Huard, Chris Petersen remember meeting that hinted at Pac-12’s fate

Aug 7, 2023, 1:47 PM | Updated: Aug 9, 2023, 12:20 pm

The Pac-12 as we know it will cease to be in 2024, and at this point it’s hard to say it couldn’t have been seen coming.

But what about years ago?

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On Monday, Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk were joined by former UW Huskies head football coach Chris Petersen, who retired after the 2019 season, to discuss the state of the conference and college football in general following Washington and Oregon’s decisions last week to leave for the Big Ten.

“I don’t want to say I felt this coming – that the Pac-12 was going to dissolve, because this is wild in my mind. It’s just like, how did we get here?” Petersen said. “… I think over the last handful of years, the last, I don’t know, 10 years or so, you could just feel somehow the Pac-12 becoming less and less important, and less and less of a player, and the other conferences – the SEC, the Big Ten – becoming more and more important.”

One of the co-hosts on the other side of the conversation was Brock Huard, a former UW quarterback who is now a longtime college football analyst for FOX. And as it turns out, Huard played a role in a meeting years ago while he was working at ESPN that hinted at the trouble the Pac-12 would eventually find itself in, as Petersen remembered.

“Brock, I know you remember this like it’s yesterday and I know I do, too,” Petersen said. “You and (ESPN college football analyst) Kirk Herbstreit came in and talked to all of the (Pac-12 football) coaches kind of about this topic, and that those two conferences (the SEC and the Big Ten), when you guys would go do games just felt bigger and more important. And so you could just feel this thing kind of eroding, and here we are.”

Huard shared that he does in fact remember that meeting, which he said also included Pac-12 athletic directors, league officials and even former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. Here’s his recollection of what he said in the meeting that hinted at what was to come:

Our boss (at ESPN) said, ‘You two are gonna go in there and we’re going to work through this,’ and it was like an hour. I remember looking at you specifically and, like, ‘Alright, permission to speak freely? Can I just air out what’s really going on here?’ And I remember you and (UCLA coach) Chip Kelly and (former Stanford coach) David Shaw were like, ‘Well, yeah, then what the heck else are we doing here?’ I was like, ‘Alright, I don’t know if this is good for my career, it’s probably not good for my ‘Q’ rating and my popularity with the league and officials, but let me just lay it out. You guys are way behind. You’re way behind. The way you treat your broadcast partners, you’re way behind. The hubris and arrogance you have, you’re way behind. The way you think that you can just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re way behind.’

When I finished, it was like, ‘Oh, gosh.’ Like, you could hear a pin drop in there. And I’m not tooting my horn saying I saw this coming, but the hubris and some of the arrogance of some of the leadership in there – Chris, I could feel you and (Utah coach Kyle Whittingham) and Chip and the old school coaches that had been doing it for decades, I could feel the discomfort you had even then with the leadership going on in the league offices, that this was not going in the right direction.

Coach Petersen’s take

At the end of that retelling, Huard asked Petersen, “Is that fair?”

Responded Petersen: “One-hundred percent. Like I said, I remember like it was yesterday. I thought it was so great that you and Kirk came in there and really, like, gave us the state of the state in a really honest way, and we could all feel that. Like, you could feel it. So then it’s like, ‘OK, what are we going to do about this?’ … (There was) this feeling, it’s like, ‘Well, we’re the Pac-12. We are who we are, and we’re this brand.'”

Petersen said he felt it particularly when trying to recruit players.

“In the recruiting world, you could just feel it slipping through our fingers. Like, no, it’s not the same that it was. It’s amazing just how fast things can change on you, but really this wasn’t that fast, you know? It’s kind of just eroding away and you could feel it, and you’re like, ‘What are we doing?'”

As the former Washington coach, how does Petersen feel about the Huskies leaving for the Big Ten next year?

“I think it’s a decision that nobody that’s a Pac-12 fan, that’s a Washington fan, would want to make, but probably at the end of the day it’s the best thing for Washington to be at the table, right?” he said. “Because you know what they say, you’re either at the table or on the menu, and it was really starting to feel like the teams in the Pac-12 were going to be on the menu.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with former UW Huskies football coach Chris Petersen in the podcast at this link or in the video and audio players near the top of this post.

More on the UW Huskies leaving the Pac-12

Caple: UW leaving Pac-12 is a total bummer — and totally necessary
Bumpus: What’s next for WSU after UW and Oregon leave Pac-12?
Huard: ‘Tremendous mixed emotions’ over Pac-12 shakeup

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Huard, Chris Petersen remember meeting that hinted at Pac-12’s fate