Canzano: Pac-12 moves on without UCLA
Expansion strategy changed? What happens with Oregon-Washington?
It was stoic philosopher Tupac Shakur who once offered that there are really only two ways to deal with the outcome of any situation.
You can either look back and spend minutes, hours, days and weeks immersed in paralyzing analysis, poring over the ‘what ifs’ and ‘should haves.’ Or as Shakur said, “you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the f**k on.”
I suspect the Pac-12 is beyond the analysis stage.
The University of California Board of Regents voted 11-5 to allow UCLA to leave for the Big Ten Conference on Wednesday. The regents also indicated they’ll likely slap the Bruins with a “Berkeley tax” that would subsidize Cal to the tune of $2 million to $10 million.
It was a predictable outcome. Now, the Pac-12 is facing conference-expansion questions, a critical media-rights negotiation, and fans are wondering what will happen with Oregon and Washington.
Here you go:
• WISH GRANTED: UCLA gets its wish to leave the Pac-12. Bruins Athletic director Martin Jarmond, who got his administrative start at Michigan State and Ohio State, gets back to familiar territory in the Big Ten. UCLA makes the move in the summer of 2024.
• UCLA BAILOUT: It’s a football-driven bailout. No way around that. The Bruins athletic department is facing $100 million in debt. The Big Ten’s new media rights deal will pay UCLA $62.5 million a year. Industry insiders expect the Pac-12’s soon-to-be-completed deal will result in an annual distribution that falls in the $32 million-$35 million range, per member.
• BIG TEN MATH: Competitively? UCLA football is about to get its teeth kicked in by the Big Ten. The Bruins won nine games this football season, but finished fifth in the Pac-12. UCLA hasn’t been in a Rose Bowl since 1998. Nobody in the Big Ten is afraid the Bruins are going to disrupt the football hierarchy. Still, this move is less about making the College Football Playoff and more about filling the giant hole in UCLA’s budget.
• HOOPS: The UCLA men’s basketball program — currently ranked No. 16 in the AP poll — will continue to matter. The Bruins should consistently compete in the top third of the Big Ten Conference and make the NCAA Tournament field. I covered Purdue and Indiana as a beat reporter years ago. I don’t expect those two Big Ten schools will like the addition, but the Bruins have a great basketball brand.
• TALLY THE LOSS: Losing the Los Angeles television market stinks for the Pac-12. It’s a financial hit. UCLA and USC were worth about $150 million combined in media-rights value.
The conference’s anticipated media value — including both LA schools — would have been worth about $500 million a year. That would have been split 12 ways for a payout of $41.7 million per school. The conference is now looking at a annual number that should fall in the range of $320 million to $350 million, split 10 ways.
It’s an estimated financial hit of somewhere around $7 million to $9 million per Pac-12 school, per year.
• EXPANSION WINNER: San Diego State won big on Wednesday. The Aztecs remain a no-brainer expansion option for the Pac-12. With UCLA officially gone, the Pac-12 desperately needs a Southern California presence. San Diego State would add 1.2 million television households.
Bob Thompson, the former Fox Sports Networks president told me of San Diego’s television market: “It’s bigger than Eugene and Pullman. In the eyes of television, it’s obviously not San Francisco and Los Angeles, but it’s solid.”
• DANCE GETS FASTER: San Diego State has been in a slow dance with the Pac-12 for some time. University representatives are being told that Pac-12 expansion will happen immediately in the wake of the completion of the conference’s media rights deal. In the minutes after the UC Regents news, a well-placed source at SDSU told me: “Look forward to them getting their TV deal done.”
• WHO ELSE IS COMING?: SMU, UNLV, Boise State, Fresno State and some others also wake up today holding a better hand. The prevailing thought was that if UCLA stayed in the Pac-12, the conference would only add one member via expansion (See: SDSU). With both USC and the Bruins out, I expect the Pac-12 may be more aggressive.
I also think the Pac-12 would be wise to look at the incoming Big 12 members and see if there’s anything worth pursuing.
• PACIFIC NORTHWEST: What happens to Oregon and Washington? They stay in the Pac-12. Neither has an invitation to the Big Ten. The numbers don’t pencil out. Both schools are “only” worth an estimated $40 million a year each in media-rights value. The Big Ten members aren’t interested in subsidizing them.
• FOOTBALL PLAYOFF: Oregon and Washington (and some others) have a clearer path to the expanded College Football Playoff in the Pac-12 vs. the Big Ten. Will any of us be surprised if those two schools make more combined playoff appearances in the next decade than USC-UCLA?
• DISTRIBUTIONS: I expect the Ducks and Huskies (and maybe Utah) may push for larger, imbalanced annual distributions from the Pac-12. I don’t think the rest of the membership will go for an uneven payout structure when it comes to media rights dollars, but I think there is support for other creative measures.
More than one AD floated the idea of allowing Pac-12 members that reach the football playoff or earn NCAA Tournament units to keep a larger share vs. splitting evenly among conference members.
• HEAT IS ON: There’s some pressure and renewed focus on Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff now. He needs a win in the looming media-rights negotiation. I expect that deal to get done in January. I believe the conference could have already been finished but kicked the negotiation down the road, waiting to see if they might somehow be able to include UCLA (Read: Los Angeles TV market) in the deal.
Now that the door has closed, it’s about getting the best deal done and keeping the Big Ten and SEC in view of the front windshield.
Kliavkoff enjoyed a relatively smooth first 364 days on the job. Day No. 365 was a killer, though. He lost the Los Angeles schools. Keep in mind, Kliavkoff was hired because his expertise is in media, entertainment and finding creative ways to monetize assets. It’s time for him to get a win.
• SOURCED: Nobody in the Pac-12 was shocked by Wednesday’s ruling by the UC Regents. A week before the meeting, one conference athletic director told me: “Frankly we’ve moved on, our focus is on the 10 of us.”
You’re bound to hear some of the hysteria-driven gloom-and-doom media members predicting (as they have for months) that Wednesday’s ruling on UCLA is proof of the “imminent demise” of the Pac-12.
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