Canzano: Wild bus stories, missing persons, and Pac-12 truths
Some Wednesday thoughts...
Rich Brooks knows the Oregon-Washington rivalry better than most. The retired, long-time Ducks’ football coach told some amazing and fun stories about the series this week.
“We were the have-nots and Washington was part of the haves,” Brooks said. “Don James had everything going his way up there.”
Brooks spoke candidly about the Ducks-Huskies rivalry on an episode of “Canzano & Wilner: The Podcast. He revealed that the athletic directors among all four Pacific Northwest football schools used to have a gentleman’s agreement. The sides agreed to travel by bus, not airplane. That worked just fine until James, the UW coach, had a blowup with a charter bus driver on the Oct. 1988 trip from Seattle to Eugene.
Said Brooks: “Somewhere up above Longview, they pulled into a rest stop. Don James was in the first bus. The second bus passed him. Don James was on the first bus. He pulled into the rest stop. He told the driver to tell the other bus to pull in. He immediately proceeded to chew out the bus driver — that you never, ever let the second bus pass the first bus — ever.”
The Ducks won the game, 17-14.
“After that, Don James never took a bus ride in the Northwest again,” Brooks said. “He went home and was so incensed. When he chewed that bus driver out, that bus driver refused to get back in and drive the bus. They had to drive a driver up from Portland to finish the trip. It took what was normally a five-hour bus trip into a seven-hour bus trip. I think he blamed that for the loss.”
The interview with Brooks is a really fun listen:
Some other stuff…
• PLAYOFF PICTURE: Another round of the College Football Playoff rankings came out on Tuesday. I had a few immediate takeaways — namely, that reports of the Pac-12’s CFP death were greatly exaggerated.
There is a path to the playoff for both Oregon and USC … and maybe even UCLA, which the selection committee undervalued. I lean toward picking the Bruins to beat USC (Nov. 19) at this point.
• SILENT TREATMENT: The Pac-12 has misfired on some things in the last year. For example, I’m not sold that the Pac-12 made the right decision in staying quiet since late June. Commissioner George Kliavkoff has popped up a couple of times, but didn’t really say much. It’s a clear strategy, likely dictated by his bosses. But it’s not a tactic I’d have employed amid the initial sea of swirling questions, anxiety and uncertainty.
• RIGHT BLEND: The Pac-12 would be well served to blend a streaming service (Amazon/Apple) with a linear provider (ESPN/FOX) in the next media rights deal. That blend of healthy revenue and exposure is key. The Big Ten is going to distribute an average of $62.5 million, per university, in its new deal. The Big 12 is going to dole out $31.6 million, per school. The Pac-12 is expected to beat the Big 12’s number, but by how much?
I asked Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff in July whether he valued exposure or revenue more.
“Both,” he said.
• FIST BUMP: Can I take a moment to give a fist bump to former Fox Sports Networks president Bob Thompson? I connected with the Oregon graduate early in the summer to help me understand how television networks view live sports programming.
Thompson explained the cost of losing USC/UCLA. He spoke out about the value of the Pac-12 Networks. And he geeked out on the media-rights value of Pac-12 members. Literally, the guy has provided a public service by explaining how television households matter in media rights negotiations.
Thompson has been a wonderful resource. Follow him on Twitter. In the meantime, I need to send Thompson a bottle of bourbon for his troubles.
• MISSING PERSONS: Where did the folks who were predicting the imminent demise of the Pac-12 go? Remember when the “four corners” schools in the Pac-12 were going to bolt to the Big 12? Remember when Oregon and Washington were most assuredly leaving for the Big Ten?
Still out there?
I’m going to give you sourced, in-depth reporting here. I am not guessing. I’m not selling hyperbole, chasing clicks and mongering fear. I’m talking with the actual decision makers, leaders and industry sources. I don’t have a dog in the fight. I’m here for you.
I spoke with leadership at Pac-12 universities, who refuted those inaccurate reports about Utah, Colorado, ASU and Arizona leaving for the Big 12. There were never any meetings or conversations between the sides, per multiple sources.
The ADs and presidents shot that down and told me the conference was galvanized and focused on sticking together. Said one of the four-corners ADs: “I don’t have time nor attention for the Big 12 noise.”
I didn’t report that the conference’s remaining 10 members would likely stick together because I wished it was true. I reported it because I had sources in key places who said exactly that.
• APPLES TO APPLES: When talking about media rights negotiations, we need to stop including potential payouts from the College Football Playoff and NCAA Tournaments in the equation. It muddies the waters. When unpacking these deals, focus on the actual media rights portion of the equation.
Ever seen one of those carnival magicians that uses diversion and sleight of hand to trick the audience? If someone is talking media rights payouts and suddenly includes postseason distributions in the equation, be mindful that they’re likely trying to distract you from the actual numbers.
• HEART OF THE MATTER: I wrote a column on Tuesday that I want you to read. I hope you will give it a look. Not all stories have happy endings. I wrote a column about the heartbeat of college football.
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