Canzano: There is a singular threat to Pac-12 -- the Big Ten
Pac-12 AD calls Big 12 threat "laughable."
The Pac-12 Conference athletic directors are anxiously waiting to see what happens in the next 24 hours. The conference’s 30-day, exclusive negotiating period with ESPN and Fox is set to expire Aug. 4.
The ADs I spoke with said they haven’t seen any potential revenue numbers yet.
Former Fox Sports Networks president Bob Thompson recently told me he’d be shocked if a deal got done with ESPN in the early negotiating window. That dovetails with the remarks from Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff last Friday, who pumped the brakes on the timeline. I left media day thinking it might be early September before we get resolution.
There’s some customary back-channeling going on right now. Consultants are involved. It’s in the conference’s best interest to go slow, allow the Big Ten to set the market, and give some other bidders a chance to weigh in.
Thompson said: “I think the conference will be wise and want to see who is on the outside looking in when the Big Ten option ends. There’s going to be some folks who expressed an interest in collegiate football who aren’t going to get it in the Big Ten deal.”
In the meantime, the athletic directors of the Pac-12’s remaining 10 universities are still communicating regularly and tell me they’re upbeat.
Said one AD, “The dialogue, candor, and environment have been positive. Everyone is moving in the same direction.”
Are there still threats out there?
Said the AD: “It’s a singular threat — the Big Ten and the Big Ten only. That’s it. The Big 12 threat is laughable.”
Would the Big Ten decide to further expand and add Oregon and Washington? Or maybe chase Stanford? I’m going to dive deeper into the calculus of that in the coming days. But the prevailing thought is that none of those universities generate enough potential media rights value by themselves to make doing so a no-brainer.
In fact, I floated that Oregon-Washington-Stanford question to a current Big Ten Conference athletic director, who waved it off.
“I think Stanford might be interesting to our conference presidents just because of the academic piece,” he said, “but unless Notre Dame is coming in too, I don’t think further expansion happens in this cycle.”
The Pac-12 mostly laughed off the Big 12 threat last Friday at media day. It makes sense that those two entities are at odds. There’s only so much money in the college football ecosystem. The SEC ate first, now the Big Ten is feasting. The ACC is waiting for 2036, while Pac-12 and Big 12 are left to fight over what’s left.
There have been reports about the Big 12 trying to poach Utah, Colorado, Arizona and ASU. Nobody at those universities seems much interested at this point. The financial advantage just doesn’t appear to be there. But the noise annoyed the Pac-12 anyway.
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff holds a degree in journalism from Boston University. He told me on Friday that he is frustrated with the Big 12’s tactics.
“It’s incredibly destructive, but that’s why they do it,” he said. “When I was in journalism school we were taught you had to source things from two reliable sources and you can’t run with it until. Now, we’ve got folks in the national media reporting stuff that is on burner Twitter accounts. It’s unfortunate. It’s the world we live in. I don’t have thin skin. I’m OK with this stuff, but it does destabilize people.”
Kliavkoff said that several Pac-12 universities have shared communications they’ve received from the Big 12 and other conferences.
“If they hear something or if someone from a different conference is approaching them, they forward those messages,” he said. “Those are fun to read. I’ve read every single one that has been sent to our conference over the last three weeks. It’s amazing how brazen those other conferences are.”
RUN AROUND: UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond wasn’t present at Pac-12 Media Day last week. Neither was USC AD Mike Bohn. It felt silly, given that their campuses were just miles away from the downtown Los Angeles event. But the conference apparently did not want the distraction.
What I can tell you is that both still heard noise from the event.
Jarmond was out on a morning run when Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff was asked on the main stage how UCLA’s defection to the Big Ten might affect recruiting. The commissioner steered his answer away from football and toward the non-revenue generating sports.
“Actually we think the 10 remaining schools are going to significantly benefit in recruiting from UCLA and USC’s decision in every sport other than football,” Kliavkoff said.
Jarmond’s jog was promptly interrupted by several LA-based media members reaching out to him for comment. He declined. Jarmond also turned down a request for comment for this piece. But I noticed that UCLA’s softball Twitter account fired back on Monday with a tweet aimed at the topic.
COLLECTIVE WIN: On Pac-12 Media Day, Arizona State’s representatives were asked why the university didn’t yet have a “collective” working to help athletes with opportunities. Football coach Herm Edwards talked at length last week about the importance of the NIL space to any college program.
On Tuesday, an ASU insider sent word: “We are in the game.”
The “Sun Angel Collective” has a website, a board of directors, and a mission. Also, it has a deep pool of potential donors, as ASU boasts 579,829 active alumni.
Oregon has Division Street, Inc., UCLA has the “Bruin Fan Alliance” and Washington State has the “Cougar Collective,” among others.
The trend in this space is clear. Wealthy alumni and gift givers lining up to write checks that will help athletes at their respective universities. It’s why the size and power of ASU’s alumni base is so interesting. I took a quick look at where the graduates of Arizona State live:
California and Texas are very important to ASU’s mission. So are Washington and Colorado. For those wondering why Arizona State might be more interested in sticking around the Pac-12 vs. jumping to the Big 12, I’d present this as Exhibit A.
ASU would love nothing more than to mine those 579,829 donors on a regular basis. If anything, adding a Texas-based university to the Pac-12 would leave the Sun Devils in a perfect world, with ample exposure to roughly 74 percent of its alumni base.
YOGI ROTH BOOK: Yogi Roth has been around the Pac-12 Conference in a variety of capacities for the last couple of decades. I enjoy his work on television, but I got a chance to talk with him this week about his recently released book.
“5-Star Quarterback” is a great late-summer read and takes a deep dive into the most scrutinized position in college sports. Roth interviewed more than 50 high-profile QBs for the project and came away with a fun and interesting read. The book is a great peek into the psyche and lives of young, talented players and the journey they embark on from development to recruiting to the playing field.
Former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, for example, told Roth about his first start: “I remember signing autographs after the game and realizing for the first time as it set in — this will be my life.”
Roth’s new project is essentially a handbook for understanding what a gifted high school quarterback will encounter in major college football, including the lure of the transfer portal. Chapter 1 of the book starts with UCLA coach Chip Kelly and Stanford coach David Shaw talking about scholarships.
Roth joined me on the radio show and talked at length about the book here:
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Given the importance of major college football to the remaining Pac 12 Universities, I am surprised that the states involved and major businesses in those states are not stepping up to the plate to develop a gameplan to assure the financial survival and success of this Conference.
So far, I've only heard from Governor Newsome of California, a true leader and visionary.
Several years ago, I served on the Board of Visitors for the U of O Law School for 8 years, during an era when Dave Frohnmayer was the Dean and then the President of U of O.
He emphasized that the success of the football program stemming from the 1994 Rose Bowl changed UO's world, both in terms of interest by students around the Country and alumni involvement and pride in the University. The money followed, in a big way, and not just for sports.
And this started before the rise to ongoing national prominence by the sports programs.
There is a lot at stake for these Universities that goes far beyond their football programs and as a result, a lot is at stake for the states of Oregon, Washington, California (to some extent), Utah, Colorado and Arizona.
I would expect alumni to be all over this, or encouraged to do so.
I would expect state political leaders to be paying attention.
Ironically, the amount necessary per year to assure these schools succeed at the highest level athletically ($80 million or so per school, including TV revenue) is a paltry sum compared to the potential harm if the conference fails.
In other words, if the TV deal from ESPN, etc. is really only $35 million a year, raising another $45 million per year per school is likely going to assure considerably more cash flow for the University from other sources over times, is going to increase visibility of the University, increase alumni interest and involvement and attract students around the Country.
Where is Kate Brown on this issue?
Or the Governor of Washington?
This goes far beyond athletics.
The pac-12 is doomed and it is their own fault. This new leader they got a year ago has done nothing, and now that the two LA schools will be in the Big-10 in football in two years, the pac-10 will slide further into oblivion. I will say it again: TV money rules all sports. ESPN is worth more in billions, than ALL pro teams in all sports combined. The only way ESPN would want the -pac-12 for football is if they decided to show west coast games starting at 10 or 10:30 pm est. when there is nothing much on, to compete for the advertising dollars. Check out how many times the Pac-12 has been in the final four of the college football play-offs compared to the SEC and the Big-10. Pac-12 has two. It will take at least five years for this league to catch the big boys in football and basketball, the only two sports that bring in revenue to the schools. I say five if they get a new tv contract now, which does not appear to be happening yet. UCLA and USC will get around $30 million more per year than if they stayed in the Pac-12. Do the math; and maybe you will get it. Do you think any team in the Pac-12 could improve their football team or their facilities with 30 million more dollars per year? That they could pay their players more, or get better new players coming in? I am sure they could. They could pay their coaches more, and do many other things too. USC and UCLA were smart to leave the Pac-12. Huge money rules the world, and controls sports on tv. Without ESPN the Pac-12 is going nowhere. This new commisch of the Pac-12 claims he was caught unaware that the two LA schools were leaving. Baloney to this I say. It should have been his number one priority when he got the job to start trying to get a new tv deal for the major sports. So what if their current tv deal is a bad joke, and is still valid? He did nothing and now he claims he had no idea what could happen if any schools left. I am a long-time Duck fan and I love the Pac-12. Am sad that the only way the Pac-12 will ever be a major conference, which they currently are not, is to get a big tv deal with ESPN. With the two LA schools, and all their millions of tv sets, gone, each remaining school stands to make a lot less per year. The rich, like the SEC, get richer and the others get poorer. Clock is ticking loudly on the Pac-12 and their current tv deal. Is now or never, and please miss me with the idea of the Pac-12 adding more schools. No school in the country can match the LA tv market. GO DUCKS