When it announced the addition of a conference championship game last year, the newly expanded Pac-12 went out of its way to stage the game at a campus venue, eschewing a neutral site to reward the higher-ranked side with home-field advantage. For the game, yeah. But as Oregon is finding out this week, no one ever said anything about practice. From The Oregonian:
EUGENE -- Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks were once again locked out of Autzen Stadium while the Pac-12 tweaks the stadium before the Pac-12 title game. There's a UCLA banner hanging outside the stadium and we've heard the colors might be a little different inside the stadium. You've already heard, of course, that PA Announcer Don Essig won't be delivering his signature line Friday during the game.
Usually the Ducks do their walk-thru in Autzen two days before the game, but they were in the [Moshofsky] Center again today.
"There are some kicking limitations where (punter) Jackson (Rice) and Rob Beard and Alejandro (Maldonado) hit the ceiling but we can adjust to that, it's not a big deal for us," Kelly said. "If they tell us we can't go in the stadium then we can't go in the stadium. If we told us we couldn't go in the Mo we'd find another place to practice. In this program, we worry about things we can control. And what you can control is your effort and focus."
There you have it: While Rick Neuheisel is getting carried off the practice field, Chip Kelly can't even get past the "Caution: Wet Paint" sign.
As Kelly points out, the Ducks haven't been explicitly kicked out, per se, so much as their natural habitat has been rendered unlivable by an invasive species. If they hadn't been able to go in the Moshofsky Center, Kelly said, "There are lots of parking lots. We scouted the parking lots. If need be, we could go there." Hey, if Johnny Unitas didn't need a regulation surface, you don't either, you Swooshed-up punks.
As an experiment in fostering competition, the Pac-12 could have forbidden Oregon from practicing altogether this week, just to see if it had any discernible effect on the outcome Friday night. The last time UCLA visited Autzen Stadium, it was trashed by 47 points; coming into this game, the Ducks are pitting the No. 1 total and scoring offense in the league against a defense that ranks in the mid-80s nationally in both categories and just gave up 50 to USC. If they took the week off and just rolled in an hour or two before the game, I can't imagine the point spread would be above, what, three touchdowns?