Luck smiles on college football world

Published Jan. 6, 2011 12:00 a.m. EST

Matt Leinart did it in 2005. Jake Locker did it in 2010. And now, Andrew Luck’s done it in 2011.

Sure, there will be weeping and wailing in Corvallis and Seattle. There will be gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in Tucson and Westwood. There will be angst and agony in Berkeley, plus terror in Tempe.

In a move that made Carolina Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott the two happiest people in American sports, Andrew Luck chose to stay at Stanford for another season.

This move will reverberate throughout the soon-to-be-expanded conference that wants to make a big splash in its first season. Jim Harbaugh’s employment status is a concern, but now, with Luck opting for another year in the Bay Area, Stanford should be able to get a big-name replacement who would just love to tutor the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.


When September arrives, Stanford should have the resources needed to make at least one more run at the Rose Bowl, and perhaps something even greater.

What are the consequences of Luck’s move, beyond increasing the chances that the Cardinal can get a quality coach in 2011 (assuming Harbaugh leaves)?

First of all, the Oregon Ducks will have a clear-cut challenger in the Pac-12 Conference race. No other Pac-12 school made sense as a definite No. 2 choice, especially since USC's appeal to the NCAA won’t reach its next major phase until a Jan. 22 procedure.

While USC awaits word as to whether its NCAA sanctions will be reduced, Oregon State would seem to be the most likely challenger, but the Beavers have to go to Autzen Stadium in 2011, so they’re already behind the 8-ball. Stanford won’t make a trek to Eugene next season, so with Luck still in the saddle, the Cardinal become a more-than-viable threat to Oregon.

The other big effect of this move is that the Oregon-Stanford axis is likely to produce a bigger buzz for the Pac-12 Championship Game. Either the Ducks or the Cardinal (with USC still ineligible for the time being) will move the needle in terms of TV ratings, and likely create a big crowd for the conference’s first stand-alone title game.

Larry Scott needed this move even more than Jimmy Clausen did; the Carolina Panthers might be immensely disappointed, but the Pac-12 stands to benefit on an immediate front.

Flowing from the boost given to the Pac-12 title game, the conference is now poised to place two teams in the BCS bowl lineup for a second straight year. The Pac-10 lags in fourth place in terms of at-large BCS bowl bids (with only three in 13 years), but Oregon and Stanford are now good choices to push that total to four after the 2011 campaign.

So, while Thursday's news may have scrambled the draft board of every NFL team, it was a welcomed development for the Pac-12.