by: JAIME VALDEZ Oregon Ducks running back LaMichael James (center), MVP of the Pac-12 championship game, celebrates with teammates after the 49-31 victory over UCLA at Autzen Stadium.

EUGENE - Musings on a variety of subjects as we await Friday night's highly anticipated (yawn) showdown between Oregon and UCLA for the Pac-12 title at Autzen Stadium ...

• I'm not one of those up in arms that long-time Oregon public-address announcer Don Essig won't be making the call tonight. But that is because I'm a proponent of the conference championship game being held at a neutral site.

I'd like to see it alternate between Seattle's CenturyLink Field and University of Phoenix Stadium on an annual basis.

That allows for a North/South split and provides first-class venues for the players, coaches and fans to enjoy.

I understand the concerns about attendance. This season, in particular, it would have been a challenge to put butts in the seats anywhere to watch this colossal match-up. But most years, Oregon or Stanford versus USC would be a good sell in Seattle or Phoenix. And, if we're considering financial implications, the television package provides the biggest chunk of change for the conference.

Yes, a neutral site would mean added expense for fans of the two schools. But backers of one of the schools have to travel, anyway. I don't see why one of the division winners should gain home-field advantage as a 'reward' for the best conference record. The reward for both teams is the opportunity to play for the title and a spot in the Rose Bowl, or better.

• I hope rumors that UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will be jettisoned after the season and replaced by Mike Stoops are unfounded. Yeah, I'm a fan of Aliotti as a person. But for two decades, he has done a darn good job subduing opposing offenses while with the Ducks. And that's not easy when you're on the field as long as Oregon defenses are because of the Ducks' quick-hit offense. I'd like to think Chip Kelly recognizes that.

If Aliotti is let go, he won't be without a job for long.

• In weighing the Brandon Roy situation, the best option is to waive him, sooner rather than later.

If Trail Blazer team president Larry Miller is convinced the 26-year-old guard will never come close to returning to his All-Star form - and that's a fair assumption - it makes sense to let him go.

Everyone recognizes what Roy has done for the Portland organization. He is the third-most important player in franchise history, behind only Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton, for what he did to help wipe away the 'Jail Blazer' image.

But there is no room for sentimentality here.

Waiving Roy would pare $68 million in salary over the next four years, including nearly $15 million this season. The Blazers would have to pay off Roy, but it would get them beneath the luxury tax threshold. And it would allow them to sign a free agent at the mid-level exception for four years and $20 million, rather than the mini-mid-level amount of three years and $9 million.

Releasing the three-time All-Star quickly would also give them more time to sign a player who can help immediately.

• Another tough call: Greg Oden. But even with the center's injury history, the Blazers have to do what they can to keep him. At 23, Oden still has time to become a very productive center in the NBA. Players that big and talented don't come along often.

That will probably mean offering the 7-footer a contract extension. Or it could mean matching an offer tendered by another team.

Oden could choose to play the season for the Blazers' $8.8-million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That would be gambling that he can stay (at least relatively) healthy all season. As we all know, that's a very big gamble.

• Then there is the Blazer general manager situation.

Sounds to me as if owner Paul Allen and Miller are content to let interim GM Chad Buchanan handle front-office decisions - along with the considerable input of Allen, Miller and Vulcan vice-chairman Bert Kolde.

I'm a fan of Buchanan, and I believe Miller has done very good things overseeing the business side of the franchise. But somebody was responsible for the very questionable decision to fire both Kevin Pritchard and Rich Cho. Miller may simply be the messenger, but I never heard any reasons that left me feeling comfortable that it was the right thing to do.

Buchanan is sharp and savvy, but inexperienced. I'm guessing Allen and Miller don't understand the nuances of the GM job as would someone who has sat in that chair.

Maybe it all works out fine, and the Blazers make all the right additions to a roster than needed some reworking. I'd feel better, though, with Pritchard or Cho - heck, or my man, Jerry West - running the show.

• Finally, a shout-out to former Winterhawks player and coach Brent Peterson, who underwent the first of four surgeries Tuesday in Nashville to help with his battle against Parkinson's disease.

Peterson, 53, a longtime associate head coach with the NHL Nashville Predators, was diagnosed in 2003 with Parkinson's. He was forced to retire as a coach after last season but is still being paid by the club as a consultant. He is undergoing a series of surgical treatments called 'Deep Brain Stimulation.'

Best of luck, Pete. And save me a round on the golf course next summer.

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