Jon Wilner asked three Pac-12 athletic directors their opinions of the Cougars' new AD, and all three termed it a terrific hire. Plus: Turmoil at the Pac-12 Networks and the Pac-12's rising Heisman odds.
Pac-12 Stock Report
↑ Rising: Washington State
Three months after athletic director Bill Moos bolted Pullman for Lincoln, Neb., the Cougars introduced his successor.
Patrick Chun’s appointment carried a PR blast from the school, which cited glowing comments from several luminaries in the field, including Chun’s former boss, Ohio State AD Gene Smith.
That spin should all be taken as such. No school has ever publicized less-than-complimentary reaction.
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Not knowing Chun, and seeking honest appraisal of the hire, the Hotline dipped into its bag o’ sources and asked three sitting athletic directors who know Chun for a reaction.
I promised confidentiality in exchange for candid assessments.
All three ADs termed it a terrific hire by the Cougars and heaped praise on Chun.
He’s engaging, he’s a creative thinker (see: hiring of Kiffin, Lane), and he can manage the endless tension between the campus call for fiscal responsibility and the cash outlays needed on the front lines of competition, including football … especially football.
Well done, Cougs.
↑ Rising: Pac-12 Heisman hopes
Bovada released its early odds, a 23-player list that was heavy on Pac-12 names at the top.
Stanford’s Bryce Love opened as the betting favorite (7/1), with Arizona’s Khalil Tate in third place (9/1) and Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Washington’s Jake Browning on the second tier (15/1 and 22/1, respectively).
The odds don’t matter a lick. What matters is having the names on the list — and the buzz the list generates.
In the nearly half century since Stanford’s Jim Plunkett won the award, the conference has produced one non-USC winner: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in 2014.
Mariota was in the lead pack prior to the season, just as Love and Tate will be in 2018, and that’s essential.
Dark horse candidates from the west coast — players who emerge as candidates in late September or the first half of October — simply don’t have enough exposure opportunities in front of a Heisman electorate that is overwhelmingly east of the Mississippi.
Yes, Love and Tate must manage the elevated pressure and scrutiny that comes with eight months of hype, but it’s the only path to victory.
If you play in the Pac-12 footprint, don’t wear USC colors and aren’t a preseason favorite, you have no chance.
↑ Rising: Arizona coach Sean Miller
Hell yes, he showed restraint.
With Colorado coming to town, Miller was naturally asked about Tad Boyle’s comment that “hell, yes” he took extra satisfaction from beating the Wildcats in the wake of the FBI scandal.
Boyle was essentially saying: Arizona cheated and got caught; USC cheated and got caught; I don’t cheat; so damn right, it feels good.
USC coach Andy Enfield responded with an up-yours timeout at the end of a victory over the Buffs.
Miller smartly pivoted away from the topic at his weekly news conference. But will he, too, make use of the in-your-face timeout if given the chance? (Tipoff is tonight at 5:30 p.m. PT on FS1.)
Reading Miller’s comments, it occurred to me that he has, out of necessity, probably has produced a career’s worth of non-answers in the past four months.
↓ Falling: Pac-12 Networks
News of the restructuring and the elimination of several senior positions naturally prompted fans to double down on calls to cut a deal, any deal, with DirecTV.
But the Pac-12 Networks’ financial challenges aren’t limited to the revenue side of the equation.
The conference is under contract with Comcast, Time Warner and others to televise 850 live events annually across the national and regional linear feeds.
That’s a huge cost commitment, both in terms of production and personnel.
Were commissioner Larry Scott to order a downsizing — were he to eliminate the six regional feeds and turn them into streaming-only services for the Olympic sports — then Comcast and Co. would insist on revising the contract.
And they wouldn’t be giving the conference more money for less content.
Cutting the regionals and adopting a Big Ten model for the national feed (football, men’s basketball and a sprinkling of Olympic sports) doesn’t seem like a viable option.
Which means operating expenses are likely to remain essentially unchanged.
By my count, the restructuring will save the Pac12Nets less than $1 million annually:
Yes, the payroll has been reduced — at least one of the dismissed executives was earning well over $500,000 annually — but new president Mark Shuken is hiring an EVP for content, thereby limiting the net payroll savings.
From this vantage point, it appears the Pac12Nets’ fundamentals (on both the revenue and expense sides) will remain fixed until the distribution contracts expire in six years.
1) There’s a major breakthrough with AT&T over distribution on DirecTV and DirecTVNow (all the leverage is with AT&T).
2) The conference sells equity in the Pac12Nets (which would render worthless the revenue sacrifice of the past five years).
3) The regional feeds are disbanded (with the presumptive Comcast-initiated blow to operating income).
In other words: No. Good. Options.