used to rock!

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July 30, 2022 6:01 pm
Reply to  UtahTrojan

IMO the Big 10 will want to take in Seattle, Portland and the Bay Area. Fits perfectly with establishing a western conference of high growth areas that will cut travel for the LA power teams. If they did they would have exposure to the 1, 2, 3 and 6th largest TV markets. Seattle is the 14th largest market, Bay Area is 6th and Portland is 23th. Seattle and Portland both growing fast. All four teams are academically qualified to fit in well in the Big 10. The Big 12, after the big 10 moves, will probably take in Arizona, Az… Read more »

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July 31, 2022 10:31 am
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Exactly the way I see it. ND will still be the first and then Stan, Cal, O and UW. Media markets, academics, and the research $$ will be coveted by the B1G presidents. Stan and Cal are obvious, but UW is also top 10 in research $$. B1G expansion ends at 21 teams. In football, East, Central, West Divisions of 7 each. Nebraska and Minnesota or Iowa with the 5 former PAC 12 schools in the west. Protected rivalry games with other division teams. Probably a 4 team B1G playoff conf championship. 9 conf games – 6 vs div and… Read more »

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July 31, 2022 12:01 pm
Reply to  Scioto

That’s not quite as sexy a schedule for SC as a 16-team league would produce. I could live without Maryland coming to town more often than the cicadas, but I’d enjoy seeing more games against your Central Division.

Also, three divisions produces “B1G West At Nite”. Nobody wants that.

Last edited 10 days ago by SC Gator
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July 31, 2022 12:31 pm
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P.S.

If four more Pac-12 schools get in, then the West Division is 6/7 the old Pac, plus, one presumes, Nebraska or Iowa. Whoopee.

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July 31, 2022 12:42 pm
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From a travel perspective, I think that’s how it would be organized. But would love to have USC in the East. Trojans would then likely get two November games each year in Michigan, Ohio, and/or Pennsylvania. We’d also be more than happy to play those at night for the convenience of west coast viewers LoL.

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July 31, 2022 12:56 pm
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No problem watching eastern or midwestern night games on TV. What I don’t like is going to games at the Coliseum that kick off at 7:45 or 8:15 local time. On a more crotchety note, I just think college football should be played in the afternoon, with the sun setting in the fourth quarter in November. I get that $$$ means the games have to be spread out from 11 a.m. Central Time to 8 p.m. Hawaii time to ensure every fan has 35 TV games to choose from every week. But if I were Commissioner, all the games would… Read more »

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July 30, 2022 9:42 am

Very sorry to hear Booker Brown passing at a young age. I read the statements from the PAC12 Media Days and the only one I read that is anywhere near the truth is from Oregon AD Rob Mullens being blunt and to the point. I feel for his program and probably Utah’s. If I was a reporter at this Media event, I’d ask the other schools ADs where their football programs level of competition were these past 10-years to strengthen the conference enough to get the kind of TV contract giving this conference the money they feel they should be… Read more »

Jamaica
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July 30, 2022 11:09 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

It’s about business now in CFB as it is in the NFL. The novelty about amateur sports has worn off on the public’s mind beyond the Olympics and even that is a billion dollar enterprise. ESPN lowballed a TV package to Kliavkoff and anyone with a business sense knew this was coming. If these PAC schools don’t want to see the writing on the wall, that they have to spend money to make it, then they have no right to expect anymore handouts and just move to a non-power conference and be done with it. Whether it’s right or wrong,… Read more »

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July 30, 2022 11:30 am
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Jamiaca, I wondered why George wanted to get a price for the Pac media rights without SC (I do not think UCLA moves the needle that much, but I could be wrong). Remember, he got authorization to get the number. Well, he got the number, and he is forcing the rest of the membership to face reality. The media rights of the Pac 10 is about $24 Million a year per member, whereas the media rights of the B10 is now about $100 Million per member. The SEC is probably is the same range as the B10. So, how does… Read more »

Jamaica
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July 30, 2022 11:41 am
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

RJJ I think you put your finger right on the reason: To show/wake up the member schools who still have their heads in the sand, “business as usual just won’t cut it anymore” by asking for a TV package bid to show where the State of Conference is as to their value.

usc50
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July 30, 2022 11:14 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Agree, George K doesn’t deserve the position he is in.
If he had been there instead of Larry Scott the Pac12 media income
would have been higher and no need for a move.
Hopefully, Newsom doesn’t block UCLA from going to Big10.
It will be harder for USC going alone. Nice to have at least one easy travel
and not being the only WC team makes it easier.
Hopefully, another WC team will move to Big10. Stanford?

UtahTrojan
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July 30, 2022 2:57 pm
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Personally wouldn’t mind the ruins staying behind. Let them start cancelling sports because of their debt due to mismanagement.

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July 30, 2022 9:27 am

What a hit piece on Carol Folt and USC. She is somehow the devious one, stabbing the Pac12 and GK in the back? What about UCLA? Are they just the dumb sidekick going along for the free ride?

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July 30, 2022 9:56 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Agree, to me she comes off savvy and cool in all of this. The tone of the article just seems like USC is disloyal and untrustworthy. And there is no mention of UCLA’s role. I wouldn’t say USC stabbed the Pac in the back. They tried to get a better deal with the Pac and were turned down, they didn’t want to add members if it further diluted pay outs. Was Folt supposed to call George and tell him USC is talking with the Big10? You can’t negotiate deals in public. I wonder when in this time line USC started… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
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July 30, 2022 11:13 am
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Allen, Totally agree. Caruso/Folt/Bohn have played this perfectly. And, I do not think they stabbed the Pac in the back; I think they gave the Pac its just due and protected SC. In the era of NIL and free agency transfers, SC had to jettison the Pac (and the Pac candidly deserved it). George should have seen this coming, no matter what he was told. The rest of the Pac should have seen this coming. To be honest, I do not think any one thought SC had the business acumen to execute such a plan or guts to pull the… Read more »

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July 30, 2022 12:49 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Ugly story at SDSU but unfortunately all too common at college parties. Hopefully, there will be justice whatever that may look like. Curious it has been 9 months and no arrest. At least the names of those involved have been kept quiet for now.

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July 30, 2022 12:51 pm
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High school girls will you stop going to college parties and getting drunk!

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July 30, 2022 3:15 pm
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It already has the attention of the school. Too little too late

Jamaica
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July 30, 2022 12:21 pm
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USC football gave the rest of the member schools years-decades to help it develop this conference to keep it on par with the other Power 5 conferences in “value”. The exception was a few years of help from UDUB with Don James & Chris Petersen as well as later Oregon when Mike Belotti brought Chip Kelly from New Hampshire and with Uncle Phil’s money, to turn that program around. But when the PAC enlarged to 12-schools, they all wanted equal shares of the TV revenue even though most of them didn’t deserve it. You keep biting the deserving hand that… Read more »

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July 30, 2022 3:02 pm
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I love that USC is leaving. Mullins has to say what he is saying because if the BIG10 would take them they would have been gone yesterday.

Jamaica
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July 30, 2022 11:52 am
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OK we may have been wrong about Carol Folt in the beginning. And, we don’t know how much influence Caruso has on her in making the moves to turn the football program totally around (with his candidacy for mayor as a reason?). With her bringing Mack Brown back into the UNC as HC where he was very successful before moving to UT, gave me the idea she was pro-football program. And, not to forget her refusal to consider Urban Meyer as it turned out was right, even though he would come in like LR and turned the program around in… Read more »

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July 30, 2022 1:04 pm
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To answer your Ucla question “are they the dumb sidekick” I’d say yes. They are, by location, in the the large media market. Because they can prove many of the dumb people in the area went to their school by pointing to the voter rolls, they were allowed to slide in.

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July 30, 2022 9:26 am

I am not sure if the article is attempting to vilify or congratulate Folt. After looking at the choices in the Big 12, I’m inclined to say congratulate. Basically if adding teams to the PAC 12 was supposed to make the conference better, I don’t see any advantage to picking any of those teams. A few weeks ago I suggested picking up a few CSU teams for the PAC12 and was told they weren’t big enough, but at least two of the teams in that system have beaten USC. I also suggested UNLV, again to be told they weren’t big… Read more »

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July 30, 2022 9:43 am
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GK was on the Pac12 Media Day Wrap Up Show yesterday. He said his criteria for new members was 1. media market 2. regional to the rest of the Pac and 3. fits the “philosophy”. You are right RT, who is left west of the Mississippi that fits? They probably think the CSU and UNLV are beneath them and screw the pooch.

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July 30, 2022 3:08 pm
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Seems to me both Cal & Stanford would be willing to accept San Jose St. into their conference as they play SJS almost every year and is close to silicone valley. I would also think keeping some presence in SOCal would deem San Diego St as the last opportunity available. But there is much logic in the 4-corner schools merging into the Big 12, while WSU & OSU drag their tails into the MWC and be competitive. CAL is the big question mark if Stanford possibly gets into the Big Ten at a ND request down the road?

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July 30, 2022 8:33 am

From USC Athletic Department: LOS ANGELES–Booker Brown, an All-American offensive lineman at USC who was a member of the Trojans’ 1972 national championship team and then played in the NFL, died on July 18 in Mojave, Calif. from natural causes. He was 69.   Brown was a 1973 consensus All-American and lettered as an offensive lineman in 1972 and 1973 for the Trojans. USC was eighth in the final AP poll in 1973, and he played in the 1973 and 1974 Rose Bowls. Brown was a 1973 All-Conference first teamer and won USC’s Lineman of the Year Award in 1973.  … Read more »

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July 30, 2022 7:34 am

I decided to make my comparison of SC and UCLA in the present shift a separate post. The article above outlines a set of brilliant moves by SC, which lead both SC and UCLA out of the Pac. Unlike SC, UCLA has a political firestorm on its hands. And, after reading the above article, I am convinced the person orchestrating that firestorm is George K. Kind of like the scene in the Godfather when Vito says to Michael, “Until now, I did not know it was Barzini.” George will get UCLA to pay for its decision because it is the… Read more »

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July 30, 2022 11:19 am
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George is sitting on top of a volcano that is in the process of erupting. Hard place to be and even harder place to maneuver to avoid being incinerated.

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July 30, 2022 7:19 am

I may not like the cultural shift, but I have to admit, Folt did a great job on this. She was absolutely correct in declining to expand the Pac. It was simply not in SC interests to do so and at that time, she had no way to know for certain if SC was going to leave. Instead, SC asked the Pac for unequal distribution of revenue and was declined. So, SC again chased its own interests, which was to leave the Pac for the B10. Both moves were brilliant. I do not think that either Folt or Bohn will… Read more »

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July 30, 2022 10:05 am
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Any recent success SC has had is due to Caruso, Bohn and Coach Lincoln Riley. Our current university president is along for the ride. She is still a statue-removing, woke, dwarf-liberal with a Napoleon complex. Leopards don’t change their spots. Change my mind.

In fact, the next time a university president looks like a hero because of what those around her have accomplished, this activity will forevermore be described as “folting upwards.”

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July 30, 2022 11:18 am
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ATL, give her credit for getting out of the way and backing the change. I think Bohn masterminded the move, Caruso approved it, and Folt then backed it 100% and helped to implement it. She might not have been the leader with vision, but she went along with it and was instrumental in implementing it. I do not like the culture she is bringing to SC, but she is very good at administrative execution.

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July 30, 2022 12:29 pm
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Yep, her willingness not to get in the way of these moves, when she could have easily done so if she wanted to throw her authority around, speaks volumes to me too. Thankfully this didn’t involve her politics?

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July 30, 2022 1:55 pm
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Oh don’t tell me that (about Riley)…. I already was heartbroken by Pete Carroll’s NorCal wokeness when that became apparent in November of 2008.

Last edited 11 days ago by ATL D.D.S.
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July 30, 2022 1:50 pm
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Like I said, by getting out of the way, she is “folting upwards.” Unless you want to call that brilliance….