Discover more from Bald Faced Truth by John Canzano
Canzano: Mailbag comes up roses, bowls and fans soft as butter
Your questions, my answers...
This week I got great questions about the Rose Bowl, Deion Sanders, Christmas gifts, and a “soft” Pac-12 fan base, among others.
But I want to start with this one:
Q: Will bowl games die off over time with the expansion of the College Football playoffs? Or could we see something like the NIT for the next tier of teams who didn’t make the playoffs? — @BarkerMeowski
Let’s start by pointing out that ESPN owns and operates 17 college football bowl games, including the Pac-12 affiliated Las Vegas Bowl. Basically, some of the bowl games exist so that the network itself has programming. It’s brilliant strategy. Rather than pay rights fees, “ESPN Events” owns and operates a bunch of games.
Doing so gives the network affordable, reliable sports programming in the early bowl season. That not only fills inventory, but helps ESPN promote its bigger bowl games and events surrounding New Year’s Day and the College Football Playoff.
Owning the bowls also ensures that ESPN’s partner conferences have enough postseason games for their bowl-eligible teams to participate in.
The playoff isn’t just expanding from four teams to 12. It’s expanding from three games (semifinals + title game) to 11 games. There’s bound to be less interest from the public when it comes to the low-tier and mid-tier bowl games, but I still think the networks will covet the bowl-game inventory.
I don’t think anyone wants a NIT-style consolation tournament in college football. It’s asking too much of fans and players. And coaches of the teams that win 6-8 games are going to want to get on the road recruiting. I think it’s more likely that the bowl season gets thinned out by a few games and continues to plod along. ESPN isn’t going to kill the 17 bowl games it owns. The network is making money on them.
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Onto the mail bag…
Q: Will Colorado be bowl eligible next season? — @cool_brezze
A: The transfer portal changes the math on a rebuild. Last season, Arizona led the Pac-12 with 21 transfers. I think Colorado will eclipse that figure. The Buffaloes play non-conference games at TCU, vs. Nebraska and vs. Colorado State next season. That’s not a soft start. I’ll predict Deion Sanders finishes 6-6 in his first season.
Q: Am I the only person that is absolutely repulsed by Deion Sanders? — @JeffD51934095
A: Probably not. The world is a big place. But is it really a good investment of your energy to be repulsed by anything other than anchovies, olives or cilantro? Discuss.
Q: What do you think the immediate impact will be of Coach Prime coming to the Pac-12? How does his hiring affect the next 3-5 years in the Pac-12…or does it? — @brent97306
A: Like Lincoln Riley to USC and Chip Kelly to UCLA, the Pac-12 and Colorado both got some buzz after the hire was announced.
Deion Sanders is getting paid well. His salary — an average base of $5.9 million a year — is going to raise the expectations of the rest of the conference. Invest or die, right? The salary ranks behind USC’s Riley ($10 million) and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham ($6 million) for third-most in the conference.
I think the Pac-12 is going to be a bigger player in the transfer portal, get more eyeballs on it, and be a little more interesting nationally because “Coach Prime” is around.
It definitely helps with brand and interest, but does it result in more media rights money for the Pac-12? Not likely. On Friday, I asked Bob Thompson, the former Fox Sports Networks president. He pointed out that 42 different head football coaches have worked for conference teams during the current media-rights deal for the Pac-12.
“I can’t imagine the TV guys sitting there going, ‘Now Deion’s there, so let’s pay them more money’ for a deal that won’t start for a couple of years,” Thompson said.
He thinks it’s a great hire by Colorado AD Rick George, though.
Q: Curious, how did Oregon State end up with a .500 opponent in its bowl game? Is that just the nature of the beast? What went wrong with the Holiday bowl? Ducks have been to the holiday bowl numerous times. — @RIP_CITY4LIFE
A: The non-major bowls exist to reward teams, sure. But also to promote tourism and create inventory for the TV networks. Las Vegas bowl organizers liked the idea of marrying Florida Gator fans interested in a trip to The Strip with bowl-hungry Oregon State football fans.
Also, as mentioned earlier, ESPN owns the Las Vegas Bowl and pitted two of its conference partners (SEC vs. Pac-12) in the game.
I obtained the Pac-12’s bowl-game flow chart (see below). You’ll note that the Las Vegas Bowl and Holiday Bowl had were allowed to either take the No. 2 or No. 3 available team. USC made the Cotton Bowl and Utah went to the Rose Bowl. The flexibility left the Holiday Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl deciding between the Ducks and Beavers. By the way, I think both of those Pac-12 teams win their bowl games.
Q: Will there be a time in the near future where bowl games offer players NIL money to stay and play in their bowl game rather than opt out for the NFL Draft? — @bkbeban
A: I think third-party sponsors may someday soon offer incentives to star players to play in bowl games. I floated the idea to Oregon State linebacker Jack Colletto who said “I think it would be a good trial to run to see how it goes.” I don’t think it keeps every player from opting out, but it may give a few pause.
Q: When did Washington Husky fans become soft as butter? They’ve been so insufferable on social media, some feel that the conference isn’t doing enough to support them. — @JoeInOregon87
A: I think UW’s fan base had the biggest whiplash experience in going from a dismal 4-8 last season to an exciting 10-2 this year. It raises a question, though: Which fan base is the toughest follow on social media? Discuss in comment section.
Q: How come the only Pacific Northwest bowl game is in Boise? Is there currently or in the past has there been any talks of adding a game somewhere in either Washington or Oregon? — @TylerHergert
A: The Seattle Bowl fizzled after a two-year run in 2002 when organizers couldn’t find a sponsor for the game. That bowl matched the No. 5 team in the Pac-12 vs. the No. 5 team from the ACC. I don’t think the bowl game moved the needle from a competition or tourism standpoint. It doesn’t help that the average December day in Seattle is 41 degrees and rainy. The bowls — and snowbirds — typically gather in sunny places this month.
Q: We’re glad you do what you do in PDX and hope you’re a lifer here. I’m sure you’ve received offers to work in more dynamic markets boasting multiple major league sports etc… if somehow forbidden from working in PDX, where would you go? Bay Area? Seattle? Rancho Cucamonga? — @bbasstravel
A: I’ve worked in six different markets. I like it right where I am, for now. Googled “Rancho Cucamonga.” It’s only the 42nd best place to live, turns out.
Q: Given Brett Yormark’s statement about wanting to play games in the Pacific time zone, do you think the Pac-12 should be concerned about the Big 12 scooping up San Diego State and other options? — @AKH_blog
A: San Diego State gets a vote in this, too. Maybe the most important one. I did some poking around. The Aztecs may use the Big 12 as leverage, but I came away from my conversations with key sources thinking that SDSU covets Pac-12 membership. All things being equal, I’m told, San Diego State would like to be in the Pac-12.
Q: Which men’s basketball team wins first: 0-11 Cal or 0-9 Louisville? — Jon Gonzalez
A: The Washington Generals.
Q: Am I the only one that is going to miss the old fashioned Rose Bowl on New Year's Day? I’m excited for the College Football Playoff expansion, but the Rose Bowl was still special in my mind. What do other fans think? — @kmasterman
A: I am a purist who loves tradition. But the Rose Bowl had to decide if it wanted to stand in the way of playoff expansion or get left out. The Rose Bowl is wonderful. It will always be wonderful. Let’s see how it feels as this evolves, though.
Q: What are your thoughts on Kenny Dillingham’s staff decisions at Arizona State? He is picking personal mentors. Fast and exciting coordinators. Recruiters for Arizona, California and Texas. How do you rate his choices and strategy? — @ParsiJohn
A: I’ll tell you what I like most — Dillingham is hiring assistants who have more experience than he does. He hired Beau Baldwin, who has previously been a head coach at several stops. He also hired Charlie Ragle, who was Idaho State’s head coach. Said Dillingham: “I tried to surround myself with people that have more answers.” I think it’s a really wise move by a youthful, first-time, head coach.
Q: Is Portland still under consideration for MLB expansion/relocation? — @jabraisen
A: The A’s feel like they’re headed to Las Vegas. The Rays are staying put. Relocation will soon be off the table. That leaves the Portland Diamond Project chasing MLB expansion. I think the group had solid momentum and strong financial backing out of the gates, but it needs MLB to signal that expansion is coming. If commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t do that in the next 12-18 months, I think the group from Portland (and some others nationally) will fizzle out.
Q: This is a bit tongue in cheek, but at what point is Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff going to start moving with some urgency on the TV deal? When he realizes that QVC and the Weather Channel are the only options left for the Pac-12 as TV partners? — @EricTLund
A: The Pac-12 is negotiating with some new partners. That takes far more time than re-upping with current partners. Also, the conference and media partners may have been delayed by the wait on the fate of UCLA. The UC Regents will rule on the Pac-12 vs. Big Ten move on Wednesday.
Keep in mind, the Pac-12 is now the only major conference that has available media rights. Amazon may come into the fray in an interesting way. The Pac-12 Networks content could bring a windfall from the streaming service. That said, you may be onto something… Oregon vs. Oregon State on The Weather Channel? I’d watch it. Or Washington vs. Utah on QVC?
Think of the marketing opportunities, folks.
Q: Given the state of their respective programs and the emergence of NIL, is there any credence to the possibility Cal and Stanford would drop football? Who backfills the four California schools should they all leave the Pac-12? — @Fitzpaddy3
A: I don’t see Stanford and Cal dropping football. It’s still easily the No. 1 revenue-generator in their respective athletic departments. Losing that sport would crush their entire budget. I think the administrators on those campuses need to figure out if they want to matter, though. If the Cardinal and Bears want to participate in today’s college football it will require some academic exemptions for a handful of prospective transfers. Stanford, for example, had only one football transfer admitted last season. It can’t compete like that.
Q: Does Oregon State’s Johnathan Smith still get his Pac-12 coach of the year bonus even though he had to share the award with someone else? — @BarkerMeowski
A: Smith gets the whole $25,000 bonus in his contract. So does Kalen DeBoer at Washington, who had the same $25,000 incentive in his deal. They both win… and both athletic departments pay up.
Q: Is Oregon uniquely “snakebit” when it comes to football injuries. Dennis Dixon, Vernon Adams, Justin Herbert, Bo Nix ... the 2014 playoff team lost basically all of the receiving core for the title game. Is it our imagination or does Oregon have uniquely bad luck? — @colbyreade
A: There’s some confirmation bias going on here. You are understandably focused on Oregon, but let’s face it — injuries happen everywhere. Particularly injuries to quarterbacks. Just ask USC, which flopped in the conference title game when Caleb Williams was injured and Utah, which didn’t look the same this season when Cam Rising’s knee wasn’t right. The Ducks need more depth at quarterback.
Q: If you could buy each Pac-12 football coach a present for Christmas, what would it be? — @AFoster13
A: I’d buy each of them an ugly sweater… and better Pac-12 officiating.
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