LOS ANGELES – In a poll of media members who cover the conference, Washington was tabbed to finish third in the Pac-12 Conference’s North Division and Washington State was selected fifth.
Oregon, for the fourth time in five years, was voted as the favorite to win the conference championship game. The Ducks received 37 of 39 first-place votes in the North. Stanford, the two-time defending conference champion, came in second in the North.
UCLA also received 37 first-place votes and enters the season as the media favorite in the South.
Pac-12 coaches continued to tout the talent and depth of the conference.
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“I love this league, period,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “I’ve been a part of this league off and on since 1997. I think the overall skill level of this conference is way better than it’s ever been, and the trench play is better than it’s ever been.”
The Pac-12 expanded its media-day event to two days this year, with six teams featured each day. The news conference for Washington coach Chris Petersen, joined by outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha and offensive tackle Ben Riva, is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
Despite an unsettling time for the NCAA, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott had an optimistic tone in his state-of-the-conference address Wednesday while also championing efforts to “modernize” college athletics.
Scott, during the session held on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood, said he doesn’t share the same “doomsday” outlook other conference commissioners have expressed, but he stuck to familiar talking points in railing against a pay-to-play model for college athletes.
“We need to make necessary reforms and we will,” Scott said. “But radically changing the collegiate model into a professional model or … where student-athletes are treated as employees would threaten the existence of many women’s sports (and) Olympic sports.”
The Pac-12, Scott said, has led some of the efforts to create compromised changes, and he’s “confident” that the power conferences — Pac-12, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten — will “get the autonomy and flexibility we’ve been asking for to be more nimble and to make some important changes that benefit student-athletes.”
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was more direct.
“We don’t need to be paying these guys,” he said. “Now could we give them more of a stipend, a couple thousand dollars? Sure. Should we feed them every meal every day? Sure. I think that’s all great. The life of a student-athlete will be better going forward, but it ain’t that bad right now.”
Pac-12, DirecTV still apart
For the third football season in a row, DirecTV is unlikely to carry Pac-12 Networks, Scott said.
Earlier this year, AT&T announced it would purchase DirecTV for $48.5 billion, and Scott said he’s “much more hopeful that when AT&T buys DirecTV we’ll have different kinds of discussions and outcomes.”
Quote of the day
California coach Sonny Dykes on if he would pay more attention to the Bears’ defense this season, after Cal allowed 45.9 points a game in its miserable 2013: “I paid more attention to defense last year than I ever have before, so maybe I’ll pay less attention this year.”