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Canzano: Big Ten sounds like it's standing down vs. Pac-12
Shift of tone from Kevin Warren.
When Kevin Warren took that victory lap in late July at Big Ten Media Day, he used words such as “bold” and “aggressive” nearly a dozen times in his remarks.
The Big Ten commissioner had just poached USC and UCLA. He posed for a photograph on the steps of the venue with the head of a third-party, public-relations team, then walked inside and announced his conference may not be done.
That comment hit the Pac-12 footprint like a bag of bricks. Would the Big Ten try to take Oregon and Washington? Maybe, Stanford, too? Speculation buzzed. Now, nearly three months later, Warren is striking a very different tone.
Warren spoke with reporters on Tuesday in Minneapolis, this time as part of his conference’s basketball media day. Football was still on everyone’s mind, but it was a series of comments Warren made to Scott Dochterman of The Athletic that caught my attention.
Said Warren: “Because of all the conference movement that’s going on, is it always somewhere in the atmosphere? Sure. Generally speaking, I don’t believe we are in a position that we have to go out and aggressively try to recruit any other schools.”
It sounds to me like Warren and the Big Ten are backing off, for now. I’ve long believed that Notre Dame is the only no-brainer addition left for the Big Ten. I also think the Irish are better off remaining independent, as long as they have access to the College Football Playoff and a pile of media-rights money.
Oregon and Washington don’t pencil out for the Big Ten. I don’t blame the Ducks and Huskies for hiring consultants and doing some back-channeling. They’d be foolish not to explore the options. But, unless the Big Ten is going to give both schools a full $72.3-million-a-year media-rights share in year one, leaving just doesn’t make sense. They’ll have much better access to the playoff staying in the Pac-12.
Warren cast a far more measured tone on Tuesday. He steered the focus to the conference’s current members and its network partners. It was a dramatically different scene than the celebratory act from the summer, first at media day, and then, in an interview with HBO’s Real Sports.
This Warren appeared interested in managing public expectations. Also, he sounded more mindful of the college sports eco-system, pointing out that several other conferences, including the Pac-12, were engaged in media-rights negotiations.
“I’m always mindful of what’s going on at different conferences and the different markets and what’s happening,” Warren told The Athletic. “But right now, we’ve got to make sure we take care of our business.”
From the moment USC and UCLA announced they were leaving, the vibe inside the Pac-12 hasn’t changed. Multiple athletic directors and university presidents told me early-on that as long as Oregon-Washington stayed put, they felt the remaining 10 members of the conference would stick together.
Still, Warren’s bold comments in July couldn’t be ignored. I wonder, what’s changed? Perhaps some of the Big Ten members made it clear they weren’t willing to subsidize any future members. Or maybe the announcement that the playoff was expanding stabilized the landscape. Whatever the case, things have settled, for now.
The Pac-12 is currently engaged in selling its media rights. After that, I think the conference will add at least one member via expansion. I’ll have more on this in the coming days.
• SKYCAM: If you watched the Arizona State vs. Washington football game last Saturday on the Pac-12 Networks, you were tuned into an experiment.
The Sun Devils partnered with SkyCam for the football-game. The Texas-based company installed a cable-attached robotic camera that hoovered above the action as ASU beat Washington 45-38.
We’ve all seen NFL television broadcasts that include 3D graphics and sponsorship logos superimposed on the field or floating inside the stadium. I’m told Steve Wharton’s team at SkyCam used the game to give ASU a demonstration on what it could do when it comes to high-tech graphics packages.
Think: new sponsorship dollars.
The Pac-12 Networks did not pay for it. ASU picked up the bill. I find that interesting. There’s more to come on that front, but it sounds like SkyCam and ASU may end up partners.
A source at Arizona State told me “we are the lab” and said the experiment was a “huge hit.”
• DISH IT UP: The Pac-12 Network is suing Dish Network, one of its primary distribution partners. The conference’s network is seeking payments it says were improperly withheld (Jon Wilner has the story).
Dish apparently does this kind of thing all the time. The Hollywood Reporter once wrote a piece on Dish founder Charlie Ergen and called him “The most hated man in Hollywood.”
We’ve all been caught in frustrating carriage standoffs between Dish vs. Disney, Dish vs. HBO or Sinclair or Viacom. It’s cut-throat stuff. But this lawsuit should make us all slap our foreheads.
The Pac-12’s deal with Dish is essentially what hindered distribution of the Pac-12 Networks for all those years. The conference locked itself into a contract that triggered millions in rebates to Dish should the Pac-12 choose to also distribute the content via a streaming service or cut a deal with DirecTV. And now, Dish is apparently refusing to pay up?
Insiders say this is just a tactic that Dish uses often to punt payments down the road, but it feels more like a hangover from a lousy deal to me.
• BEER (STEIN) AND PRETZELS: Portland State football coach Bruce Barnum isn’t picking up the beer tab this time, but if you attend Saturday’s football game, he’s got pretzels and a beer stein for you.
Portland State has won two straight games. It hosts ranked Weber State on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium. They’re calling it “Viktoberfest” and proceeds from ticket sales help area kids. Get your discounted tickets here.
• BIRTHDAY GIRL: I have three daughters. One of them is a college sophomore and her birthday is today. She turns 20. Dakota is the kindest, most mature, person I’ve ever met. She has a soft spot for special education, but also, is a gifted marketer and networker. I can’t wait to see what she does with her life.
As a parent, you feed them, hold their hand, read them books, nurture them, hope for them and dream for them. Then, at 18 or so, you drop them at college, and pull away thinking about all the things you haven’t done.
Does she know how to lock her bike up? Does she know where her classes are? Will she stay safe? Make good choices? Who will she choose as friends?
As we pulled away from her dorm last year I fretted over the details. I soon realized that the work done in a couple of decades is far more important than a final few words.
My kid figured it out last year. I was delighted a few days after that dorm drop off when she called to inform me that she locked up her bike, just fine.
I knew she had it all along… but my eyes were still glassy.
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