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Canzano: Fired up? Anxious? Awkward? What I've learned on the Pac-12 front
Silence is good... but so is the anger of stakeholders.
A few things I’ve learned on the Pac-12 Conference front…
• RADIO SILENCE: It’s been quiet in the last few days and for good reason. The Pac-12 is engaged in an exclusive, 30-day negotiating period with ESPN and Fox. I’m told ESPN has been “active, interested and creative” by a conference source.
Is the silence good?
I asked around. One sitting athletic director I communicated with characterized the silence as “good.”
The conference’s exclusive negotiating period expires Aug. 4. I’m told that ESPN and the Pac-12 are a good bet to come to an agreement before that window ends, but Fox would still get to bid on the Pac-12’s rights or can wait until the period expires or waive those rights. The hunch here is that we may see some resolution before the July 29 Pac-12 Football Media Day.
• AWKWARD MEETING: Pac-12 Media Day is being held in downtown Los Angeles. It’s going to be awkward and potentially entertaining. UCLA and USC will have to sit and answer questions about their defection to the Big Ten. I suspect Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff will want to have something newsy and optimistic to share with the public at that time.
I also think this will be the final Media Day held in Los Angeles. Moving forward, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the event moved to Las Vegas or rotated among Seattle, Phoenix, the Bay Area, Salt Lake City and Portland.
Former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott brought the event to Los Angeles in 2011. Scott started his remarks that day with: “First, let me start by welcoming you to the FOX Studios here in Los Angeles, the first time we're holding our media day here. In Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, an important center for the Pac-12 conference.”
Reading that quote again reminded me of Kliavkoff’s remarks in March during the Pac-12 Conference Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas. Said Kliavkoff: “The emergence of Las Vegas as a sports capital of the world is significant.”
• PAYDAY ANGST: The members of the Big Sky Conference rely on payday football games with the Pac-12 for their lifeblood. Montana State will get $675,000 from Oregon State for its appearance Sept. 17 at Providence Park, for example.
Portland State will be paid $500,000 to play at Washington and $435,000 to play at San Jose State this season, per documents I obtained. In 2023, PSU will play games at Oregon ($575,000) and at Wyoming ($400,000). In 2024, the Vikings have dates with Washington State ($563,000) and San Diego State ($475,000).
Those games subsidize the Big Sky athletic departments. They allow non-revenue generating sports to thrive. So there was some understandable angst in the Big Sky Conference when USC and UCLA bolted for the Big Ten.
Some wondered if the market for payday games might be threatened or become obsolete if the conference splintered or realigned with a conference that wanted to play a pile of non-conference crossover games, but logic and geography suggest the FCS conference will be fine on that front.
Even if the Pac-12 partners with the ACC or merges with the Big 12, they’re aren’t ample options for non-conference football games in the Pacific Time Zone. The Big Sky members would still appear to be at the front of the line.
Said one well-placed Big Sky source: “As long as the NCAA Basketball Tournament stays the same, we’re going to be fine. If the big boys want to do something different with all the other sports like they do with football, that’s OK. As long as hoops stays the same, I don’t think it changes for us.”
Currently, the Big Sky conference tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA championship. It’s a distinction that makes college basketball’s championship unique.
• FIRED UP: California Gov. Gavin Newsome was not happy that he wasn’t consulted prior to UCLA’s decision to bolt to the Big Ten.
“No big deal. I’m the Governor of the state of California,” Newsom said. “Maybe it’s a bigger deal that I’m the chair of the UC Regents. I read about it. Is it a good idea? Did we have a chance to discuss the merits or de-merits? I’m not aware of it. It was done in isolation.”
The video of his comments is strong:
Newsom has spirited opinions about it. He wasn’t consulted or asked for an opinion and said, “Trust me when I say this, ‘We’re not going to be looking into it, we are already looking into it within minutes of reading it in the newspaper.’”
Former Washington state Senator Mike Baumgartner is the former chair of the Washington State Senate’s Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee and former vice chair of Senate Ways and Means and Senate Higher Education Committee.
Said Baumgartner: “In all my years as the vice chair or higher education in the Washington Senate, I can’t think of anything either UW or WSU did that even approached this level of significance without Regent’s voting approval.”
Baumgartner railed on UCLA’s clandestine move. He believes it embarrassed California’s Governor.
“UCLA’s leadership committed a cardinal sin,” he said. “I can only imagine how much Gov. Newsom’s phone was blowing up from politically connected boosters and donors when the Big 10 news broke. Set aside the clear fact that it risks damaging Cal and putting taxpayers on a greater fiscal hook, UCLA’s ham fisted ambush on a sister public university on a holiday weekend effectively embarrassed Gov. Newsom in front of influential supporters who expect him to be in control, not TV executives secretly calling the shots. The repercussions will be severe.”
I’ll update here with more… sorry for posting twice in one day, but this stuff is super interesting to me and I think relevant to you.
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