Chat with Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News is one of the best in the business, and my favorite source on the Pac-10. He’s a Daily News alum, and a great guy to boot. Here’s what he had to say about the Pac-10 expansion talks.

All the talk is on a 16-team expansion, but what about a 12-team league?
“I can’t help but wonder if the Pac-10 honchos have concluded that it’s an all-or-nothing situation. Either they’re going for 16, or they’re going to stand down at the Pac-10. Just adding two teams is just not worth it on the revenue side. They’re going to go big and if they don’t go big, go with what they’ve had. But nobody’s told me that. I’ve been very skeptical all along that Colorado and Utah would do enough on the revenue front to make it worthwhile. There are a lot of steps, and a lot of those steps have nothing to do with the Pac-10.”

Where does college football go from here?
“I don’t know what they do with some of those leftover teams – Colorado, Baylor, the Kansas schools. Maybe they’d end up joining the Mountain West, a fifth conference. I’m just not sure how it’s going to shake down. It has the potential to be completely different than it has been. A month ago, I would have told you that the chances would be minimal, now I would say they’d be significant. Texas still holds so many of the cards. If the Longhorns are still adamant about staying in the Big-12, there’s a good chance the Big-12 stays together in some form. But what is the SEC doing behind the scenes? What is the Big-10 doing behind the scenes? I’m sure as much as we know, there is twice as much we don’t.”

When you talk about these changes, it sounds like college football will change forever after this…
“They would have to change the BCS, either as its currently formatted or do away with it all together. There’s a theory that the Big-10 commissioner Jim Delaney thinks the BCS will not survive past 2015. He’s putting his conference in position to thrive in some kind of post-BCS world. If you have four, 16-team super-conferences, they’d have to radically change how the BCS is structured. But I think (college football) will evolve again. What’s happening in the BCS, there is a gap between the haves and have-nots. If there are four 16-team conferences, what’s going to happen to the WAC? In 10 or 15 years, I wouldn’t be surprised if major college football, instead of 120 teams, is 65 teams.”

OK, let’s be honest, there’s only one question the readers really care about. How does this affect UCLA, particularly recruiting?
“It would say it helps UCLA’s recruiting – there would be a much stronger affiliation and more roadtrips in Texas. You go back, and UCLA has recruited really well in Texas. UCLA and Notre Dame were raiding Texas every year, before everybody else was really getting in. I think it would really help the schools that have a national feel. They’ll be able to go into the homes of Texas recruits and say, ‘You’re going to be on TV a lot more because you’re playing Texas schools, and you’ll be home once a year, every two years maybe.’ But it ain’t going to help Oregon and Washington, I can tell you that.”

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  • http://www.insidesocal.com Dallas Bruin

    First of all, I absolutely hate the idea of conference expansion, especially when it comes to the PAC-10. We have five perfect natural rivalries and are the only conference (that I can think of) that plays a perfect round robin in football and hoops. Unfortunately, it comes down to $$$ (as always). That being said, although I hate the idea of it, I’d rather be proactive about it and expand first than reactive and be forced to chase the other “super conferences.” So bring on the PAC-16, I guess- why not, our fball non-conference is basically a Big 12 schedule anyway.

  • Pistalion

    Why do you need a source on the Pac 10? You cover UCLA sports part of that job is understanding the context in which UCLA sports operates. I know this isn’t your dream job but at least be adequate at your job. You provide no new information. The best information we got on this blog are from other writers. Get sources, find information.

  • gilligan

    @Dallas Bruin, I am a USC fan and I also hate the idea of conference expansion.
    I would prefer a partnership between the Big 12 and Pac 10 similar to the current hoops competition that could also evolve to a shared TV network in the future. My worst fear is that conference expansion will dilute the Pac 10′s non-conference schedule as the SEC.

  • MichaelRyerson

    I find it shocking, SHOCKING that a man of pistalion’s sophistication would waste his time reading, let alone commenting on, this poor blog. Of course, there is the problem your post, as written, makes no sense, initially ragging Jon for needing a source on the PAC 10 and then closing with the laughably illogical dictum ‘Get sources, find information.’ Work on your parallelism, chum.

  • Mark and Gina Daniels

    I don’t understand his glib statement about it not helping out Oregon or Washington. These are legitimate programs that have have decent recruitment ability (and some would even argue similar level to UCLA’s). There have been several times we have lost an in-state recruit to both of those teams. Their rosters both have players from Texas already.

  • cliq

    nothing on the walk off home run at the WCWS?

    it’d be nice to get an update when something awesome happens in the world of UCLA sports, even if it’s a one liner with a “more to come later” line.

    this place is (or can be) the one stop shop for all updates on UCLA. it doesn’t have to be minute by minute details… but just a post after the game has ended. not everyone tracks all sports, but we like to come here to get our UCLA info, and it would be nice to hear about something that’s worth knowing in other sports.

    additionally, this lengthy post about expansion. great, but there’s no coverage on your end at all on anything leading up to this post.

    again, it goes back to some people who’d like to use this page as the one stop shop of all things UCLA.

    and I know you’re a one man show, so I understand if this is tough. just letting you know that I’d like to see this blog become my place for UCLA news, not a supplement.

  • Mike H class of 90

    Mark/Gina,

    A Pac-16 would probably end up two Pac-8′s, and Oregon/Washington schools probably don’t face Texas every year like UCLA/USC presumably would, giving that slight edge to the schools in the 8 with Texas. That’s what I’ve read, at least.

  • Warren

    I wonder about non-conference games. If there is a 16-team conference (2 leagues of 8), I would assume each team would play 7 within their league and then 4 in the other league. So does this leave 1 non-conference game? Does this end teams scheduling patsies to pad their win totals? Or will they only play 1 or 2 teams from the other half of their conference?

    I think it would be awesome if they could break the 65 “big-conference” teams into 8 conferences of 8 (and drop 1 team), or add 7 teams (like Notre Dame, Boise St, TCU, BYU, Utah, and a few others), and have 8 conferences of 9. Then they can all play each other, the winner of each goes to an 8-team playoff, and the fans, players, and coaches would be happy…well, except that it would result in less money for everyone, so I guess that makes it a stupid idea.

  • Pistalion

    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. When I said get sources, I meant his own sources, not other writers. I don’t really consider another writer as another source, he’s getting 2nd hand information. I believe Jon should have sources within the athletic department, coaches, high school coaches – sources that can give Jon inside information he can’t get from other places. Of course I’m gonna check out this blog – its about UCLA sports, something I love dearly. Just because the writer of the blog is inadequate at his job, doesn’t stop my need for all info about UCLA sports.

  • sandiegobruinfan

    With the size & profile of the SEC along with the looming expansion of the Big 10, no way can the Pac 10 just sit around and wish for the good ol’ days. The concept isn’t so bad:

    2 Pac 16 Divisions…8 teams in each division, East and West

    East would take both the current AZ schools and the 6 schools coming in from the Big 12(UT, Tech, A&M, OK, OK St, CU)…and let’s hope we get Colorado instead of Baylor which is apparently being force fed to the Pac by the Texas state legislature.

    West keeps the CA schools along with the Oregon and WA schools.

    Each school would have 7 conference games within their division plus 2 (1 home and 1 away) east-west conference games so as to make travel somewhat digestible.

    Winner of each division plays in the conference title game.

    Each school would then have 3 non-conference games to schedule bodybag games with tomato can schools (Sac State, Cal Poly SLO, etc.) a la the SEC which would now be needed with a murderous Pac conference schedule. Given that 1 win/game per year against these schools does count towards bowl eligibility, the Pac should take advantage of it. These 3 non-conference games would also allow certain rivalries to continue (SUC-ND, OK-Nebraska, etc.)

    The Pac would then become much like the SEC…and in many ways, much better.

  • MichaelRyerson

    You’re right, you weren’t very clear. As to what constitutes ‘sources’ you’re still wrong. Writers, of all stripes, share tips and insights all the time. There’s no shame in that. I want Jon to use all his considerable resources to write this blog. You don’t like/love UCLA sports any more than many of the rest of us.

  • Pistalion

    It’s fine for posters to link to other people’s info, but for a writer, whose job is to cover UCLA sports – he needs to be a better job of getting inside sources to give us a better look into UCLA sports. Honestly, the level of information he gives isn’t much better than posters of bruingold or scout.com. However, its his job to provide in depth coverage of UCLA, and his job allows him to establish relationships and find info that other people are not privy to, and so far he hasn’t seemed to do that.
    If he doesn’t have the relationship with the PAC 10 that Wilner does, he needs to develop those sources. I never said I loved UCLA more than anyone else, I just explained why I would go to a blog that I believe is substandard reporting – because it has info (no matter how insufficient) about something I love dearly.

  • cliq

    Jon’s been here for what.. less than a year? It takes YEARS to build up those kind of contacts, and obviously he needs to start somewhere, building those relationships, which is his other fellow reporters. You don’t walk into a job like this and instantly get connections. I’m sure Jon in year 3-5 will be drastically different from Jon in year 1. Reset your expectations and give him a break.

  • bibs

    Jon,
    You are doing a good job with this blog.Pissed off should look elsewhere for one stop answers.If there is a blogger that knows it all I’ve yet to read that person.There is so much conjecture about what will happen that no one has all the answers. There are too many”experts” who know it all reading your blog and they end up showing their stupidity.Remember what Coach said,”It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts”.