“My overall feeling is I hate it. I’m an old traditionalist, I think college football has survived in such an exciting fashion. I don’t think college football is broken and I keep hearing how we’ve got to fix it. But traditionalism is not the biggest problem with all of this,” said Walden.
There are benefits to becoming the Pac-16, Walden agrees, but there are also some serious detriments that outweigh, by far, bringing in one new member in particular.
“This is about the greed of one college in this country, and it is named Texas,” said Walden. “And I don’t trust Texas. I’m sorry, but I do not trust them because I’ve seen what they’ve done over and over again. They didn’t come in and join the Big 8, they wanted to rule the conference from the start. It became the Big 12 and in my opinion, they destroyed that conference because their greed drove the other schools out.
“They might bring something to the table but I’m sorry, I resent Texas’ greed. They’re now the only one who doesn’t want to share their revenue. We just made a commitment to be a family, in the Pac-12, to share revenue equally. And so if Texas is going to join the Pac-12 and split the money, why didn’t they just stay where they were?”
WALDEN WAS JUST beginning to warm up the flame thrower.
The Longhorn Network, which debuted this year and is owned by ESPN, planned to show high school games of Texas recruits. The Big 12 put the kibosh on that, due to the obvious recruiting advantage. But Walden worries about how ESPN will operate in a conference that holds both Texas and schools like WSU, Arizona, Cal, Oregon State and more.
“Do you think ESPN gives a rat’s ass about Washington State in comparison to Texas? Hell, no. Let’s not excuse ESPN from all of this,” said Walden. “I don’t hear enough about their role in all of this. ESPN has become a huge, huge force in college football and they’ll be the first to tell you how much they’re paying schools. But I think ESPN is a big villain in this and let’s not excuse them from this. Texas is being greedy, and ESPN is somewhere back there in the shadows. In terms of greed, ESPN is dancing right alongside Texas.
“I don’t see Texas ever trying to be a cordial member of any league -- they’ve proven that time and time again. What did Texas have against Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa, Iowa State that that they didn’t want to be an equal-share partner? Apart from their own greed?
“Do they think we’re stupid out here? Do we think they turned their backs on their fellow conference teams for years and they’re not going to try and do the same thing to us? Do they think we’re not aware that they’re going to try to run the show? It is not human nature once you’ve been the guy, you don’t want to not be that guy. A king doesn’t want to go back and be a pauper.”
FROM A COMPETITIVE standpoint, Walden dislikes immensely the idea of a super conference.
“I don’t see a need for why we need four, 16-team conferences in college football. I think that’s going to be duller than hell. You’ve got 15 teams that won’t win each and every year. I think it will put enormous pressure on schools and coaches, and more coaches will get fired. How’s that for stability?” said Walden. “The amount of money it will take depending on how this plays out, the travel money will increase for all your sports, that will jump tenfold in going from Pullman, Washington to Norman, Oklahoma and Texas. They’ll have to be smart about how and who they have teams miss year by year.
"And then you’re bringing in two of the nation’s year-in and year-out Top 10 teams in all of college football to try and beat. You’ve already got some elevated competition in the Pac-12 and now you’re going to try to have to beat them, too. The Washington State Cougars, and everyone else, are going to have to step it up. You’ve already got USC, and Oregon is stepping up, Stanford is stepping up, you’ve got a lot of tough competition already. And now you’ve just added not only one team but two perennial Top 10 teams to try and beat and that’s going to be tough, tough, tough.”
WHAT ABOUT SOME pros to go along with the cons?
“The biggest pro-argument is certainly, first and foremost, the money. The amount of money those teams, assuming it is Texas and Oklahoma, will generate through TV contracts is immense when you’re talking about those two schools. They drive so much money. Financially, it’s a windfall for Washington State. The next positive is probably just opening up new frontiers, ones that you never thought would happen. I think that’s a pro. But that’s easy for me to say, I don’t have to go try and beat them,” said Walden.
What about recruiting? Won’t it hurt Washington State to now introduce the bread and butter of WSU recruiting – California -- to schools like Oklahoma and Texas, as well as Okie State and Texas Tech?
“I don’t think so. You’re not going to leave Texas athletes to go and get ones from California. If you were Oklahoma or Texas, they didn’t get there with California guys. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. They might get a few, but they’re going to than have to let someone else get guys from Texas or Oklahoma they would have taken. I think that’s actually a positive for Washington State, enhancing our ability to go in and get guys from Texas that would have gone to Baylor or SMU or Texas Tech.
“I think it actually opens it up for teams like Washington State. Let me say it this way, I think recruiting-wise it might open up more doors for Washington State than it does for other teams in California."
Jim Walden was the coach of the Washington State Cougars from 1978-1986, was voted Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 1981 and is a member of the Wyoming Football Hall of Fame. In 2011, Walden began his eleventh season as the color commentator in the WSU broadcast booth.