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Canzano: Inner sanctum of Pac-12 buzzing this week
Some thoughts for your Tuesday...
The Pac-12 Conference is holding its annual spring meetings this week in Scottsdale, Ariz. Coaches, athletic directors, other officials and commissioner George Kliavkoff will discuss a variety of topics.
Among the agenda items:
College Football Playoff
The future of the NCAA
Pac-12 Network plans
Name, image and likeness
Media rights negotiations
I’m told the “playoff” and “NCAA” agenda topics are more of an informational update from Kliavkoff and some explanation of strategy. The “transfer portal” item is interesting. I expect colleges will eventually institute firmer guidelines for when and how frequently in a college career an athlete can utilize the portal. I also think we’re about to see an orchestrated public outcry from athletic directors nationally, urging Congress to intervene on the NIL front.
United States Sen. Ron Wyden told me a couple of weeks ago: “We’re clearly going to have to have oversight… I think it’s great that the players are finally getting a fair shake. Congress and the commerce committee are looking at those issues… but I’m not going to stop players from trying to buy a burrito when the training table isn’t open.”
Nobody is against a college kid buying some Chipotle. But we saw a report yesterday from my friend Stewart Mandel at The Athletic about an unnamed five-star recruit from the class of 2023 who reportedly signed a deal that would pay him as much as $8 million by the end of his junior year.
That’s a lot of burritos, folks.
Oregon State AD Scott Barnes recently told me that, “unfortunately, this is going to require congressional intervention.” WSU AD Pat Chun echoed that sentiment. I think it’s a matter of time before we hear this rally cry nationally because the trend isn’t sustainable.
The original intention of NIL legislation was to allow college athletes to benefit by selling their endorsement on the open market. It was a reasonable shift. But boosters are now pooling their money and simply buying the best high school and transfer talent. This kind of unrestricted free-agent market is causing a variety of issues, the least of which is further separation between the “haves” and “have nots.”
I also think we’re a year away from reading a story about a five-star recruit accepting a seven-figure deal, then bolting a year later for a better offer. And how will all the money involved eventually affect the program depth chart? The lack of oversight and regulation is problematic.
Colorado AD Rick George will join me on today’s radio show at 4 p.m. PT to fill us in on a variety of topics. I’ll ask him about NIL and the portal. George is an interesting interview subject. He’s previously served as the president of the Texas Rangers and worked for the PGA Tour as president of the Champions Tour.
My show airs 3-6 p.m. PT weekdays. If you’d like to tune in, listen live statewide in Oregon on 750-AM (Portland), 1050-AM (Eugene), 1490-AM (Roseburg) and 960-AM (Klamath Falls). Or stream it online. The podcast is available afterward as well.
SPRING GAME: Washington’s “spring preview” football event was held last weekend. I’m a big believer in new Husky coach Kalen DeBoer. He’s won just about everywhere he’s coached and I think UW has a chance to end up looking like it made THE sneaky-good hire in college football last offseason.
There were not very many fans at Husky Stadium for the event, though. The weather that morning wasn’t great. It wasn’t billed as a true spring game. But the turnout was sobering for those who love UW and desperately want the energy to be positive. Oregon announced an estimated 42,000 for its spring game. USC claimed it had 33,427. Both of those figures appeared embellished to my eyes but they were far better than the anemic turnout at Husky Stadium.
Program enthusiasm has waned significantly since the departure of coach Chris Petersen. But I think UW is experiencing a dose of unsettling change similar to what Oregon endured after Chip Kelly’s departure.
Jimmy Lake was not Mark Helfrich.
Helf went 37-16 and took Oregon to a national title game. Lake went 7-6 and got suspended — then dismissed — after shoving a player on the sideline during a home game. Big difference. But both coaches were safe and predictable promotions from within, designed to foster program continuity after the departure of a visionary head coach.
Both were ultimately underwhelming. Helfrich was fired after going 4-8 in 2016. Oregon turned to Willie Taggart, then took a flyer on Mario Cristobal, and is now led by Dan Lanning.
Washington ideally needs DeBoer to settle things down and pull through by contending for the North Division title again. His 79-9 overall head coaching record suggests that he knows how to win. I suspect AD Jen Cohen ends up looking wise with the hire.
BOOK IT: Former Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe disarmed a student at Parkrose High School in May 2019. It was a heroic and moving demonstration by a guy working on campus as a security guard and football coach. Lowe has written a book about the incident and his life. I got an advance copy of “Hometown Victory” last week.
I can’t set it down.
Book goes on sale: May 10. Lowe and I will be at Powell’s Books in downtown Portland on May 11 to do a Q-and-A style interview.
DRAFT FALL OUT: Oregon football coach Dan Lanning read my column yesterday and reached out to tell me he’s going to disseminate it to his players. I wrote about four Ducks underclassmen who declared early for the seven-round NFL Draft and weren’t picked.
Said one UO insider: “They got horrible advice.”
A prominent NFL agent told me that bad advice from agents to prospects is a major problem in the run up to the draft. Mario Cristobal left for Miami in December. That removed the strongest and most persuasive “stay another year” voice from the room. By the time Lanning showed up several players had already declared for the draft.
There’s money to be made by staying in school, for sure. But the players need to be strategic and seek outside counsel and some good, unfiltered advice. I outlined a few case studies in the column.
Said Lanning: “Saving your column for next year when these discussions come up again.”
BIG DECISION: The Board of Trustees at Oregon State are meeting via Zoom on May 5 at 1 p.m. to discuss matters related to the search for the next university president.
The last OSU president, F. King Alexander, resigned nine months into his tenure after revelations over his disturbing run at LSU. The trustees at Oregon State will discuss compensation for the next president and decide whether to reimburse candidates for professional advisor fees related to contract negotiations.
The trustees might also want to talk about where the board went woefully wrong in the Alexander hire. A simple Google search would have revealed that he was fleeing Baton Rouge amid accusations that his leadership fostered a toxic and permissive culture.
An investigation into LSU’s handling of various Title IX reports and allegations of rape, sex abuse, and violence against women during Alexander’s seven-year term were termed part of a “systemic failure.” The trustees at OSU can’t afford to get another hire wrong.
More good stuff:
• BYU football is preparing for its arrival in the Big 12 Conference (via the Salt Lake Tribune).
• The Spokesman-Review wonders if the transfer portal is some sort of Biblical plague. The portal is hitting Washington State especially hard.
• Arizona boosters have teamed up in the NIL space to form “Friends of Wilbur & Wilma.” The collective is designed to allow Wildcats’ fans to hire their favorite college athlete to host a camp or partner with a business.
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