Canzano: Mailbag deals with 'Coach Prime’ … Utah’s secret, and keeping Jonathan Smith
Your questions, my answers...
I covered Bob Knight as a beat reporter years ago. After that, I took a job covering legendary basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian. I’ve seen how a larger-than-life personality helps print money and fuel the clout of a college athletic department.
Is “Coach Prime” coming to the Pac-12?
Sure feels like it.
I don’t blame Colorado one bit for offering Deion Sanders its head football coaching job. It’s a no-brainer. A source at Colorado told me on Saturday morning that nothing is official.
“We’re on hold until discussions yield a ‘yes’ from him,” the source said.
I get the best questions in my weekly mailbag. This week, @beal_zach on Twitter, asked: “Deion Sanders to Colorado. What are your thoughts on it?”
Sanders hasn’t been to campus in Boulder, per the source. But Colorado athletic director Rick George talked with Sanders and offered him the job. News reports indicate Sanders has done some legwork and may announce he’s accepted it after Jackson State’s game today (1p PT kickoff).
Athletic directors don’t like to be turned down. This search feels public in a way that may make George squirm. But I think the reward outweighs the risk when it comes to hiring a coach who is 26-5.
Sanders brings energy.
He brings immediate credibility.
He’s a promotional wizard.
Either Sanders is coming to the Pac-12 and infuses all of that into a Colorado program that badly needs new life. Or he reverses course after his game today, endears himself to Jackson State’s players, and we still come away thinking the Buffaloes must really want to matter.
I think he lands in Boulder.
Buried in all of this is the impending Pac-12 media rights negotiations. How much is Colorado offering Sanders? Did it back up a truck? Keep an eye on the salary numbers, if he does make it official.
Fired coach Karl Dorrell was paid $3.6 million this season. Lincoln Riley is getting $10 million a year at USC. If Colorado pushes into the $6 million-to-$8 million per year range for Sanders, does that mean the Pac-12 ADs know they’re about to enjoy a better-than-expected media rights windfall?
I’m tracking that.
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Onto the mail bag…
Q: Is Chance Nolan still part of the program at Oregon State? I've heard that he hasn’t been at the games in awhile. Or is it that maybe that injury is far worse than was let on by the staff all year. — @bryanmiller513
A: Nolan is in the transfer portal. He’s leaving OSU. His injury (neck) was definitely a real injury, but I think his confidence was broken more than anything.
Q: Do you think it was the right/best decision for Lincoln Riley to continue playing Caleb Williams at QB — when it was clear he was unable to perform — just because he didn’t want to be taken out of the game? — @joeldombrow
A: Williams definitely wasn’t the same after the hamstring injury. I’m not a trainer. I wasn’t on the sideline. But USC appeared to be in a do-or-die mindset in the second half. I don’t blame you for wondering. Let’s see how Williams looks in his next game.
Q: What’s the agreement with UCLA and CAL that would cause compensation when the Bruins leave? Can you clarify that? — @COOLAZTEC
A: Cal and UCLA are both part of the centralized UC system. The universities bargain collectively, are funded by the same system, but operate with some degree of autonomy. The regents may rule that UCLA’s defection financially harms Cal, and the UC bond holders, and order the Bruins to pay a penalty. We’ll know more on December 14.
Q: Do you see the conference championship games going away in exchange for an expanded playoff? — @TomeiTyler
A: I don’t. The conference title game is a part of the media rights contracts for all major conferences. They don’t like to give money back. The College Football Playoff committee could one day decide not to penalize teams for participating in them, however. USC played its way out of the playoff on Friday night.
Q: What should the other Pac-12 teams try and duplicate that Utah has been able to do to get to a Championship? — @BBgunn42
A: Utah wins with culture and coaching. The university has fostered unusual continuity with its current coaching staff. That required some patience, though. Kyle Whittingham went 5-13 in conference games during a rough two-year period a few years ago. Utah stuck with him and also invested in retention of his top assistant coaches. Andy Ludwig, his offensive coordinator, for example, has been with him for eight seasons and makes $1 million a year to call plays.
Q: With Utah’s win and four prospective 10 win teams (six if you count USC and UCLA), has the Pac-12 proven it’s still a viable draw for networks and national interest minus the LA Schools? — @RoaringForkDvl
A: I think it has been a good season for the Pac-12, despite not reaching the playoff. That’s a big improvement. There has been a lot to celebrate in the footprint. But the television networks remain interested in top media markets and maximizing TV households. That’s why potentially retaining UCLA and/or adding San Diego State has been so widely discussed.
Q: Which will win in a fight? Cocaine Bear, Meth Anaconda or Bath Salts Hippo? — @CryptDads
A: Cam Rising shows up and beats them all.
Q: Even though the college transfer portal is fluid. What positions should the Beavers and Ducks be looking to fill through transfer portal for next season? — @cool_brezze
A: Defensive tackles and quarterbacks remain the most coveted players in the portal. I didn’t used to follow recruiting as much as I do now. I took a look at where both head coaches placed their emphasis in a column on Friday morning.
Q: I know Jonathan Smith is a Beaver through and through, and Dan Lanning just got hired... but who is more likely to get poached by a bigger school / NFL - Lanning or Smith? — @Levi_Bergthold
A: I suspect both are locked into their respective universities in a way we haven’t seen since Mike Bellotti (Oregon) and Mike Riley (OSU). On that note, I’m told by a source that the Beavers are exploring an extension with Smith that could make him a lifer.
Q: Does Donte Moore flip? — @imberog
A: Oregon appears to be playing some good defense. Dan Lanning made a trip to Michigan on Friday to demonstrate how important Moore is to his program. But the UO offensive coordinator hire becomes a key part of this.
Q: Any ideas for go-to Christmas presents for the wife to stay out of trouble? — @jayjjjjay1
A: The key is to not get in trouble. But you can never go wrong giving your significant other your time, energy and focus. Also, UGG boots/slippers from my friends at Shoemill are never a misfire.
Q: Where will the Pac-12 title game be in 2024? — @benjamiller
A: Las Vegas is a no-brainer. I looked around Allegiant Stadium at kickoff and saw 61,000 Pac-12 fans in the house. This event should never be held anywhere else again.
Q: What is the strategic benefit of George Kliavkoff’s “unwavering” support for the LA schools? That feels like a poke in they eye to Washington stakeholders. Shouldn't they be “unwavering” in support for UW and UO if he wants a conference moving forward? — @360Kyle
A: He’s diplomatic and strategic. I think Kliavkoff wants the door left open for UCLA to potentially return. Not a lot to gain by grandstanding and blowing hot air. I’d like him to be a little less collegial, but I get what he’s doing.
Also think that Oregon and Washington are going to have an easier path to the playoff in the Pac-12 and become tentpoles for the conference. Seems to me that the Huskies and Ducks will make a 12-team playoff more frequently than USC/UCLA would in the Big Ten.
Q: When I lived in Asia I saw college sports on alot with passionate fan bases. Could the Pac-12 capitalize on this ? — @sdetroit
A: Larry Scott’s Pac-12 tried to get into Asia in a big-time manner in 2011. He got shoulder to shoulder with Jack Ma at Alibaba and launched his “China Initiative.” The globalization effort had mixed results. I wonder if it was just done with ham-handed execution. I didn’t like his overseas focus while there were so many ridiculous domestic issues up in the air for the conference.
Q: How does USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch continue to fail up? — @uwdawgs4life
A: Grinch isn’t a bad coach, but his defense was terrible vs. Utah. USC was particularly bad on the defensive line on Friday. They got blown off the ball and appeared disorganized. The defense also didn’t tackle well. I expect USC will be in the portal looking for defensive tackles and linebackers. But I wonder how patient Lincoln Riley will be with Grinch.
Q: Does UCLA “own” the Rose Bowl. Will it have remodeling before 2024? — @Duckscribe
A: UCLA’s home stadium is owned by the city of Pasadena and managed by a non-profit organization. “The Rose Bowl Operating Company” — which has a board selected by Pasadena council members. UCLA gets one board seat.
Q: If you were the “college football commissioner” what postseason format would you use? — @TylerHergert
A: I’d have a 16-team tournament. No byes. The five major conference champions would all receive automatic bids. Cinderella gets an invitation to my tournament. She may lose her slippers once there, but she still gets to dance.
Q: If Jonathan Smith continues to have success at OSU, what do you think the odds are that he bolts to a blue blood, or can OSU pony up the $$ to keep him? — @RDammeyer
A: I am told Oregon State is working on a contract extension for Smith. He currently has a provision in his contract that gives him a one-year extension for winning seven-plus games. I expect his extension to go a little further.
Q: Is there any way to ballpark the amount of money the pac12 is going to have to invest to fixing the officiating problem? Seems like it would be non-trivial. — @benwilkinson
A: I don’t think it would take much. Give merit raises to the top-graded officials. The conference can’t lose its best officials to the Big Ten and Big 12. Then, replace the supervisor of officiating with a more qualified candidate. Also, hire Tony Corrente, as a consultant. Then, work with the Big Sky Conference and Mountain West to create an officiating consortium that trains and prepares young, talented officials.
We can’t have Primetime in a poorly officiated Pac-12, can we?
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