Canzano: Phil Knight talking with Big Ten? Meanwhile, Pac-12 and ESPN in "productive" talks
What I learned over the weekend...
Some things I learned over the weekend…
• Talks between ESPN and the Pac-12 have been “productive” per a conference insider. “We’re still in the midst of positive conversations but haven’t reached a final offer stage,” the source said. “We’ve been much more engaged with George (Kliavkoff). We’re all in sync, we’re all in line. We’ve got some high level media consultants at the tables.”
• The Pac-12 has hired two consulting firms — one of them is Sports Media Advisors. SMA comes with a great reputation. Doug Perlman runs the shop. He attended University of Virginia law school with Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff. Perlman was the point person on the NHL’s television deals for years.
• I’m being told by multiple sources not to expect much in the way of Pac-12 media rights news before Labor Day.
• Brett McMurphy caused a stir when he tweeted on Monday that Oregon was kicking the tires in Chicago with the Big Ten to determine if the Ducks are compatible:
• No Michael Schill? No Rob Mullens? No Kevin Warren? McMurphy is a good reporter. I trust him. I was told early on that Phil Knight and Tinker Hatfield were interested in exploring some options. Sounds to me like the Nike contingent may be doing the heavy lifting.
• One source in Knight’s inner circle told me after USC and UCLA defected to the Big Ten: “The good news is Phil is working hard to determine the correct path forward and hopefully to determine one that is viable. My guess is, his aspirations aren’t practical or achievable. But try to tell that to the man that has won most battles in his life that seemed out of reach.”
• Oregon is a tentpole among the remaining 10 universities in the Pac-12. The prevailing sentiment among conference athletic directors is that UO shopped itself around significantly after USC and UCLA announced their departure, and learned it didn’t have great immediate options.
• The Pac-12 ADs continue to meet at least once a week. I asked a few of them if Oregon had expressed a desire for unequal revenue sharing or maybe even a shorter media rights deal. Said one AD: “Not at all. Oregon hasn’t been pounding on the table. They’ve made no demands in an open forum. I think, like the rest of us, they’re interested in seeing what comes of this media rights negotiation.”
• There has been ongoing conversation among some of the ADs about the role that Phil Knight could play in holding the Pac-12 together. If Oregon sticks around, could Knight come in as an equity partner? Said one North Division AD, “Knight’s involvement would be a game-changer.”
• A “loose partnership” between the Pac-12 and ACC is still very much on the table, but nobody is quite sure how much new money ESPN might be able to squeeze out of it — and the money is why you’d do it.
• Said one current Pac-12 North Division AD: “There’s some interest in that from our side. There are some great things that could happen… it’s not like we are going to go crazy playing a bunch of crossover games, but the two conferences could put together some matchups with value.”
• I spoke with Oregon first-year head coach Dan Lanning on Sunday. I asked him if he was ready to play a game. Lanning said, “My guys are ready to hit someone else and I’m sure ready to see them do that, but if you ask me, I’m always going to tell you I want one more week of practice.”
• I talked with former Oregon coach Mario Cristobal via FaceTime on Sunday morning. I wrote a column about Ducks’ linebacker Noah Sewell and Cristobal was happy to provide some background on the kid. Cristobal popped up on my phone wearing a University of Miami polo shirt.
• Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark is currently on a “listening tour” and trying to visit all his conference universities. It’s a wise move and can galvanize a conference. Yormark gave the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal five minutes for a Q-and-A that I found interesting.
• In the piece, Yormark clarified the “open for business” comment he made at Big 12 Media Days. He told the newspaper, “‘Open for business’ doesn’t mean just expansion, where I think some people read into it that it was very much focused on expansion. That’s not necessarily the case. When I say ‘open for business’, it means that this conference is no longer going to be stagnant. We’re going to be very proactive. We’re going to explore and identify any and all opportunities that create value in every respect. Is expansion a part of ‘open for business’? A hundred percent. But it’s only a small piece.”
• I asked a South Division AD that I haven’t previously quoted about the Big 12. Is that conference actively trying to poach Pac-12 teams? He said, “I don’t know where all this stuff comes from. There have been no offers or conversations. I’ve been in no dark rooms. It’s insane.”
• I think adding San Diego State makes a lot of sense from an expansion standpoint by the Pac-12. It would get the conference back into Southern California and add 1.1 million TV households. Beyond that, though?
• UNLV? SMU? Fresno State? Boise State? I dunno. It feels to me like poaching a Big 12 team… or five… would be a better option for the Pac-12 than diluting the conference with a few less-than-ideal candidates. I’d rather have Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and maybe 1-2 others. Then again, I’d rather that college football returned to a time before TV-money greed… you know, when geography and tradition dictated your conference affiliation.
• Former Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen can flat run. The world-class hurdler is also not bad adjusting to a pass while on the fly.
See for yourself:
• Note that the NFL officials working the game did not flag Allen for a false start. Because he didn’t jump early. He just anticipated the snap like he anticipates the starter’s gun in a track meet. I think track and field could learn something from football.
• It’s a thrill to read a Peter King piece and realize he’s reading you back. I had tears in my eyes when I wrote a column about my mother in law last week. I’ll admit, I wondered if sports fans would bother to read it. King gave it some love in his “Football Morning in America” piece, calling it his “column of the week.”
My mother in law will be overjoyed.
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The McMurphy tweet smells fishy. If Oregon already shopped themselves around, the B1G was the first place they called, so they already heard “We’ll get back to you if we decide to expand.” And for sure the B1G is already well aware of what each potential new school brings to the table, and undoubtedly has them ranked depending on scenarios: these two schools if Notre Dame doesn’t join, these three schools if they do, these different schools if the ACC grant of rights goes away, etc.
Don't put anything past Phil Knight. He is a winner all the way