Canzano: You want plot twists? I got 'em.
Some not so unthinkable (and fun) thoughts...
The PGA Tour and LIV Golf ended their bitter and contentious standoff with a plot twist that nobody saw coming — they’re getting married.
Both sides will drop the litigation.
Nobody will have to open the books.
They’ll hug it out. The details of the business merger will be interesting. But while we’re waiting to see the details, it got me thinking that nothing feels impossible in sports right now.
Here are some wild plot twists I’ve been thinking about:
• RETURN TO SENDER: UCLA is headed to the Big Ten Conference. It will leave for the 2024 football season and drag the Bruins’ non-revenue generating sports along for the ride. UCLA is expected to earn a media-rights windfall, but will there be buyer’s remorse when they see the bottom line?
I left Pac-12 Football Media Day last July wondering why conference commissioner George Kliavkoff was so delicate with his remarks when it came to the Bruins. He could have clobbered UCLA, but was collegial aside from a few gentle barbs. It became evident the Pac-12 saw no point in being adversarial.
I’ve had several athletic directors and industry insiders tell me they believe the only true victory for the Pac-12 is to lure UCLA back when its contract with the Big Ten expires in the summer of 2030.
Ex-Stanford coach David Shaw told me last summer he thought geography and Big Ten travel demands would become an issue for the conference defectors. Shaw said: “My heart of hearts tells me that in some point of time this will self correct.”
The travel is going to be a grind. Just ask Nebraska. UCLA may also figure out the path to the College Football Playoff is brutal in the Big Ten. Further, the UC Regents are going to require UCLA pay an annual subsidy to its sister UC institution in Berkeley — aka “Calimony.”
The Pac-12 could offer an increased distribution to UCLA in 2030. It could dangle a clearer path to the playoff. Also, far less travel for the soccer teams.
It’s not the craziest thought. Keep in mind, the Pac-12 doesn’t have to get both USC and UCLA back. It only needs one of the two to recapture the Los Angeles television market and 5.6 million TV households that were lost to the Big Ten.
More implausible — the PGA toasting with the Saudis? Or UCLA making Bill Walton happy and returning to the Pac-12?
• A’S FLIP FLOP: Anyone else think Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has had enough of the Oakland A’s? Owner John Fisher has basically revealed himself as a Scrooge McDuck.
The A’s are gone to Las Vegas, right?
The proposed stadium deal in Oakland left the two sides about $70 million apart. Now, Fisher is busy trying to squeeze lawmakers in Nevada for subsidies and finds his new-and-improved effort far more than $70 million apart. On Monday, the Nevada Legislature adjourned its four-month session without a vote on the package to help fund a $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat ballpark on the Las Vegas Strip.
I know Fisher desperately wants his MLB franchise in Las Vegas so he can bake that into the valuation and then sell the team. But is it far fetched to think the A’s might end up back in Oakland? Not as unthinkable as Phil Mickelson getting himself a PGA Tour tattoo, but that may happen, too.
• CIVIL WAR FOR IT ALL: Oregon’s football program won 10 games last season. Ducks fans groaned. Oregon State won 10 games. Beavers fans threw a neighborhood block party.
Far different expectations.
This season, both programs enter the season thinking about getting to Las Vegas and the conference title game. Is it too outrageous to think that Oregon and Oregon State will meet in the Pac-12 Conference championship game in December?
The Ducks are +375 to win the conference in the BETMGM sports book. The Beavers are +750. These aren’t long odds, folks. USC is the favorite (+160). Washington is +475 and Utah is +500. But if you pick Oregon or Oregon State to win the Pac-12, nobody will laugh you out of the room.
It would be tricky — and probably require one of the two schools to be undefeated — but I’d love to be in Las Vegas for a Civil War football game for all the marbles.
• HEISMAN PLOT TWIST: Caleb Williams won the Heisman Trophy last season. The USC quarterback was terrific. I thought he was the best player in the country and Williams earned the first-place vote on my Heisman ballot.
Is it unthinkable that the Pac-12 will repeat with the award?
Williams is again a solid candidate. He could easily be a finalist. But how about Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. as the 2023 Heisman winner? Or Oregon’s Bo Nix?
The quarterbacks in the conference are that good. There’s always a risk they could cannibalize each other’s votes, particularly in the Pacific Time Zone, but it’s not dumb to think more than one Pac-12 player could be a finalist.
• PAC-12 TO HILLSBORO: The City of Hillsboro is working with the local Single-A baseball franchise to build a new 6,000-seat ballpark. I spoke with KL Wombacher, president and general manager of the club on Monday (podcast) about the deal.
Initially, the club and city planned to upgrade the existing ballpark. Between new locker rooms, added premium seating and player-development areas, they were looking at 40,000 square feet of new space. There were also issues with a huge water pipe buried in the parking lot and some tricky limitations with the surrounding neighborhoods.
The cost of renovating: $160 million.
“It was $30 million less to build a new ballpark,” Wombacher said.
The result is the approval of a new game-changing facility for Hillsboro. The new ballpark will open in 2025 and be cozy, but will feature Major League amenities.
There’s been talk about possibly holding outdoor concerts at the venue. Also, the Diamondbacks big-league club could play a spring training exhibition game vs. the Seattle Mariners in Hillsboro. And I could easily see Oregon and Oregon State playing a regular-season series at the ballpark.
“We want this to be THE place for baseball,” Wombacher said.
Here’s a wild plot twist — the Pac-12 baseball tournament comes to Oregon. The event has been held in Arizona for the last two years amid temperatures in the 90s. It’s not unthinkable that the conference would rotate the postseason tournament.
Now, give me some of your wild sports plot twists in the comment section.
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