Canzano: Mailbag deals with Pac-12, Amazon, doppelgängers and corn dogs
Your questions, my answers...
I received all sorts of great questions for the mailbag again this week. One of them came from a reader who asked, “What would you tell your 18-year old self about getting into journalism?”—(via @2022SportsGuy on Twitter).
The experiences I had early in my career served an essential foundation. So I’d tell myself to slow down… and keep my eyes and ears open. My first job was at a community newspaper — The Gilroy Dispatch — covering Little League games and high school sports. My next stop was at The Santa Cruz Sentinel, where I learned how to tell stories, as I was writing about high school water polo, surfing, and some small-college stuff.
After that, I encountered Bobby Knight.
In the late 1990s, I got a job as the beat reporter covering Indiana basketball. Knight was a fascinating study. I drew upon things I learned at my first two stops. I also covered college football (Notre Dame and Purdue beat reporter). Later, I took a job as a columnist (The Fresno Bee), then went to work covering the NFL and Major League Baseball for The San Jose Mercury News before coming to the Pacific Northwest.
I still lean on lessons learned at those early newspaper stops. I learned the value of deep sourcing, how to tell a story, and the importance of getting things right. I wasn’t in a rush to skip steps and I’m grateful for that. The product you’re reading right now — this independent writing endeavor — is an amalgam of my experiences at six newspapers over almost three decades.
Thank you for reading me here. I appreciate those who have subscribed or gifted friends and family members a subscription. Your support makes this project possible.
Onto this week’s mailbag…
Q: If Oregon and Oregon State were in the Top-25 at season end, would you surprised? — @cool_brezze
A: The programs both have talent and have a chance to start the season a combined 5-1, with the only loss being to Georgia. I’ve been thinking a lot about the solid Pacific Northwest foursome that is Oregon, OSU, Washington and WSU. Is it possible all four are ranked at some point? Or at least getting serious consideration by the end of the season?
Q: Love your work, what's your objective take on Boise State's future? — @kevinmillershow
A: The entire state of Idaho has only 517,000 television households. That leaves a university with a good brand in a tough spot. I think San Diego State and SMU would be in front of Boise State in pecking order. They sit in much bigger media markets. But if the Pac-12 decides to add four teams or six? Boise State, UNLV, Fresno State and a couple of others would be high on my list. Boise State has a consultant on retainer to help it navigate all of this, per a source.
Q: Hot dog or corn dog? — @AFoster13
A: Hot dog. Not even close. Any food with a stick in it raises questions.
Q: Do you think a media deal is done before Halloween? If so, when do anticipate announcements/news on expansion? — @lilcmac5
A: I’m stuck on the “done” part of the question. I think we’ll get a leak (or announcement) of a Pac-12 deal with media partners before Halloween, but it will take additional weeks to finalize the loose ends. I’m told a letter of agreement between the partners comes first, followed by the actual contract. A deal should be finalized sometime in bowl season.
Q: The latest Pac-12 Power Rankings put Oregon in the basement, so why is Oregon projected to beat highly ranked BYU? — @larry_author
A: I have Oregon as a top-half of the Pac-12 team and it’s playing at home. Historically, both programs have been spent a lot of time ranked in the Top 25, produced a line of NFL talent, and played each other six times. The head-to-head record: 3-3. It should be a really good game. The Ducks are a 3.5-point favorite, mostly because the game is at Autzen Stadium.
Q: Jonathan Smith’s first five years has reshaped OSU football. Is there a chance that in his second five years he can get OSU to be on the national stage (potential playoff team)? If so, what does he need to do to get them there? — @BennyL1986
A: The expanded playoff opens all sorts of possibilities. Smith told me before the season that he wanted the Beavers to get to Las Vegas and play for the conference championship. He said it with a straight face. To get there? Oregon State needs better receivers and pass rushers.
Q: I've followed his career from Sheldon High, yet I'm still surprised by the awesome talent being displayed by Justin Herbert now in the NFL. So why wasn't he a mega star with the Ducks? Was it Mario Cristobal’s game plan? Offensive coordinator and scheme? Lousy receivers? Or did he simply mature in LA? — @SpatzSteven
A: All of the above. No doubt, Herbert has matured and blossomed. But his talent was wasted in college. The identity of Mario Cristobal’s offense didn’t include slinging the ball around the stadium 40-plus times. The Ducks wanted to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage. I also think offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo held Herbert back, and you’re right about the lack of healthy talent at receiver during that era.
Q: Can you explain in Twitter response length what is going on with the Pac-12 ? I don’t have time to read all the articles seems like we are losing big schools and not performing well against other major conferences. Thanks. — @RIP_CITY4LIFE
A: The Pac-12 is 16-6 vs. other conferences this season. Two high-profile losses in Week 1 to the SEC (Georgia over Oregon… Florida over Utah) hurt the brand out of the gate, but the non-conference record isn’t bad. USC and UCLA chased a media rights windfall and fled to the Big Ten. Now, the Pac-12 is trying to negotiate its own media rights deal, position itself for access to the expanded playoff, and potentially add a couple of new members. How did the conference get here? I outlined the Pac-12’s impending woes in a four-part series several years ago. The conference had poor leadership and its programs were underfunded vs. peers. As a result, the Pac-12 fell behind.
Q: It’s become clear money received from TV deals is driving most major moves in high-level college football. When a university gets money from a conference TV deal, where is this money actually going? Who is personally benefiting from this payout? — @_alexwakefield
A: The distribution of television money goes from the conference to the respective athletic departments. Coaching salaries have escalated at a rate that is consistent with the skyrocket increases in media rights revenue. Facilities have improved, too. And I saw where Texas recently spent $280,000 on a single recruiting weekend. So some of the money is being reinvested.
Q: Can you see Kirk Herbstreit moving full time to Amazon? He could become Amazon’s Chris Berman? Help shape what football coverage looks like for them? — @JamieSchlosser
A: ESPN gave Herbstreit a three-year extension in March. He already had two years remaining on his contract so he’s signed through the summer of 2027 on that front. He then turned and signed a $10 million-a-year deal with Amazon. His NFL work will be exclusive to Amazon, while he will only broadcast college football for ESPN. I suppose Herbstreit could transition into the NFL full time, but I’m thinking that would have to happen after 2027.
Q: Who’s going to win the Pac-12 and why is it the Huskies? — @rogertheethird
A: Something tells me you have your mind made up.
Q: Will BYU bring more opposing fans than any other game in Autzen history? If not, which one has the record? — @jkimball5506
A: BYU travels very well. So did Michigan, when it visited Autzen Stadium in 2003. Wolverines’ fans showed up nicely for that one. Also, Nebraska came to Eugene in 2017 and created a nice-sized pond of red in one end of the stadium. But those who were around UO in 1982 remember 12,000 Notre Dame fans invading Autzen Stadium. Irish fans bought tickets that ate up nearly 30 percent of the stadium capacity. Restaurants in Eugene didn’t mind, though. They told the New York Times that sales doubled that weekend.
Q: Realistically, how much longer can OSU keep this coaching staff after continued proven success? — @JoshHarley36
A: The assistant-coach salary pool for 2022 is $4.335 million, a jump of $340,000 from 2021. The pool increases to $4.66 million next year. Offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren and offensive line coach Jim Michalczik are the ones to watch. They both got raises in the offseason, but if the success continues OSU may have to dig deeper.
Q: I’d love to know what your favorite Pacific Northwest stadium experience is 1. Watching a game solo? 2. On a date with your wife? 3. With the whole family? And why is it your favorite? Food? Atmosphere? Parking? — @colbyreade
A: Solo game? Autzen Stadium. Great atmosphere. Game day always feels big. Date? I’d pick Washington’s Husky Stadium. The view of the lake is unmatched and you’re in a big city. Family game? Washington State’s Martin Stadium is the pick. My wife and kids tagged along at a WSU game last season and the kids can’t stop talking about how much fun they had. Oregon State is temporarily out of this discussion because of the stadium renovation. Ask me again after it’s completed.
Q: Should the Pac-12 expand to create a Texas/Louisiana pod with SMU, UTSA, Tulane, Rice or other schools? What is the most aggressive option for expansion? The Big 12 commissioner talked about going west. Should the Pac-12 go east? — @BrettHolubeck
A: I like how you’re thinking. It’s ambitious. Adding a Texas/Louisiana contingent would give the holdover Pac-12 programs access to a swath of geography they’d love to recruit. I’m not sure the presidents and chancellors would love the geography, but maybe they’ve awakened to the new-world of college athletics. The Mountain West Conference options aren’t great beyond San Diego State and maybe one or two others. So I don’t blame you for thinking about it.
Q: Why does Cal keep getting included in possible expansion talks. The Bears aren’t good and despite the market, they’re probably no better than seventh in the pecking order of that market. Maybe even behind MLS. — @kirkkern
A: Cal checks a couple of critical boxes. The Bay Area television market is attractive. That matters to potential media partners. Also, the academics are outstanding. That matters to the presidents and chancellors.
Q: When do you expect expansion to occur, if it does? — @SCOTTLAKE0
A: Insiders keep telling me the media rights and the expansion topics may have different timelines, but I’m struggling to see how that is possible. If I’m a media partner, I’d like to know if San Diego State and SMU and maybe some others are involved. I know those things can be added in after the fact — and negotiated — but in this case, I think they’re vital components. For that reason, I expect some movement between now and Halloween.
Q: As long as everyone's here, I have to ask: Does anyone else think Dan Lanning looks like Chris Pratt? — @WoodburnDuck
A: I will run this past Lanning in our next talk. In the meantime, see below.
Q: If you were a CFB commissioner, what would your first 3-4 actions be? Regulate NIL? Playoff changes? Conference realignment restrictions? — @pblazeID
A: Playoff expansion has to get finalized. It will add stability to the landscape. Beyond that, I think the Power Five commissioners just need to get on the same page in general. What do they want college athletics to look like? They appear divided right now and that dynamic fosters volatility.
Q: Many are predicting a $2.2 billion TV deal for the 12-team College Football Playoff. What is your guess on the amount of annual TV revenue Pac-12 schools can expect to receive from the CFP. — @TerryTerry79
A: Some initial projections had the 10 remaining schools in the Pac-12 netting an average of $30 million a year from an expanded playoff. I think that figure could go a lot higher. I also think unequal sharing of playoff revenue is being talked about by the Pac-12. Meaning, if your program makes the playoff, you get a larger share. That could keep Washington and Oregon a little happier.
Q: Why is Jody Allen holding onto the Blazers? Pride (look at me, I own a high profile NBA franchise worth a billion bucks!) or passive aggression—everyone wants me to sell so I’ll show them!!!(?)… simply trying to get the best deal?…Her love 4 PDX? — @bbasstravel
A: She doesn’t strike me as nostalgic. I think she was annoyed recently that so many people were telling her to sell and decided to push back. I wish she’d just set the franchise free and sell it to someone who would love it.
Have a great weekend everyone…
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