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.
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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