This is click-bait, argument-bait, hate-bait, retweet-bait, etc. It also needs to be discussed. I have been to five cities in the Pac-12 and am in no shape or form qualified to write this article, but content isn’t going to create itself.
This is an objective list. Not just my opinion. I have made five categories that are scored from 1 (worst) to 10 (best). Yes, these are my arbitrary categories with meaningless numbers that are solely attached to either my informed opinion or uninformed opinion. Nonetheless, there are numbers, so it’s objective.
Okay, here it goes.
16. Bakersfield, California
I forgot to mention that I’m including the affiliate Pac-12 members as well as the full-time members. Cal State Bakersfield is one of three affiliates in wrestling, while one more school is an affiliate in men’s soccer. Anyway, Bakersfield is an ugly city in an ugly part of the country and they have an ugly campus. But I guess rent is cheap, so that’s a plus.
15. Tempe, Arizona
Tempe, and much of Arizona, should not exist in its current form. The state is virtually uninhabitable and its seven million people stand in defiance to earth itself. The fact that we allowed cities like Tempe to exist and thrive is why civilization will collapse under the weight of climate change. There is zero reason people should live in a place with 115* weather and no water. People can turn up the AC and pump in water from the Colorado River, but that fits the very definition of unsustainable development. It is a testament to man’s arrogance and we deserve to suffer for it. Icarus flew too close to the sun and we built Tempe.
14. Tuscon, Arizona
Having Tuscon (not Tucson, I guess) ahead of Tempe aggravated quite a number of people. I don’t care about having crime and drugs and violence or whatever. Neither city should exist in its current state and as a society we need to re-examine why they do. The only difference to me is that Tuscon has pretty mountains.
13. Pullman, Washington
Pullman is in the middle of potato farms, there’s nothing to do, and the weather is horrid for 8 months of the year. But it’s a cute town and has a pretty university. Summers in eastern Washington are gorgeous, but Twitter only cares about night life so the serene locations are overlooked. But this is my list, so Pullman is a better city than Tempe, sustainability aside.
12. Palo Alto, California
Palo Alto itself is nothing special. I have never been, but I hear* it’s a lame town that would be a better fit in rural Kansas than in the Bay Area. Still, that sounds peaceful, although you still have to pay Bay Area prices, which drives down the livability for the working class among us. Their saving grace is that Stanford’s campus is stunning.
*from Matt Sisneros, esteemed CU alumni who’s from the Bay
11. Salt Lake Ciy, Utah
Salt Lake City was never supposed to be this low, truth be told. I promise I’m not trolling Utah just to troll Utah, something I promise I have never ever done (lol). What happened was that I rated the beauty fairly high — but not too high because their mountains aren’t as tall and they’re brown instead of green and also because the city isn’t spectacularly pretty — but that turned out to be its only good quality. Livability and culture are lower than expected because Utah people don’t recycle or conserve water, and also because at the SLC airport — where I had a layover, not because I would willingly travel to SLC — literally every person had five small children who were all under 8-years-old and every kid was more annoying than the last.
10. Los Angeles, California (USC)
9. Los Angeles, California (UCLA)
Campus: 6 (USC), 8 (UCLA)
Total: 27 (USC), 29 (UCLA)
I don’t have anything against LA personally, other than the fact that a ginormous swath of desert land is inhabited by millions upon millions of people. It’s a pretty place with all kinds of cultural relevance, but it’s also expensive (for the proletariat) and you can’t really live there without a car (I don’t know how to drive, because the environment and also anxiety). LA should probably be higher on the list, but there are some really nice cities in the Pac-12. It’s not like the Pac-12 is littered with Lubbocks and Stillwaters.
(A quick power ranking of the former Big 12 affiliates, worst to best: Stillwater, Waco, Lubbock, Lincoln, Norman, Columbia, College Station, Ames, Manhattan, Lawrence, Austin, Boulder. Morgantown and Fort Worth would be near the bottom in the new Big 12.)
8. Eugene, Oregon
Opposite of SLC, I meant to have Eugene lower than this, but here they are. I must admit a weakness for Oregon and it’s natural beauty, environmentalist attitudes and my familiarity with it. The culture is hit-or-miss: the people outside of Portland tend to be of the backwoods variety, although Eugene has that college town vibe going. My mom is also from a logging town outside Eugene and she shares all my articles on Facebook, so I have to have this city high on the list for her sake.
7. Corvallis, Oregon
When I originally tweeted the power ranking of Pac-12 cities, I had Corvallis ahead of Eugene just because I wanted that sweet, sweet retweet from Building The Dam, the OSU blog. Now that I’m thinking about it, Corvallis should be higher than Eugene. It’s not quite as pretty as Eugene, nor do they have quite the same college town vibes, but the city is breathtaking in the fall and the campus is quite pretty. As far as livability goes, it’s more of a family town than a college town, but I personally prefer that energy, mostly because college students are wild people who are loud and break things.
6. San Diego, California
San Diego may as well be paradise on earth. The natural beauty and climate of San Diego is almost too much to handle. San Diego State, which has a Pac-12 affiliate in men’s soccer, has a very pretty campus. The main issues with San Diego is that it’s ungodly expensive and its downtown is the result of aggressive gentrification. There is great culture outside the Gas Lamp district, at least.
5. Berkeley, California
I adore the East Bay. It’s expensive, seedy, crowded and expensive, but I love its history, its diversity and culture. I’m writing this story from Berkeley, where I’m sitting in an insurgent-themed cafe playing Marvin Gaye. I spent last evening on Cal’s gorgeous campus, where I lied in the grass under 100-foot-tall eucalyptus trees. I’ve eaten some of the best food I’ve ever had, although it has been pricey. It’s a really nice place and this doesn’t even count the Town, the City or Fremont.
4. San Luis Obispo, California
I extended this list to include the Pac-12 affiliate members just because I wanted SLO on here. It’s just a nice place to live. The downtown is cute, the city is peaceful, it’s close to gorgeous beach towns (Morro Bay is unreal) and it has a mountainous landscape that’s fun for hiking and cycling. Cal Poly’s campus is somewhat drab, but it’s away from the city and up against the mountains. John Madden also went there, as did my friend Quinn, so that’s two nice alumni to have.
3. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is everything a major city should be. It’s situated by the sea, close to the mountains, covered in trees, walkable downtown, diversity of cultures and people, has great food and is home to Starbucks. It’s expensive as hell, but I guess that’s what happens in perfect cities like Seattle, Portland and Copenhagen. The UW campus is gorgeous too, like, what is this?
2. Boulder, Colorado
We are truly spoiled to live in a near-perfect town. The Flatirons at golden hour never ceases to be stunning. The afternoon rain and tumultuous weather keeps you on your toes and keeps the air fresh. The city is compact and has great public transportation, the water is clean, the people are environmentally-conscious, and so on. My only nitpicks are that there’s not much good cheap food, rent is ridiculous, and even as woke as the people are, it’s easy to be aware of social problems when you’re in a homogeneous bubble and don’t see the result of those problems. Otherwise, it’s a mostly perfect city that I’m so fortunate to call home.
1. Little Rock, Arkansas
There is zero debate that Little Rock — home of the University of Arkansas Little Rock, the Pac-12’s proudest wrestling-only member — is the best city in not just the Pac-12, and not just in the United States, but possibly in the entire Western Hemisphere. I have sadly never been to the big LR, but I’ve never heard anything bad about it. Rent is cheap, food is good, the people are fat and happy, and they have a Walmart on every block. Paradise.