Pac-10 Readies for Full Conference Schedule

Times Staff Writer

USC has won or shared the last three Pacific 10 Conference football championships en route to three consecutive appearances in bowl championship series games.

But the Trojans did that without playing at least one conference opponent each season.

Starting in 2006, however, USC and other Pac-10 teams will play a round-robin, nine-game conference schedule if school presidents approve a measure during this week’s conference meetings in Portland, Ore.

“It makes competition for the conference championship and the Rose Bowl more equitable on an annual basis,” Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen said Thursday.


USC Coach Pete Carroll agreed.

“This is the way it should be,” he said.

The measure, expected to pass easily in a vote Sunday, was introduced because the NCAA approved a 12th regular-season game.

“It works well because you don’t have to go find another nonconference game, which has everyone scrambling,” said Steve Lopes, USC’s senior associate athletic director who handles football scheduling.


Schools in some conferences are expected to use the extra game to schedule easy opponents. Weaker programs with budget issues are expected to try to cash in by playing on the road for a guarantee.

But the Pac-10 will fold the extra game into its schedule, creating a round-robin format for the first time since 1977, the year before Arizona and Arizona State joined what was then known as the Pac-8.

In 1978, the newly formed Pac-10 built “misses” into the schedule, allowing teams to play at least three nonconference games.

From the start, such natural rivalries as USC-UCLA, California-Stanford, Washington-Washington State, Oregon-Oregon State and Arizona-Arizona State were not affected by the misses. But when it became apparent that other traditional games -- USC-California, USC-Stanford, Oregon-Washington -- would be affected, the schedule was shuffled, making for some quirks.

USC, for example, played four of its five games against Oregon between 1998 and 2002 at Eugene. USC did not play Oregon in 2003 and 2004, and the Trojans will travel to Autzen Stadium for their 2005 conference opener Sept. 24.

Carroll said he was looking forward to the new format.

“Finally, we won’t have to go to Oregon every year,” he said.



Carroll met with quarterback Rocky Hinds to discuss the redshirt freshman’s future with the team. Hinds, listed No. 3 on the depth chart behind Matt Leinart and John David Booty, is considering transferring.

“Until we talked, I think he might have thought it would be in his interest,” Carroll said. “He’s just trying to figure out where he sits and what he wants to do.... There are a lot of people in his ear about stuff. It’s hard on a young guy.”

Carroll said he would talk with Hinds again and expected the situation to be resolved in the next few days.

“We have seen in the recent history of the program that it takes our quarterbacks an average amount of time to gain command of the offense,” Carroll said. “Rocky had a great spring but he still has a lot to learn. He made as much improvement as anyone.”

Carroll also said he had signed release papers for running back Chauncey Washington, who was declared academically ineligible for the second consecutive season. Carroll said he did not know where Washington intended to transfer.

“I just wish the very best for him because he’s a very tough, competitive kid. I’m sure he’ll land somewhere,” Carroll said.