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Canzano: Best stadium, firings, hirings... and ticking expansion
Remember when the Vulcans did 'a drive-by' on the Trail Blazers front office?
A few fun things for your Friday:
• I asked my followers on Twitter to rank the “best” Pac-12 Conference football stadium. Most just picked their home team’s stadium and told me why it was amazing.
I realized pretty quickly that I asked the wrong question.
I sent a second tweet later asking which Pac-12 stadium offered the greatest home-field advantage. My top four: Utah, Oregon, Washington and Oregon State. And I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of responses and the depth of thought. Give me your top home-field advantages in the comment section below.
• After the rabid reaction in Boulder to Coach Prime’s hiring, I’m wondering if Colorado’s Folsom Field will emerge in the next couple of seasons as a tough place to play. Season tickets are sold out. If the play on the field eventually matches that energy — look out.
• Speaking of important hires in the Pac-12, I’m interested to see what Cal men’s basketball coach Mark Madsen is going do in his first season. He’s agreed to join me for a radio interview today in the 3 p.m. PT hour. I have the details on Twitter and Instagram.
• San Diego State athletic director JD Wicker gave an interview on Sports-760 on Thursday. This week, MLS awarded an expansion franchise to San Diego. The team will play home games at Snapdragon Stadium beginning in 2025.
The radio conversation with Wicker pivoted to Pac-12 Conference expansion and a looming deadline. If the Aztecs want to depart Mountain West Conference in time for the 2024 football season, they’ll want to give notice before June 30. The exit fee is $16.5 million, but doubles to $33 million after the deadline.
“We’re still waiting on the Pac-12 to do what they need to do from a TV standpoint,” Wicker said. “But we’re talking to lots of folks at the league level and athletic-director level and as we get a little closer obviously we’ll continue to have good communication and hopefully we’ll have everything locked down by June 30.”
The goal posts have moved several times for the Pac-12 in the last nine months. We’re all a little weary with this and ready to get back to talking football. But that summer deadline for a media rights and expansion announcement fits on a number of fronts.
• I continue to be told by reliable sources the Pac-12’s remaining 10 members are galvanized and confident about signing a media-rights deal and grant of rights. That includes Oregon and Washington. I asked and wrote about it this week.
• Fun fact… former Trail Blazers assistant general manager Tom Penn is the CEO of the new San Diego MLS franchise. Penn was previously the co-owner and president of LAFC. Before that, he worked as an analyst on ESPN and Turner Sports.
Hearing Penn’s name this week made me think of the spring of 2010 when the Trail Blazers cited philosophical differences and fired the guy. It signaled the beginning of the end of the “Golden Boy” era of Blazers basketball that starred Penn and general manager Kevin Pritchard.
A year earlier, the Vulcans gave Penn a raise after he informed them he’d received an offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves to become their GM. Later, Paul Allen and his band of sycophants came to believe Penn misrepresented the offer. No telling who planted that idea, but they felt played.
Denver Nuggets general manager Mark Warkentien knew the Vulcans well. He’d worked for years as an assistant general manager under Bob Whitsitt in Portland. Warkentien still had a direct line to the Vulcan mothership and told me at the time: “I’m not guessing on this, there’s no speculation here, the resentment over the Minnesota thing is real. The Vulcans can be vindictive.”
It didn’t take long to obtain evidence that the Timberwolves, in fact, made a four-year offer to Penn on May 12, 2009. He would have been the team’s Vice President of Basketball Operations. Turns out the Vulcans were in their own heads on that one. They blew up Penn, and sent a message to Pritchard in the process.
It elicited a remarkable quote.
“They can’t do Kevin in the middle of the season, but they can do a drive-by on someone close to him,” Warren LeGarie, the agent for Penn and Pritchard, told me at the time. “But guess who would be next?”
LeGarie was right.
Pritchard was fired — on NBA Draft night.
Have I mentioned lately that the Blazers need new ownership?
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