Does everybody realize how far the city of Boulder, Colo., is from the Pacific Ocean?

For the geographically uninformed, it’s more than 1,200 miles, roughly the equivalent of that 2,000K race you ran last summer.

Students at the University of Colorado are as unfamiliar with the Pacific as they are with a winning basketball team. They don’t surf, sail or play beach volleyball, and they think Catalina is merely a type of salad dressing.

OK, but really ““ I’m not here to hate on Colorado, and I think their inclusion in the Conference Formerly Known As The Pac-10 is a positive step. The huge TV deal for the conference with ESPN and Fox that was signed this month is evidence of that.

But let’s not pretend that “Pac-12″ is a suitable name for a conference that now stretches to the 11th-most(!) Western state in continental America. It would be like the 13 original colonies deciding to include Arkansas under that designation.Nonsensical.

I ask thee, what’s in a name? Not just because I recently studied “Romeo and Juliet” for my Shakespeare class, but also because I think a total revamping of sports nomenclature is in order.

If academic prowess is an issue among young Americans ““ and practically every statistic I hear says this is the case ““ then maybe we should start with some simple math and geography lessons.

For years, the legendary Big Ten conference naturally fielded 11 teams, a numerical issue that was resolved when the Big Ten added a 12th team last year, and kept the same name. Makes perfect sense.

The professional ranks don’t do it much better. As a San Jose native, I recently sweated and nail-chewed my way through an NHL Western Conference playoff series between my hometown team and the team from DETROIT. What on Earth is Detroit doing in the Western Conference? Was the club team from Moscow not available?

Funny, considering the NHL used to have it right. Back in the ’70s, upon realizing that one of its divisions consisted of Montreal, Pittsburgh, Washington, Detroit and Los Angeles, the league decided to forgo geographical designations altogether and rename each of its branches after hockey icons (that particular grouping was named the “Norris Division,” and they played in the “Prince of Wales Conference.” I kid you not).

Maybe it’s time the NCAA solved its naming shortcomings by adopting that practice. I guess that means we have to think of a proper title that blankets California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Utah.

There’s a WCC (West Coast Conference) and a WAC (Western Athletic Conference, which somehow includes Louisiana Tech), so why not a WEC (Wyatt Earp Conference)? The Old West lawman is certainly relevant to most of those regions.

Or what about the Rick Neuheisel Conference? The UCLA football coach has a J.D. from USC, passed the State Bar in Arizona, is the former coach of both Colorado and Washington, and is BFFs with Utah’s new offensive coordinator, a dude named Chow.

I’d probably vote for the Sacagawea Conference, to honor our anthropological and geographical history, and for the entertainment value of watching USC athletes try to pronounce the name correctly during live interviews.

I think it’s safe to say that if the league’s new power-hungry commissioner had his way, we’d have the Larry Scott Conference.
Perhaps that’s not completely farfetched, given the work Scott has done in bolstering the conference’s national image.

In any case, something needs to be done. Redesigning the logo to blend a mountain and a wave is a nice touch, but only if “Pac” is dropped altogether. I would have been fine with the name if the conference had absorbed the Universities of Hawai’i and Tokyo, but Colorado and Utah? I have a buddy from Utah, and every time he sees the beach, he celebrates as if he’s spent the last 20 years digging himself out of Shawshank Prison.

The exuberance is nice, but this conference shouldn’t be in the business of handing kids the keys to beachfront candy shops. Our regional appearance is at stake, as is the collective geographical aptitude of our future generations.

Colorado and Utah are about to be given regular shots at the ultimate West Coast football accomplishment: playing in the Pasadena bowl game and winning a particular type of flower.

We should remember, though, that some roses, by new names, would smell even sweeter.

If you seek a name change yourself, e-mail Eshoff at
reshoff@media.ucla.edu.