Canzano: Mailbag asks about streamers, ACC-Pac-12 partnership, and Big Ten
Your questions, my answers...
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On to this week’s mailbag:
Q: Will we see Oregon State football at Providence Park again? — @Bocker503
A: The Beavers plan to open the west side of Reser Stadium for the 2023 football season. OSU will want to play home games in Corvallis and fill the 36,000-plus seats to maximize the return on investment. It’s unlikely we get another regular-season Beavers’ game at Providence Park (football capacity: 25,218) for some time. Scrimmages? A spring game? Those things may work.
Q: An ACC athletic director mused last week that a merger of the ACC and the Pac-12 would mean renaming it the Atlantic-PAC. Are you still hearing legitimate rumblings that the Pac-12 is working with ESPN as part of the TV rights deal to add one ACC game a year? — @EricTLund
A: Merton Hanks, the Pac-12’s football supervisor, told me in late August, the conference has “never wavered” on the thought of dropping from nine conference games to eight. Doing so would require a scheduling partnership with another major conference. It’s hard enough to find three non-conference games every season. When I published Hanks’ comments, several Pac-12 ADs told me they wouldn’t want to be stuck trying to schedule expensive payday games for that fourth non-conference game. The ACC is the only partner that makes sense and ESPN is the glue that presumably seals that deal. I believe a “loose partnership” between the Pac-12 and ACC is still on the table. I’ll have more on this in the coming weeks.
Q: When do you expect the Big Ten will officially announce its decision about adding Oregon, Washington, Stanford and Cal? Do you expect it to happen? — @Thomallister291
A: There’s no decision to be made, so I don’t think we’ll get a formal announcement. Those four schools haven’t been invited and don’t appear to pencil out unless something changes. At this point, the chatter out there is consultants talking with other consultants. I still believe the Pac-12’s 10 remaining schools will stick together in this next 4-5 year cycle. I also think the expansion of the College Football Playoff changed the math here. If getting to the playoff is what matters, don’t those four schools have a better chance in the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten?
Q: Would a digital partner for a meaningful chunk of Pac-12 football content mean (hopefully) fewer night games? — @fl0atplane
A: There’s no good reason for a digital platform to kick a game off at 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. PT. The streamers aren’t married to traditional programming windows. However, I don’t think Amazon and Apple would necessarily want the Pac-12 football games to be positioned head-to-head vs. the best games in the SEC and Big Ten. There’s still some strategy involved.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pac-12 schools play a small, ceremonial role in kickoff times. Commissioner George Kliavkoff hinted at that in the interview Jon Wilner and I did with him 10 days ago. I still think the kickoff times for streamed football games would skew into the late afternoon and early evening in the Pacific Time Zone, but it sounds to me like the schools might want more control.
“I think we need some more flexibility than we had from the agreements that I inherited,” he said.
Q: What's the worst weather that you have attended a football game or any outside sport for that matter? — @2022SportsGuy
A: I covered Big Ten football and basketball in 1998 as a beat reporter. Forget the bad-weather games, I mostly just remember getting caught in several snowstorms as I drove from city to city. My car was essentially an ice sculpture.
Once, I went jogging in downtown Indianapolis when it was 5 degrees and windy. The skin on my face burned. I ran about two blocks, turned around and went to the hotel gym instead. I spent a lot of time asking people who lived in the Midwest, “Why do you live here? Whose idea was this?”
Q: Of all the Group of Five schools that got the promotion to Power Five in the last 20 years, why has Utah done the best? — @DixieUte
A: Utah has tremendous donor support, great facilities and lots of resources. College football programs are having trouble filling their stadiums, but Rice-Eccles Stadium recently underwent an expansion to accommodate a healthy wait list. That is evidence of the strong support in Salt Lake City. Also, the Utes have rare coaching stability (See: Kyle Whittingham) and joined the Pac-12 at a time in which some of the traditional conference powers were waning. It has worked well for Utah.
Q: Is there any chance “reforms” of college football will eliminate FBS teams playing FCS opponents? — @Ringmaster2015
A: A number of FCS schools (i.e. Portland State, etc.) rely on payday games from the FBS schools (i.e. Oregon, Washington, etc.) to subsidize their athletic departments. If your “reform” happens, it would be trouble for that lower division of football.
On that note, keep an eye on the men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. Some influential people are whispering and asking why small and mid-major conference champions receive automatic bids to the big dance. There’s a movement afoot to implement “minimum standards” that could squeeze some of the smaller conferences out of the NCAA Tournament. I’d hate to see it happen. But there’s a pile of TV money involved and the major conferences would like to keep it for themselves.
Q: When does the Pac-12 admit that they fatally screwed up by not blowing up the Big 12 when it had the chance? — @SnowHorn60
A: The ecosystem of college football has been on my mind a lot lately. You’re right, the Pac-12 would have benefitted from poaching the most attractive remaining teams from the Big 12. But it wouldn’t have been healthy for the sport itself. I think the university presidents and chancellors like to view things from 20,000 feet. They cast a vote in favor of the ecosystem when they decided to expand the College Football Playoff. It was a stabilizing move that muted some of the anxiety. Let’s see how this plays out.
Q: The Seattle Mariners look like they’re going to end their long playoff drought. Given playoff baseball is about pitching, thoughts on their chances? And will this be a one off or are they really building a team that will regularly make a run at pennants? — @EastboundFitzN
A: The 2021 Atlanta Braves won only 88 regular-season games, but went on to win the World Series. The Braves were particularly hot in the last 14 games of the regular season, going 12-2. Then, they ripped through the playoffs and won the World Series.
The Mariners have solid pitching. You have to like that. But I don’t love the way they’re finishing this season. Seattle is just 9-11 in its last 20 games. The Mariners will make the playoffs, and snap the playoff drought, but it feels like this is a foundation-building run.
How do they take the next step? I’d like to see the Mariners spend a little more next season. Their payroll in 2022 ranks No. 21 among the league’s 30 teams. The Braves ranked No. 11 last season.
Q: Give me the hard truth about Duck football. — @terry_calvert
A: Oregon has plenty of talent and you could easily pick the Ducks to win the rest of their games. But anyone closely watching knows there are flaws. The margins are thin in the Pac-12. The hard truth? Oregon is going to lose a game it shouldn’t lose at some point. This conference is a cannibal.
Q: Has there every been any talk of expanding the capacity of Autzen, adding more suites, etc? — @jkimball5506
A: There was some strong momentum on this front about 15-20 years ago, but not now. The calculus has changed. College football was undergoing an attendance crisis even before the pandemic hit. The Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten were all dealing with record lows in attendance. The Ducks still have tickets available this season. UO athletic director Rob Mullens told me a couple of seasons ago that stadium-expansion wasn’t on his radar.
Q: Apple appears to be the front runner for picking up Sunday Ticket at $2.5 billion and has made a significant investment in the Super Bowl halftime show. If Apple gets Sunday Ticket and pairs it with entire Pac-12 inventory, does it matter if Pac-12 football is not on regular television anymore? — @RoaringForkDvl
A: It’s probably too soon for the Pac-12 to go all-in with Amazon and/or Apple. But I understand why they’re considering it. Major League Soccer went all in. NFL Thursday Night Football went all in. If the money is there, it may be too tempting for the Pac-12 to pass, but I still think we’re likely to see a blend between linear television (ESPN, FOX, Turner, CBS, etc.) and the streamers.
If the Sunday Ticket goes to a streaming service, it will help accelerate and normalize streaming. Would the Pac-12 want to be the first college conference to go all-in? Hmmmm.
Q: Why couldn’t Amazon and Apple - some combination of the largest streaming platforms go all in with the Pac-12? — @NCAAFBZone
A: Either or both could. Totally. See above. That said, Amazon Prime is only available in about 42 percent of internet households in the United States. That could become a tricky distribution issue and this is a conference that has been plagued by poor distribution in the last decade. I think the Pac-12 is probably weighing an all-in scenario that would bring a potential windfall to its members, but is it a little too soon?
Former Fox Sports Networks president Bob Thompson told me: “My prediction is that if they do this, the commissioner, conference, ADs and presidents will get roasted by some constituents and praised by others for being cutting edge.”
Q: Why are media obsessed with Pac-12 expansion? And how would adding inferior programs help it financially and otherwise? — @mrwondertwit
A: The conference itself said multiple times that it is considering expansion. I wouldn’t call the media “obsessed” for exploring what that might mean. I think the Pac-12 will add at least one member. I handicapped the expansion candidates recently, but I’m torn on whether there are attractive-enough options beyond San Diego State.
Q: What is the truth about the AP and coaches polls? In the past, I heard they don’t matter. People still get so heated about them though. Do they really matter? — @KyleGehlen
A: They matter to FOX and ESPN because the networks use them to hype the matchups. They matter to fans, who desperately want their program to be validated nationally. And as much as the College Football Playoff selection committee says the polls are a non-factor, I find it difficult to believe their early opinions aren’t influenced by them.
The dirty secret is that the polls themselves are influenced a ton by preseason propaganda from the networks, are an inexact science, and sometimes the voters just flat get it wrong.
Q: Is the Pac-12 commissioner being too naive and friendly to save the conference? — @LesterGates
A: I suspect George Kliavkoff’s current collegial, public-facing stance is likely different than his act behind the scenes. His primary focus is to serve and manage his bosses — the conference’s 10 remaining chancellors and presidents. He seems less concerned with what you and I think. I didn’t like that he went publicly silent for so long but when he emerged recently, he clearly did so because it served his mission.
Certainly, Kliavkoff got played by the Big Ten, USC and UCLA. So I don’t blame anyone for wondering if he’s too nice. But people who have interacted with Kliavkoff in business settings tell me he’s smart, diplomatic and shrewd.
I think Kliavkoff has a strategy and is sticking to it. By comparison, though, Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark sounds and looks like a guy ready to cut you off in the mall parking lot and steal your parking space.
Q: Unpopular opinion: Oregon’s win last week looked worse than Oregon State’s loss. Agree or disagree? Personally, I thought OSU had their best game this season last week, aside from QB play. But I’m just a simple guy so what do I know — @danie1_e1der
A: I still think a win is a win in college football. I’ll take an ugly victory over a mostly pretty loss. But I don’t blame you for playing this game. If you’re comparing the Ducks and Beavers — right now, in present form — I think it would be a very close and highly entertaining game. I’d give the edge to whoever is playing at home. And yes, OSU needs better quarterback play or it risks having more of those good-looking losses.
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