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Canzano: OJ, a game ball, and why you don't (bleep) with the franchise
Also... a bet on Amazon or Apple?
I’m nostalgic, so I’ll take a look around Reser Stadium on Saturday night when USC plays in Corvallis for what could be the final time.
The Trojans have suffered a few setbacks at Oregon State over the years. The teams don’t play next season. After that, it’s off to the Big Ten for USC. But before the Trojans go, how about a few memories?
Rand Wintermute, a 35-year United States Coast Guard commander, remembers being a student at Oregon State in 1967. We’ve all heard about the “Giant Killers” and that team’s upset win over No. 1 USC. But did you know that Alpenrose Dairy handed out 25,000 pints of orange juice to commemorate OJ Simpson’s visit to Corvallis that day?
“The pints were thrown into the stands,” said Wintermute, who was an ROTC student. “We students were drenched with orange juice, head to foot.”
Quarterback Steve Preece floated passes and Bill Enyart and Jerry Belcher ran between the tackles. The OSU defense chased Simpson all afternoon in a 3-0 shutout. And the student section went home sticky.
Said Wintermute: “I will always remember the juice in my hair, face and other places.”
Long-time Oregon State sports information director Hal Cowan is retired, but still shows up sometimes in the press box. Cowan told me this week that he has two strong memories of USC football games in Corvallis.
In 2000, with Jonathan Smith at quarterback for OSU, the Beavers beat USC 31-21. Smith left the field with the game ball and walked up the stadium ramp alongside Cowan. They were headed to the Valley Football Center for the post-game news conference. Smith turned to the SID, handed him the football, and said, “You deserve this.”
Cowan took it home.
Seventeen years later, Smith was hired as OSU’s head coach. Cowan brought the ball to the coach’s introductory news conference, presented it to Smith and had the coach sign it.
“We came full circle,” said Cowan.
Cowan also remembers Oregon State’s upset win over the No. 1-ranked Trojans at Reser Stadium on a Thursday night in 2008. The Rodgers brothers — James and Jacquizz — accounted for all four touchdowns in a 27-21 win.
Cowan was on the sideline late in the game when Jacquizz was tackled out of bounds by a frustrated USC defender. The Oregon State bench erupted and penalty flags flew. A Beavers’ offensive lineman came scrambling over, helped Rodgers to his feet, and shouted at the Trojans’ tackler, “Don’t f**k with the franchise!”
Jacquizz Rodgers finished with 186 rushing yards. After the game, Tim Tessalone, USC’s long-time sports information director, walked by Cowan and said, “Where in the hell did you find that guy?”
Steve Fenk replaced Cowan as the sports information director at Oregon State. Fenk told me that he remembers talking with Mike Riley hours before that same Thursday night upset. He told the coach, “Don’t make any plans all day tomorrow.”
Riley looked at Fenk, puzzled.
“I’ll have you on a bunch of national radio shows,” the SID explained.
Riley grinned, then won the game.
Fenk also recalls seeing ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews standing in front of the student section as the final minute of the game ran down.
“I ran over to her and told her, ‘You don’t want to stand there,’” Fenk said.
Andrews shot back: “Oh s**t. Thanks.”
I’ll also think about the now-demolished radio broadcast booths that used to be in the press box of the west side of Reser Stadium. It was there that former USC quarterback Paul McDonald and OSU broadcaster Mike Parker mixed it up once.
The home and visiting radio booths used to be adjacent to each other. There was a glass partition separating the sides. Parker was shouting and going nuts, finishing off his radio call of the 33-31 Oregon State win in 2006.
McDonald, working as a radio analyst for USC, looked over at Parker and raised his middle finger.
In the last seven meetings between USC and OSU played in Corvallis, Oregon State has four wins.
One for the thumb?
STRATEGY: George Kliavkoff broke his silence with an exclusive interview he gave to Jon Wilner and me this week. It was an interesting talk. Well worth your time if you’re invested in the trajectory of the Pac-12.
But why did Kliavkoff talk?
The conference commissioner had been publicly silent since July 29, when he spoke at Pac-12 Media Day in Los Angeles. One of the prevailing theories is that Kliavkoff wanted to engage in some advocacy on the University of California Board of Regents front.
The UC Regents are meeting this week to discuss UCLA’s departure to the Big Ten. Kliavkoff was intentional in laying out the negative effects of the Bruins’ move. He cited athlete health, academic issues created by travel and negative alumni sentiment. The commissioner even said his “back of the envelope” calculations suggested UCLA would lose money.
“We think the incremental money they’re going to receive from the Big Ten media rights deal will be more than 100 percent offset by additional expenses,” he said. “You end up taking that money you earn and it goes to airline and charter companies and coaches and administrators. It doesn’t go to supporting the student athletes.”
See what he did there?
Kliavkoff is giving the UC Regents something to think about. Thing is, does UCLA have legal exposure if it is forced to reverse course and return to the Pac-12? The Big Ten’s media rights deal included the Bruins. Would the Big Ten sue UCLA and the Pac-12?
It feels like a Hail Mary effort from Kliavkoff. I’m not convinced it will work, but I don’t blame the conference for trying. If the Pac-12 somehow keeps UCLA, it changes the conference-expansion calculus. I could see the “Pac-11” then possibly adding San Diego State to replace USC. After that, it would be a question of whether the Pac-12 wants to explore growing to 14 or 16 teams by adding UNLV/SMU or maybe Boise State/Fresno State.
Again, it’s unlikely that UCLA is forced to reverse course. But I think Kliavkoff may have had a strategic reason for breaking his public silence.
MEDIA RIGHTS: New York Post columnist Andrew Marchand and Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand do a popular sports-media podcast. It’s a good listen and they’re well sourced in the industry. They gave Jon Wilner and me a mention on their latest podcast and talked a little about the Pac-12 (about 30 minutes in here).
The big question for the Pac-12 — what’s the right blend between a streaming service and linear television?
“It’s a big part of the future, but it’s not THE future,” Marchand said of digital streaming. “The thing about Amazon… the reason they’ve been able to dominate and go into so many different places is that they do distribution better than anybody in a digital world. But when you talk about delivering football games to a screen, broadcast is hard to beat.”
I agree it’s too early to go all-in with a streaming service. But Amazon’s NFL Thursday Night Football broadcast was a good test. I thought Amazon demonstrated some encouraging advances and I think the public embraced it.
The Pac-12 still likely wants to do a blended deal. The conference would love to have the large-scale distribution of ESPN and pair that with a forward-thinking streaming service (i.e. Apple or Amazon) that would carry the Pac-12 Networks content. The aim: cash in on both fronts.
USC’s football game vs. Oregon State on Saturday, for example, is on the Pac-12 Networks. It’s one of ~36 games the conference’s network will carry this season. UCLA-Colorado and Arizona-Cal are also on the Pac-12-owned carrier this weekend.
Amazon made a $13 billion bet on the NFL. Apple bought 10 years of MLS rights for $2.5 billion. Is the Pac-12 Networks content appealing enough to generate a big payday from one of the carriers?
Marchand wondered: “Does Amazon want to do smaller games? Does Apple want to do smaller games to get on the air? I’m not sure they do.”
USC and Oregon State fans bellyached when they saw this Saturday’s game between two undefeated teams wouldn’t be distributed on ESPN or FOX. But I’m now wondering if a positive byproduct is that the conference now gets to hold a game like this up to the streaming services as an example of what it could have owned.
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