Pac-12 was centrally responsible for making college football what it is

The history of college football contains many rivers of influence and importance. The Pac-12 has not been a particularly successful conference in the 21st century — with no national championship since USC in 2004 — but the Pac-12, as it dies, leaves behind a legacy of supreme importance in college football. The SEC might be the best and most successful conference today, but it wouldn’t have received a catapult toward greatness without the Pac-12.

To be clear and precise: Obviously, the Pac-12 did not exist 100 years ago, but we are of course referring to schools and conferences whose members would eventually comprise what became the Pac-12. The conference used to be the Pac-10. Before that, the Pac-8. Before that, the AAWU and the Pacific Coast Conference. West Coast schools which carry the Pac-12 banner — under one name or another — are part of the foundational moments in college football history. There are a few to consider, and they all had a seismic impact in shaping the sport we know today, even as the Pac-12 recedes into history.

One central game with a Pac-12 school: Stanford versus Michigan in the very first Rose Bowl in 1902. Imagine that: Nearly 125 years ago, someone conceived of the idea of having a bowl game, and not only that, but having it in a perfect Southern California setting. The Rose Bowl wouldn’t be played for another decade and a half after that 1902 game, but the seed had been planted. Granddaddy was born.

Another central game in the formation of college football was the 1925 Rose Bowl between Notre Dame and Stanford.

Fighting Irish Wire could tell you how important this game was. We know it, too:

The 1925 Rose Bowl in which Notre Dame beat Stanford was one of the most important games in the history of college football. It featured Notre Dame’s iconic Four Horsemen and Stanford head coach Pop Warner, but it also drew Notre Dame to the West Coast, which planted seeds that led to the creation of the USC-Notre Dame football rivalry between coaches Howard Jones and Knute Rockne. The 1925 Rose Bowl helped made college football a truly national sport played across the whole of the United States.

The third game with a Pac-12 team involved is the one with the SEC angle. The 1926 Rose Bowl in which Alabama beat Washington is credited with launching Alabama football as a national force and creating a belief throughout the South that the region could create elite football programs which would be able to play with the other regional powers such as Notre Dame, Michigan, the Ivy League powers, and others. College Football was a primarily northern and eastern sport. The 1926 Rose Bowl was in many ways the grand emergence of the SEC. If Washington had hammered Bama that day, the SEC might not be remotely close to where it is now.

See what you did, Huskies?

The point remains: The Pac-12 had a place — and a part — in three supremely foundational college football games. You can’t write the full history of the sport and its evolution without the Pac-12.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire