Pac-12 mailbag: Impact of the Comcast mess, options for Oregon and UW, expansion and more | UW Sports
The Hotline mailbag is published every Friday. Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.
What are the chances that Washington and Oregon work secretly to create a new conference with a new name, new leadership, and their own media deal? Or, if the Pac-12 can’t come up with a deal, is this the next step? — @draywilson29
Much respect for the outside-the-box thinking, but I’d argue the chances of that are zero.
Who would join them in this new conference?
The most valuable college football media properties available — the schools that aren’t contractually bound to the other Power Five conferences — are the ones in the Pac-12.
Structurally, the concept simply doesn’t work.
And to be clear: Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff will present a media deal to the presidents for approval. He will “come up” with something. Whether it’s deemed acceptable is another matter.
But let’s game that out.
Let’s imagine the schools are hoping for a media rights deal that produces $35 million to $38 million annually (per school), but Kliavkoff is unable to hit that threshold. Instead, the best deal he can muster is $29 million or $30 million.
Then what happens?
The Big Ten seemingly isn’t an option. The 16 schools (including USC and UCLA) aren’t interested in further expansion; the media partners aren’t interested in paying for more expansion; and oh-by-the-way, the conference is lacking a commissioner to lead the process.
(Kevin Warren, the prime driver of the expansion narrative, recently left the Big Ten to become president of the Chicago Bears.)
Would the Ducks, Huskies or any other school jump into the Big 12, which reportedly has a deal in place with ESPN and Fox for $31.7 million annually? That’s only $1 million or $2 million more than a basement valuation for the Pac-12 — not even enough to offset the increased travel costs.
In other words, the remaining Pac-12 schools appear to be without a desirable option at this point. The path to the jackpot (in the Big Ten) is blocked while the only road available (into the Big 12) doesn’t lead to a windfall.
That said, keep four words in mind: The situation is fluid.
In light of recent Pac-12 “accounting discrepancies,” which have not kept us on the friendliest of terms with our current TV partners, do you think potential partners show hesitancy in wrapping up a media rights deal due to these financial trust issues? — @StandardWeho
I doubt the embarrassing situation with the unreported Comcast overpayments will have a material impact on Pac-12 negotiations with media partners for the contract cycle that begins in the summer of 2024.
— It began under commissioner Larry Scott’s watch.
— It appears Kliavkoff acted swiftly once he became aware of the situation, so his record is clean.
— Also, we wonder if current or potential Pac-12 media partners were made aware of the issue, at least in general terms, long before the news broke last week.
— What’s more, the imbroglio did not involve any of the companies that stand to sign media contracts with the Pac-12 (Fox, ESPN, Amazon, etc.).
— Lastly, the amount of overpayments (about $5 million annually) represents about one percent of annual conference revenues.
Yes, it impacts the profitability of the Pac-12 Networks (about $36 million at a pre-COVID peak). But that matters only if they are for sale, which doesn’t appear to be the case.
What did Larry Scott know? — @josephkirkpatri
Great question. Our hunch is that the former commissioner knew about the overpayments, but the Hotline has not confirmed the existence of evidence that Scott was told by either Mark Shuken or Brent Willman.
If he did know, there were at least two scenarios:
— Scott made a calculated decision in the winter of 2017-18 to allow the overpayments to continue in order to hide bad news from the presidents and the public and better his chances of a contract extension.
— Scott didn’t believe the audit was accurate — the Pac-12 thought Comcast was underpaying — and thought the situation would resolve itself on the Comcast side. After all, Comcast was using proprietary data to determine the monthly payments to the Pac-12 Networks.
Regardless of whether Scott knew or didn’t know, the end result is the same: Revenue will take a hit, and the schools will suffer.
Does commissioner George Kliavkoff not comprehend that staying silent just raises doubts and lowers confidence in his leadership and the conference? — @bogeycat85
Kliavkoff only cares about satisfying the preferences of two groups: The Pac-12 presidents; and the officials representing ESPN, Fox, Amazon, etc., at the negotiating table.
Neither group wants him talking publicly.
The silence is probably unnerving for some Pac-12 fans, especially when compared to the bold statements and actions by other commissioners in the past seven months.
But it’s exactly the right sound for those who matter most in the process.
Does Kliavkoff have what it takes to rescue the “Pac-10”? — Jon Joseph
Is there any sort of indication that this TV deal is getting close? — @SaltLakeJake
Among some Hotline sources, confidence in Kliavkoff is as strong as ever.
With others, there is a growing concern that he hasn’t acted with the required urgency and doesn’t grasp the potential for disruption. (In realignment, assume nothing.)
The Hotline’s official odds are unchanged: Pac-12 survival remains a 5.5-point favorite over Pac-12 extinction (a probability of about 67 percent).
We suspect that Kliavkoff will take an offer to the presidents for approval in the next four-to-six weeks. However, if the Ides of March arrive without a deal on the table, the survival odds will plunge.
In the new Pac-12 media contract, how about starting times for football games at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. or something like that? — @ronsp
You are speaking for the masses on that topic, but the masses don’t shell out millions for the rights to broadcast each game. The media companies do, and they have preferred broadcast windows that are typically 9 a.m., 12 or 1 p.m., 4 or 5 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. (Pacific).
The Pac-12 could only set the kickoff times you suggest for games that it owns — the games that have been shown on the Pac-12 Networks for years — and I don’t expect that to happen in the next contract cycle.
The networks are going to have a very different model in the near future. I would be shocked if the conference retains the rights to any football inventory. Everything will be licensed to a major media company.
San Diego State has been the logical first add for the Pac-12. Who do you think No. 12 would be, or do you see the Pac-12 staying at 11? — @jlahaye76
Expansion is more likely than sticking with 10 but not guaranteed. The outcome of the media rights deal (i.e., the valuation) will likely determine the course of events.
The conference certainly has the option to add just one school — if there are no football divisions, an odd number works just fine.
As for the candidates, we have long thought San Diego State and SMU are atop the list. Beyond that, it’s a bit murky in terms of schools that work institutionally, competitively and financially.
My advice: Be prepared for any outcome, including invitations to schools for football- and basketball-only membership.
When might we start to hear about new non-conference games getting scheduled between USC and UCLA and Stanford, Cal or other Pac-12 schools starting in 2024? — @OskiDeLaHoya
Any non-conference matchups likely would not be played until late in the decade; the teams are basically booked up for the next few years.
What’s more, everything is on hold for the remaining Pac-12 schools until the media rights deal is finalized and the conference decides whether it will continue with nine league games or drop to eight.
Eventually, I fully expect Cal and UCLA to play each other whenever possible; ditto for Stanford and USC.
Also, they could all be in the same conference in the 2030s.
Which Pac-12 schools would you guess have the greatest NIL resources? Is anything required to be disclosed (e.g. filings)? — @mjhusky
Oregon has the greatest resources.
The Ducks have Phil Knight and former Nike executives supporting their NIL endeavors. It’s well run and well funded. I’m not sure there’s anything close in the Pac-12.
And we should add that, in the Pac-12 and elsewhere, the NIL collectives typically are only as involved and aggressive as the schools want them to be — even though, officially, they are independent.
In terms of public disclosures, the collectives are subject to IRS reporting standards (for-profit or non-profit). But we are not aware of any requirement that they make data available to the NCAA.
Will the Pac-12 change the schedule for basketball so Arizona and UCLA can be played twice next year rather than just once? Best rivalry in the West. Shame it will end. — @UACatManDo
As we reported earlier in the week, the 2023-24 conference schedule calls for the Bruins and Wildcats to play just once, in Pauley Pavilion. The showdown last weekend was UCLA’s last scheduled game in Tucson.
I would be shocked if anything changes.
In order for the Bruins to visit Tucson and maintain home/road balance (10 games each), a scheduled road game elsewhere would have to be canceled. That school would protest vehemently.
UCLA and Arizona are the top ticket-sellers in the conference. Whichever team were to lose a home date with the Bruins would be taking a financial hit.
What does David Shaw do next? — @MattRexroad
I see three options for Shaw:
— Count his money while spending time with family.
— Become a TV analyst, using his draft appearances on the NFL Network as the foundation. (He’s quite good.)
— Coach in the NFL.
Shaw reportedly interviewed with the Broncos for their vacancy. If he doesn’t land that gig, perhaps others will surface in the next year or two.
I don’t envision Shaw taking another college job, ever.
What’s it like hosting ‘Canzano and Wilner: The Podcast‘ with John Canzano? — @kmasterman
I love working with Canzano, a friend and former colleague at the Mercury News. The podcast is loads of fun and has been very well received thus far.
We committed to it back in April, long before the USC and UCLA news broke. Obviously, the course of events has provided unlimited material on a critical topic, but we’re just getting started — this is a long-haul endeavor that we hope to grow.
Thanks for asking and appreciate the support.