Ted Miller has some things to say about the end of the Pac-12
On the end of the Pac-12 Blog, the conspiracy against USC and why Washington/Oregon is the right way for things to go out.
I’ve wondered what Ted Miller would think about all of this.
About the No. 5 Ducks playing the No. 3 Huskies in the Pac-12 championship game.
About this being the last Pac-12 championship game, the change of the sport he covered for three decades and a media industry that brought himself abrupt change back in 2017.
Miller, the longtime college football writer for the Seattle PI and ESPN.com, was the Pac-12 to me. As I traveled to media day and the conference championship and the College Football Playoff as a wide-eyed 25-year-old during Oregon’s last run like this, I rarely saw a table where Miller wasn’t dressed the best, telling the most stories and laughing the loudest. He owned every room.
And for years, his work with ESPN’s Pac-12 Blog provided West Coast fans with the type of comprehensive and modern coverage they deserved, the type that’s rarely been replicated since ESPN pulled the plug back in 2017.
Miller’s been out of the game since. He’s shocked by how little football he watches these days. But you better believe he has some thoughts on the end of this era.
Here’s a conversation with Ted Miller.
(Lightly edited for length and clarity.)
How long were you in Seattle for?
I moved there in ’99 and was there through 2008. I basically jumped in right as Neuheisel came in, and I thought I was escaping scandal because I had been covering Auburn and the Terry Bowden to Tommy Tuberville debacle. I figured now I’m in the Pac-10 and this will be nice and peaceful. New coach. Million dollar coach. It would all be fine.
What did it feel like becoming a West Coast guy after growing up in the Southeast?
Two things marked my beginning.
One of my early first-year stories was I was reviewing the records of Mike Bellotti at Oregon, and I hadn’t really known his accomplishment levels and Oregon’s rise. So I wrote this fawning story about Mike Bellotti for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Immediately a huge Washington booster sent me a note saying: Hello. Welcome to Seattle. I think I need to explain a few things to you.
Then it went on to say how I need to learn to hate Oregon and that I was going to get dragged for at least six to eight months for this — it became a whole lot, but people got over it.
My second Pac-12 story was that Washington was playing Miami early in the season and I still had my SEC bias. I was a Georgia season ticket holder and I was just sitting there thinking that Miami was just going to beat the crap out of Washington. It was 2000. I had covered the team in 1999. I thought they were OK, but it was like, Miami.
So I called a buddy up and said I wanted to put some money on the game. Miami was only favored by four. It was going to be easy. Then I caught myself. I said to myself, I can’t be betting money on college football as a sports writer. That just seems unethical. I had never thought of doing it before and I’m so glad I didn’t, because Washington beat the crap out of them. They scored some late touchdowns and were doing some fluffy stuff at the end, but for most of that game Washington was up two touchdowns and just dominating the line of scrimmage. I remember thinking to myself, “All my buddies in the southeast, they think that this is soft out here. But this is a rugged football team.” And the thing is, that Washington team wasn’t really incredibly talented, they were just a bunch of dirty, hard-nosed, grumpy players. A lot of the Oregon players were like that too. And it kind of transformed me into being the advocate for the West Coast, even if it wasn’t my home territory.
When we were talking earlier you had mentioned that going to ESPN and joining the blogging world wasn’t exactly your cup of tea, but so many people remember you specifically for your work during that era. How do you view that time in retrospect?
I loved the irreverence of it, and I really tried to provide good information for people. What I didn't like was the continuous updating. I’d be out with my wife on my anniversary and they’d be calling me because the AP has a story about Matt Barkley injuring his ankle in Los Angeles. I’m at dinner in Scottsdale and they want me to verify the story — I said the AP had it, but they wanted us to write our own thing for everything. And it was a famous ESPN thing, a lot of ESPN people didn’t break stories but they claimed them. They hated the fact that I would never do that. If someone else reported a story first, I would credit them in the second paragraph at the latest. And when they would take it out, I’d go and edit it back in. I had continual conflicts about stuff like that.
The initial motto at ESPN was "feed the beast," which meant to write as much as you possibly could. But that was not my style. I was a columnist when I left Seattle and I was writing three columns a week and I worked really hard to make them good columns. So I was more into quality over quantity, and then I got into a quantity job and it was tough. It’s weird to me that so many people identified with that and liked that, because it was really hard for me to adjust to. It’s not what I wanted to do and I thought when I went there it would be a short term thing. And then it just becomes its own thing because the blogs were so successful.
I was going to say, this all coincided with a time when the Pac-12 had a certain future.
There's so much in college football. We used to go out to dinners on Friday nights before games with the crew — ESPN guys, TV guys and national writers from different places. We would sit down, gossip, talk, argue, and bitch and moan about who was a good guy. Who was a cheat. Who is this. Who is that.
And one of the biggest stories in college football that's never really been covered is what I think was basically a conspiracy to take down USC.