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Football rules, and basketball teams are loyal subjects

Pac-12 college basketball coaches know what matters most.

College football.

And they are very much OK with that.

“With the kind of television contracts we just got,” USC basketball Coach Kevin O’Neill said, “I don’t care if it was football driving the bus or lacrosse. I don’t care who’s in our league. It’s just the landscape of college athletics.”

The contracts O’Neill was referring to were the media deals announced in May that begin next year and will provide television coverage for every Pacific 12 Conference basketball game. The total TV package for all sports will be worth about $3 billion over 12 years.

On Pac-12 basketball media day Friday at the Nokia Center, conference Commissioner Larry Scott said that while it would be nice to think that the people in charge of deciding who’s playing in what conference weigh the implications of location for every sport, there is another reality.

“Clearly, football is driving the train right now,” Scott said.

“Football is in control,” UCLA basketball Coach Ben Howland said. “So much money is involved in running football programs and they generate just as much money.”

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California Coach Mike Montgomery used one word to describe the difference between football and basketball.

“Kansas,” Montgomery said.

Then he elaborated: “All the talk about who was going where from the Big 12 and you never heard mention of Kansas basketball and its great tradition.”

With billions of dollars to be earned, Oregon State basketball Coach Craig Robinson said he was fine with football being the driving force of college conference affiliations.

Since Robinson worked as a vice president of two banks and as a managing director of an investment firm in New York in between coaching jobs, he was being both modest and honest when he said, “I don’t know how much background I have in team alignments but with my time in investment banking, I know economics drives things and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Certainly the basketball coaches at the two newest members of the Pac-12 — Utah’s Larry Krystkowiak and Colorado’s Tad Boyle — are happy for what football has done.

“I don’t pay much attention to what’s going on with football,” Krystkowiak said, “and politics is one area I’m not very strong on. I know a little bit about basketball though and if football is the reason we’re in the Pac-12, then I am a really big fan of football.”

“I love college football,” Boyle said. “We all understand what’s driving the bus.”

Bus or train, the quarterbacks are in the driver’s seat, not the point guards.

Health scare

Cal’s Montgomery, 64, revealed Friday that he was recently treated for bladder cancer, and that he had surgery last week. He said the cancer was discovered while he was being checked for diverticulitis. “There was something that wasn’t supposed to be in there,” Montgomery said. “Three months ago [doctors] wouldn’t have found it. Six months from now, you would have been done. If you have an ache or a pain, get checked.”

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin


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