Canzano: Pac-12 getting itself back out there after being burned
Clemson vs. Utah, anyone? Miami vs. Oregon?
The Pac-12 Conference appears to be moving toward a “loose partnership” or some kind of entanglement with the ACC right now.
I know, I know.
The last alliance the Pac-12 put its faith in turned out to be as good as the paper it wasn’t written on. But these are strange times and there’s an understandable sense of urgency after watching USC and UCLA run off with the Big Ten last week.
What do you tell a friend who has been burned in a relationship?
Learn from it.
Then, get back out there.
That’s apparently what the Pac-12 is doing. Conference leadership huddled while still numb, then announced it was exploring expansion, then followed that a couple of days later with a news release indicating the Pac-12 was accelerating the timeline on its media rights negotiations. The conference officially opened the 30-day negotiating window.
Bob Thompson, the former president of Fox Sports Networks, told me on Tuesday that a potential Pac-12 partnership with the ACC captures TV markets that include 27.7 million households. By comparison, the Big 12 television markets have only 14 million households.
“If you put the geography aside, the ACC markets are just better,” Thompson said.
There are 10 ACC markets with more than 1 million television households each. They are: New York, Boston, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Charlotte, Pittsburgh and Raleigh. The Big 12 footprint has only four TV markets (Dallas, Washington, D.C., Houston and St. Louis) with more than a million households.
Why a “loose partnership” and not a formal merging of the ACC and Pac-12 into one of these fashionable “super” conferences?
I suspect that’s due to the ACC’s current grant of rights agreement. It runs through 2036 and marries the conference members to ESPN. If the ACC opens the grant of rights, it runs the risk that one or more conference members might bolt to the SEC or Big Ten.
“The possibility there is that you’re opening the barn door and the horses are going to run out,” Thompson said.
What I like about a potential ACC and Pac-12 partnership:
Stabilizes the Pac-12, keeps its remaining 10 members together, and gives the conference media rights negotiations a boost.
Positions the Pac-12/ACC solidly as the No. 3 entity in the new landscape vs. being left out.
Fosters interesting and marketable crossover matchups in football (Clemson, Miami, Florida State) and men’s basketball (Duke and North Carolina).
What I don’t like:
The last “alliance” situation led to a gut punch and I don’t think all the ACC programs are going to be thrilled about being dragged into it.
A Pac-12/ACC tandem doesn’t scare the Big Ten and SEC.
The geography isn’t ideal.
The news of a potential partnership between the conferences included some juicy tidbits. The Pac-12’s traditional conference championship football game in Las Vegas, for example, could be replaced by some sort of ACC vs. Pac-12 matchup designed to posture for the College Football Playoff.
Mario Cristobal’s Miami team vs. Dan Lanning’s Oregon team in Las Vegas in 2024? Or how about Utah vs. Clemson for the “loose partnership” title?
Some extras today:
ª• My working theory… Pac-12 partners with ACC. Then, Pac-12 pursues several key Big 12 members (Baylor, Kansas, Houston, Oklahoma State, etc.). That version of the ACC/Pac-12 would be very interesting to ESPN in football and men’s basketball.
• The Pac-12’s media markets — without Los Angeles — now include a total of about 13 million households. The Southern California footprint was worth 5.5 million television homes.
• The Big Ten deal with Fox that was valued at $1 billion a year is now worth $1.143 billion with the addition of USC and UCLA.
• I spoke with former Nebraska, Washington State and Oregon AD Bill Moos on Tuesday. He expects USC and UCLA to get a wake-up call in the Big Ten. Said Moos: “Those are big stadiums, big traditions, lots of championships, there will be great competition, but it’s hard for me to see that there’s going to be a lot of 10-win seasons. Probably going to be more like seven or eight (wins).”
• Arizona, ASU, Utah and Colorado appear to be interested in what they’re hearing from Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff. An AD at one of those schools told me there was no scheduled meeting with the Big 12 this week and added, “George is kicking ass.”
• It’s possible that Apple or Amazon or one of the other streamers gets in on the 30-day negotiating window that was opened by the Pac-12. That said, I think streaming remains a secondary option for the conference. The whisper is that the current Pac-12 Networks content is likely to land on a streaming option but the Tier 1 football and men’s basketball games feel like they’re headed to ESPN.
• Don’t expect ESPN and Fox to share Pac-12 football games as they have in the past. The former Fox president, Thompson, told me: “Fox was probably pretty ticked when Texas and Oklahoma announced the move to the SEC and I imagine they believe ESPN was behind it. I think the days of Fox and ESPN partnering on things like the Big 12 and Pac-12 are probably over for now.”
• There are a number of mid-major universities that have reached out to the Pac-12 about joining the conference. Fresno State, Boise State and SMU are among them, I’m told.
• Potential conference additions have to be viewed through the prism of potential television revenue. The magic number in the Pac-12 is $30 million a year. Boise State, for example, receives $4 million a year from CBS and FS1 as part of its contract with the Mountain West Conference. If the Broncos were to join the Pac-12, it would have to be with a heavy subsidy or not as a full member. It just doesn’t pencil out otherwise.
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