As the preseason wraps up among collegiate conferences around the country, a breakdown of what to expect for the rest of the year, who is worthy of hype and who has already been a disappointment, is rampant among the sports world. While UO’s football team has garnered a majority of national attention for its ranking, another Duck team has worked its way into the top ten and dominated a preseason of their own. The women’s volleyball team has leaped to a No. 9 ranking and stormed through an undefeated preseason, making them worthy of as much praise.
While the volleyball team has jumped four places in the last eight games, it doesn’t mean their road to the top will be an easy one. In fact, the Oregon women find themselves in perhaps the pinnacle of volleyball competition. As preseason comes to a close, five of the ten teams ranked as the top in the country are from the Pac-12, including UCLA (2), USC (3), Washington (5), Stanford (7), and Oregon (9).
In the last decade, the Pac-12 has fought to prove competitive with the SEC. The success of Oregon, USC, and Stanford have all helped to boost the west coast’s reputation, and Larry Scott’s innovative and progressive administration have all earned the conference more respect on the national stage. And though the Pac-12 football programs have yet to make the mark they wish by winning a BCS championship in the last seven years, the conference is making strides in other athletic ventures.
Though women’s volleyball isn’t exactly the first thing to pop onto one’s screen or the rankings that sports news most ardently follows it is always productive and significant for the Pac-12 to dominate at any sport – especially as they vie for national prestige. Whether the rankings are just a reflection of west coast enthusiasm for volleyball or extra effort by the Pac-12 to reach the top is of little concern. What does matter, however, is that the success of the Pac-12 is reaching beyond the bounds of simply football – which should always be the primary goal of any collegiate sports conference. When one athletic program succeeds, it’s beneficial to the entire university and in this case, with the early dominance of volleyball teams, the entire Pac-12.
While the institution of the Pac-12 Network and Oregon and USC’s places near the top of current football rankings are worth being proud of, it’s easy to forget other conference successes. Perhaps it’s because we tend to associate success of conferences or schools based on the triumphs of their teams on the football field. It’s hard to criticize such an attitude when football does bring in the most money, attention, sponsorships, television time, advertising, and other necessities to gain notoriety for one’s university. Though other less commercialized sports bring in fewer dollars and draw less attention, it doesn’t diminish the importance and impact they have when they’re winning.
It’s far too early in the season for any sort of celebration – in fact, the season hasn’t even started – but to take a glance at the current NCAA rankings of fall sports provides the Pac-12 reason to celebrate their dominance of women’s volleyball. While most eyes will be on the prize (a BCS championship) it wouldn’t be a bad idea for west coasters to keep tabs on the rising volleyball super power. And while we all cherish the success of our local Ducks and Beavers, it’s never a bad thing when a fellow Pac-12 team can secure a title. If things continue how they are, the conference could have at least one championship at the end of this season.