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Canzano: Mailbag deals with Pac-12, Oregon-UCLA, Rose Bowl... and Taylor Swift
Your questions, my answers...
I get the best questions. This week’s mailbag is filled with them. But one of the most interesting questions came from a reader who asked about my game-day college football experience.
Q: Just curious what a typical day in the life of a sports columnist covering a football game in person looks like. Is it routine? Is it ever boring? What inspires your reporting? What are the challenges? — @KdickeyKeith
No two weekends are alike. Sometimes, I’m on a plane to a college town on a Thursday or Friday. Other times, I’m driving to Autzen Stadium or Reser Stadium just before kickoff. There are logistical challenges with having your job tied to a major event, with traffic, tailgating, parking, and booking with oversold hotels and airlines, but I love being at a college football stadium.
There’s electricity in the air. When I walk through the parking lot, I can feel the anticipation and overhear the comments between fans at the tailgates. I’m never bored — ever. I keep my eyes and ears open. A lot of what I write and report are things that viewers on television or fans in the stadium won’t see.
I want to bring you with me to the stadium. I want you to know what I know, see what I see, and learn what I learn. Last week, I was at the Utah-USC game. You were there with me. This week I’m at Oregon-UCLA. You’re coming, too.
I’m having a blast with this new writing endeavor. I’m focused on giving you sourced, in-depth reporting and commentary. Stuff you can’t get anywhere else. Also, I love sharing inspiring and uplifting stories and columns.
Thank you for reading me. I appreciate those who have already subscribed or given friends and family members a gift subscription. Also, a big thanks to those who have donated subscriptions for seniors and some others on fixed budgets. Your support makes this project possible.
Your questions and my answers…
Q: If you could wave your magic wand and fix one Larry Scott thing that might have quelled USC and UCLA moving, what would it be besides the media rights? — @Bzj79
A: How many waves of the magic wand do I get? It’s difficult to get past how the conference’s financial issues opened the gates for the USC-UCLA defection. Scott’s media rights deals became outdated before they even reached the midpoint.
Beyond that? Scott spent lavishly and wasted $120 million in rent on the downtown San Francisco headquarters. Also, the distribution deal the commissioner cut for the Pac-12 Networks was an unmitigated disaster. And let’s not forget that conference members voted for equal revenue sharing on his watch. That never sat well with the schools located in the Los Angeles market.
Q: Where is the quality of play in the Pac-12 this year compared to the last few? — @terry_calvert
A: The top half of the conference is superior to what it has been in recent years. UCLA, Oregon, Utah and USC are a combined 22-4. More significantly, the line of losses to mid-major programs that plagued the image of the conference in 2021 didn’t happen in 2022. Still, Week 1 remains a lost opportunity. Oregon got pounded by Georgia 49-3 and Utah lost close at Florida, which now looks mediocre. There’s room for growth, but the top 5-6 teams in the conference are better and deeper than prior years.
Q: Liz Truss lasted only 44 days as Britain’s Prime Minister. What will be the big sports headlines in Oregon 44 days from today? — @ManSlinger
A: The College Football Playoff selection committee will release its final rankings on December 4. The headlines that following day — 44 days from now — in Oregon may be about the Ducks decision to schedule Georgia in the season opener in Atlanta.
Oregon received $4.5 million to play Georgia at Mercedes Benz Stadium. It also got pasted by 46 points and I fear the selection committee won’t forget it. I did an interview with Rece Davis of College GameDay on Friday. He believes that first impression will be too much for the Ducks to overcome.
Said Davis: “You can lose, but you can't lose like that.”
I hope he’s wrong, but suspect he thinks a lot like the selection committee. I hate that scheduling the defending national champions for a non-conference game instead of booking a payday game vs. Bowling Green or Kent State is what may keep a 12-1 conference champion out of the so-called playoff.
Q: What do you think is a reasonable expectation of revenue per school distributions after USC and UCLA depart and a new deal is negotiated? — @pjward58
A: I crunched some numbers with Bob Thompson, the retired Fox Sports Networks president, late this summer. I expect the Pac-12’s new deal will land somewhere between an average distribution of $33 million and $40 million per university, per year. Keep an eye on the streaming services (Apple, Amazon, etc.) though, as they could boost the payout.
Q: Has San Diego State become much more viable than Boise State for the Pac-12? Or does the overall sports pic for Boise make it a better option (if they only choose one)? — @blackandQWERTY
A: San Diego State sits in a media market that includes 1.1 million households and geographic proximity to Los Angeles, where there are another 5.7 million TV homes. The entire state of Idaho has only 517,000 TV homes. For that reason, SDSU is in first position.
Q: Small sample size but the Trail Blazers looked good at Sac town especially in the controlling finish after squandering lead. Dame/Nurk pedestrian. Anfernee and new guys promising. What’s future John writing about the Blazers at the All-Star break? — @DevoutDuck03
A: Portland is now 2-0 after Friday's home opener. I like the undefeated start. Fans like it. But my biggest hope at the All-Star break is that I’m writing about the franchise being sold to Phil Knight. Until Jody Allen releases her grip on the franchise, it won’t ever realize full potential.
Q: What's going on with the Rose Bowl? Is its affiliation with the Pac-12 done once the playoff expands to 12? — @benmillerMKE
A: I get this question often, so I know it’s important to college football fans in the Pac-12. I’m being told the Rose Bowl will be part of the picture in an expanded playoff. Likely, a quarterfinal or semifinal game. Not likely a site a for the title game and the affiliation with the Pac-12 feels endangered. I have plans to follow up on this front, so stay tuned.
Q: If you could only watch one sport for an entire year, which would it be and why? — @2022SportsGuy
A: It’s college football, for me. No doubt. I’m a baseball guy and love sitting at a ballpark, in the sunshine, watching a game. But there’s something magical about a college football Saturday.
Q: Is the long term best fit for Portland State football, the Mountain West conference provided they can return to Providence Park? — @BabcockJenning
A: I don’t think PSU is going to have an easy time getting back into Providence Park permanently, even as I’m told they’re trying to negotiate a one-game return there next season. Without a viable home stadium, how do you make a jump up?
University administration has been embarrassing in its lack of commitment to the PSU athletic department. Football subsidizes the rest of the operation by playing payday games. It does so without a home stadium, without adequate funding, and without support from the university president’s seat. It’s difficult to dream beyond the Big Sky Conference when you wake up in a nightmare like that every morning.
Q: Does Oregon State football officially play USC or UCLA next year since they just finished a home and home set with USC, the rotation would have normally shifted to UCLA but things could be different with both teams leaving the Pac-12? — @yorkmajor
A: A source at Pac-12 headquarters tells me the conference football teams will stay on the current rotation for the 2023 season. They’ll assess future schedules after the media rights deal is completed and the Los Angeles schools depart for the Big Ten in 2024.
The Pac-12 dropped the North-South divisions before this season. That practice will continue in 2023. Just like this season, the teams will be ranked 1-12 and the top two will play in the conference title game in Las Vegas.
Q: If the Pac-12 and Big 12 were to merge, would it be fun and entertaining? — @GarrettGeringer
A: I love to see fresh matchups. I was there when Oklahoma played a home-and-home with Oregon, for example. It was compelling stuff. So it would be fun and entertaining, sure. That said, the Big 12 and Pac-12 aren’t merging. There are philosophical differences and too many complicating factors.
Q: How close is Kliavkoff to striking a deal with Amazon, Apple, etc.? And who will be in the league when he strikes a deal? — @losquangeles
A: At this point, I’d be surprised if a streaming service wasn’t at least part of the plan. It feels like the Pac-12 Networks content is likely going to land on Amazon and/or Apple. I have adjusted my target date for news on this front to sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving. I expect the 10 remaining members of the conference will all sign on. They appear galvanized on that front. Beyond that, conference expansion looms. I expect the Pac-12 will add at least one member.
Q: Regardless of fit, which two coaches would be fun hires at ASU and Colorado for the Pac-12 Conference. — @AFoster13
A: I’ll go for Mark Helfrich, the former Oregon head coach, at Colorado. Then, I’d add Mike Leach, now at Mississippi State, at Arizona State. Neither of these things will happen, but it would not be boring.
Q: Not a question but an observation: The Ducks are 8-1 all time in games following a Taylor Swift album release. — @SpatzSteven
A: There’s a huge difference between the iconic “Speak Now” (2010) album and the self-titled “Taylor Swift” album (2006). Not an answer, but an observation.
Q: What can be done to get more people willing to be Oregon high school sports officials? There’s a great shortage at all levels. — @MarcO19700239
A: Parents and players need to stop abusing officials. Let’s start there. What person in their right mind signs on for a part-time, low-pay job where you’re vilified, shouted at and harassed? We have to do better as a society there. If you’re interested in signing up to become an official, have at it. But let’s remember the role the rest of us play in it.
Q: How long until the NFL starts rolling out a Saturday game of the week? — @TomeiTyler
A: The NFL already plays on Thursday, Sunday, Sunday night, and Monday night. It’s moved select games to Europe while chasing revenue. The league has had success with Saturday playoff games. It’s been estimated that adding regular-season Saturday-night window could add $1 billion-a-year in value to the NFL. So yeah. That will eventually happen, particularly with Amazon as a broadcast option.
It’s why I think the college game needs to be intentional about remaining a true college experience and not some knock-off semi-professional event. The college product has to remain unique.
Have a great weekend…
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