“Grandpa, our robot teacher assigned us to study the year 2020, since it’s the 50-year anniversary. Will you help me? I have so many questions.”

“So do I, Blue Ivy, so do I. It’s been half a century, and I still don’t have all the answers. But I’ll do the best I can. What exactly do you want to know?”

“Well, each student was given a particular area to research, and I got college football. Specifically, something called the Pac-12, which I assume was an ancient version of the Mega-Elite 25 that the University of Montlake plays in now. Remind me why were they called Washington back then?”

“Well, Blue Ivy, that was before all schools named after historical figures decided to re-brand. And, yes, the Pac-12 was a conference of colleges up and down the West Coast, more or less. I’d suggest you don’t think about the geography too carefully. The key point was they were all under the guidance of a man named Larry Scott. Have you heard of him?”

“Yes! But our teacher told us that we weren’t allowed to say his name. Said he almost ruined the conference until Chris Petersen took over as commissioner in 2022 and brought it back to prominence.

“That’s all true. I suggest you read about the $7,500-per night hotel suite he stayed at during the men’s basketball tournament one year. I know it’s hard to translate into our virtual currency, but $7,500 per night was huge money back then. Not only was Larry tone-deaf, but it seemed like every move he made drove the conference further into irrelevance. Finally, four of the old Pac-12 schools broke off from the NCAA in 2028 to join the Mega-Elite 25, which offers players the highest salaries of any conference in the country. And 2020 was the beginning of the end. What else do you want to know?”

“Grandpa, I’m looking at the Pac-12 football standings in 2020. I’m really confused. Some schools played three games, some played four, some played five, some played six, and some played seven. What in the name of former President Swift was going on?


“You’ve heard of COVID-19, right? That was the year of the pandemic, and it raged throughout the land. We didn’t do a good job of containing it — but that’s another story. Anyway, the Pac-12 said it wasn’t going to play football at all that year, but then it changed its mind once they procured these advanced rapid-result COVID-19 tests. At least, they were advanced for 2020. It’s not like now, where you can just take one wafer when you’re born that makes you immune to every virus for the next 120 years — almost your whole life.

“But back to the Pac-12. After getting the tests, Mr. Scott waited a couple of weeks too long to get the season started, so there was no margin for error when things went haywire. And boy, did they go haywire. Despite the tests, teams kept having to cancel games because their players got sick. It was chaotic. No one knew week to week what was going to happen. Stanford had to play a game without its star quarterback when he tested positive for the virus — but it turned out he wasn’t really positive. Cal called off two games after just one positive test. One of those cancellations came after they had traveled all the way to Pullman to play Palouse State. Arizona State didn’t play for three weeks in a row. I could go on and on.”

“That sounds awful, Grandpa. Did the players have to take a pay cut because they played so few games?”

“Why, Blue Ivy, the players didn’t get paid back then.”

“Oh, Grandpa, you’re so silly. That’s a good joke. Anyway, who ended up winning the championship?”

“That’s a funny story. The league was divided into two divisions, North and South. USC won the South, but only because they didn’t have to play the other best team in their division, Colorado. The Trojans didn’t have enough scholarship players the week they were supposed to play Colorado. And Montlake, er, let’s call them Washington for your report, won the North.”


“So then who won the championship game between USC and Washington?”

“Well, they never played, Blue Ivy. Washington came down with so many cases of COVID-19 they had to pull out of the championship game. But only after the Pac-12 announced they were going to play even though it was obvious to everyone they couldn’t. And so the North was represented instead by Oregon, which finished in second place behind Washington. You’ve probably heard of their coach that year — Mario Cristobal. He left after the 2020 season for Auburn, where he won four national championships. Coach Cristobal was the reason a man named Nick Saban was fired from Alabama after he lost to Auburn five straight years. But I digress.”

“I don’t understand, Grandpa. If Washington couldn’t play, why didn’t they just have Colorado face USC for the championship? Wouldn’t that have made more sense?”

“I told you I still had a lot of unanswered questions, Blue. Mr. Scott could always be counted on to make decisions that were in the worst interests of the Pac-12.”

“At least we got to see what happened when Washington played Oregon during the season. How did that game turn out?”

“You’re not going to believe this. That wasn’t played, either. Washington had to pull out because of COVID-19 cases. If they had lost, the North title would have gone to Oregon. But since they didn’t play, Washington became the division champion.”


“That’s awesome! So everyone’s fan base was happy, right? Washington got to be the North champion, and Oregon got to play for the conference title. A true win-win scenario.”

“Oh, my poor, naive Blue Ivy. No one was happy! Oregon’s fans accused Washington of ducking them to win the North. Washington’s fans thought Oregon didn’t earn their trip to the title game. It was a real mess. Tensions finally eased a little bit when Jimmy Lake — the guy the Huskies’ new quadruple-deck stadium is named for — insisted that Oregon deserved to be called champion if they beat USC.”

“Well, did they beat USC?”

“Now, Blue Ivy, I’m not going to do all your work for you. Why do you think they invented Mind-Google? You know what to do: Put the sensors on your forehead, think of the question you want answered, and Mind-Google will read your brain waves and spit out the answer. You’re going to be surprised. But I will tell you that Washington was able to get healthy enough to play in the Alamo Bowl in late December. Truth be told, instead of risking a trip across country to San Antonio to play a game that few people cared much about, I would have preferred they focused on reviving the Apple Cup against Palouse State in late December. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, that was canceled, too. But the Huskies were set on playing in a bowl game.”

“Did they win it?”

“Mind-Google it, my dear. And let me know if you have any other questions. I haven’t even gotten into Stanford turning into nomads for a month because of the quarantine regulations in Santa Clara County.”

“Oh, I can’t wait to learn about that. I really appreciate your help, Grandpa. If you don’t mind, I’m going to need you again next week when we study Donald Trump.”