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Canzano: Pac-12 punches back as TV deal nears
Conference sounds tired of the noise.
Andrew Haubner used to run the sports department at KEZI-TV in Eugene. He’s a hard-working reporter who volunteered to fill-in on the news side when wildfires and protests broke out.
He now works for the CBS station in Sacramento.
On Thursday, Haubner was dispatched to do a live hit on the station’s morning show as part of its March Madness coverage. He and Steve Garcia, a camera man, arrived at Pete’s Restaurant and Brewhouse to cover a gathering of University of Arizona alumni.
“It was kind of a luck of the draw,” Haubner said.
UA president, Dr. Robert Robbins, happened to be there. Haubner has been tuned into the ongoing media-rights negation involving the Pac-12 Conference. He noticed Robbins in the room, introduced himself, and put a microphone in front of him.
“We’re very confident that we’re going to get a good deal and that we can all stay together,” Robbins said. “So I think that’s the message that’s important to get out. Because there’s a lot of disinformation. For instance, ‘Arizona’s going to the Big 12.’ We’re not going to the Big 12. We want to see what the deal is here because we are all — including Arizona and Arizona State and all the schools — want to keep the conference of champions together.”
It was the second time this week that Robbins spoke out about Arizona’s committed mindset. This came on the heels of Arizona State president Michael Crow giving an interview with the ASU student newspaper.
Crow said: “We have fabulous sports teams and the remaining teams, we’re going to get a good offer. We’re in the final stages of that process.”
Also this week, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan told a Salt Lake City radio station that he is fed up with erroneous reports about the demise of the Pac-12.
“I’ve been clear all along,” Harlan said. “The other schools in our conference have been clear all along that we’re together. We’re 10. We’ve said it. We’re working hard with our commissioner to get this deal done.”
Anyone else find this week’s chorus of commitment interesting?
The Pac-12 has had enough of other people telling its story. Several stakeholders punched back. Their message was singular — the Pac-12 believes it is moving toward a good deal. It’s committed. The schools still need to see numbers on paper, but they appear to be pointed in the same direction.
Said Harlan: “I am very pleased with where things are trending.”
Someone may want to check on Chicken Little.
Also, someone do a welfare check on the Big 12’s feral conspiracy theorists — “12Anon” — and see if they’re OK. The sea of propaganda and hand-wringing has been a disappointing byproduct, but I wondered right up until this week if the Pac-12 was also its own worst enemy.
The conference’s public-relations strategy in the last nine months has been puzzling. The silence in Las Vegas last week at the men’s basketball Pac-12 Tournament, in particular, fueled another round of fear-mongering click bait from the Big 12 footprint.
I wondered why commissioner George Kliavkoff refused to hold a news conference. But industry insiders cautioned me against banging my shoe too hard on the table. I was told by more than one veteran media-world source that ESPN, FOX, Amazon and Apple likely appreciate that the Pac-12 hasn’t engaged in orchestrated leaks aimed at taking the negotiations public.
Decide for yourself if the collateral damage to the Pac-12’s brand over the last nine months is an acceptable byproduct. If the conference gets a good deal, maybe the Pac-12 walks taller knowing it did so while refusing to play a less-dignified version of the PR game.
What’s the actual harm of the negative noise? A hit on the brand? Daily memes mocking Kliavkoff? Maybe some negative recruiting?
I asked Arizona football coach Jedd Fisch whether he’s heard much of that in his world. Fisch said he doesn’t think recruits care much about media-rights deals. They’re far more into NIL opportunities.
“As long as media rights keep going to the coaches and the universities I don’t think that there’s much concern from a player perspective,” Fisch said.
I also asked Oregon coach Dan Lanning if the saga of the Pac-12’s ongoing television negotiations came up at all with players and recruits. Lanning echoed Fisch and said: “No, not at this point.”
The Big 12’s media-rights deal will net its members $31.6 million in annual distributions. One individual in the room for the Pac-12’s negotiations told me recently that getting within range of the Big 12 figure is a “lay-up” and said there’s growing confidence that the Pac-12 will eclipse it.
I’ve talked with key sources at all 10 of the remaining Pac-12 schools. At no point has anyone in the inner sanctum said a word about wanting to leave the conference. But I have heard from folks at SMU, San Diego State and some others. They’re eager to find out whether they add enough value to be included.
The Pac-12 CEO Group meets again on Tuesday. At first, I wondered if the chorus coming from the conference footprint this week was an orchestrated effort. But after poking around, I’m told members were just weary with the propaganda and itching to speak out.
I don’t work for the Pac-12. I cover it. I work for you. I’ll continue to be relentless in asking questions, seeking truth, and reporting it here. My aim all along is to give you sourced, in-depth reporting and commentary you can’t get anywhere else.
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