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Cal Coach Mark Madsen Repped Pac-12 Until It’s Final Season

Mar 14, 2024, 10:04 AM | Updated: Mar 15, 2024, 1:19 am

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The Pac-12 Conference women's basketball tournament trophy is displayed before the tournament championship game between the Washington State Cougars and the UCLA Bruins at Michelob ULTRA Arena on March 05, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Cougars defeated the Bruins 65-61. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Nobody associated with Pac-12 basketball has built up more sweat equity than former Stanford player and current Cal Mark Madsen.

The former Utah Valley coach grew up in the conference footprint in northern California, religiously following the likes of UCLA and USC along with his future alma mater. He wore the Cardinal uniform with immense pride for four years, helping the program reach the Final Four the same year as Utah did in 1998.

Perhaps he is the foremost authority to speak on the conference’s demise, which is occurring this academic year as each sport’s season culminates. Basketball comes to an end this week, with the conclusion of the Pac-12 tournament.

By now, in general, the conference’s crumbling has been documented every which way since the news broke last summer that four schools – Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado – were forced to bail to join the Big 12. The defections coincided with Washington and Oregon accepting an invitation to leave for the Big 10.

The six departures came a year after USC and UCLA destroyed the conference by announcing a joint decision to leave for the Big 10. With only four schools remaining – which became two after Cal and Stanford got into the Atlantic Coast Conference – the premiere conference on the West Coast was dead on arrival.

Following in the sentimental footsteps of the fall sports, men’s and women’s basketball are next in line to offer up goodbyes. The women went last week and now it’s their counterparts on the men’s side.

“It’s a shame the Pac-12 is coming to an end,” Madsen offered succinctly, “but every university is going to go their own way and blaze a new path.”

And it will never be the same.

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Taking a moment to reflect after Stanford eliminated his Bears’ team in the quarterfinals, Madsen recalled all the great friendships he made during his time as a player for the Cardinal. Those relationships continue to a degree to this day, including many he has with players he competed against in the conference.

Over time, new relationships between and among players will eventually form in the new conferences. But with teams scattered literally all over the country, it will be almost impossible for players to bond the way they were able to in a conference that included 10 schools spread over only five states.

Progress, in the name of money, has a way of steamrolling tradition. Cash cows most definitely take precedent over any good of the game.

“I think we went through all the emotion earlier in the year when we got the word the Pac-12 was going to dissolve,” Madsen said. “We all have feelings on it. I have great memories on the Pac-12. I grew up watching a lot of these schools – USC, UCLA, Stanford and Cal. I played in the conference. I made a lot of good friends on the teams I played on and on the teams that I played against.  You know, it’s funny I see a lot of guys I played against – you run into them randomly.”

Stanford coach Jerod Haase, who played at Cal before transferring to Kansas, cautioned against getting familiar with all the new conference realignments. Like many coaches, including Utah’s Kyle Whittingham, Haase believes more change is on the horizon sometime.

He labeled the Pac-12 situation as “sad and disappointing.”

“But the reality is it’s part of the carnage that’s going on all across the landscape now,” Haase said. “At the end of the day everybody is going to need to move forward and reinvent themselves a little bit. But right now, as this tournament winds down over the next few days, I’d say my single word to describe it is simply sad.”

Well said, coach.

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Cal Coach Mark Madsen Repped Pac-12 Until It’s Final Season