Falling: Pac-12 football schedule.
Yes, it’s coming, but (more) patience is required.
This week, the conference informed athletic department officials via email that the 2021 schedule could be released next week, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the internal communication.
However, the week of March 8 — the week of the Pac-12 basketball tournament — is viewed as perhaps the more likely window, the sources indicated.
Why the additional delay?
As of Tuesday afternoon, the conference had yet to distribute schedule models to the athletic directors and coaches for review and voting.
That process can take at least a week and sometimes longer if consensus is elusive and revisions are required.
“We haven’t seen anything,” a source said.
This is the latest the Pac-12 has released its football schedule in recent memory (if not ever), in part because of circumstances beyond its control:
The network partners, ESPN and Fox, had to solve COVID-related schedule issues for several pro leagues in 2021 before they could focus on college football, sources told the Hotline last month.
And because ESPN and Fox typically schedule in order of the time zones, the Pac-12 often is forced to wait for the other conferences.
But that issues was cleared weeks ago.
Schedule release dates for the Power Five:
Jan. 27: SEC
Jan. 28: ACC
Feb. 5: Big Ten
Feb. 11: Big 12
Yet the Pac-12 remains a week or more away from its schedule reveal.
That’s just six months from the season openers — hardly ideal for fans hoping to make travel arrangements or athletic departments trying to sell tickets and re-engage their constituents.
Why the delay beyond the window required for the other conferences?
The Pac-12 has a third entity involved in the scheduling process — the Pac-12 Networks — but honestly, we haven’t gotten a straight answer from anyone.
However, multiple sources indicated that if the process extends beyond next week, then March 8, a Monday, would be the targeted date. In that slot, the release would come one day after the finals of the women’s tournament and two days before the start of the men’s event.
If the Pac-12 can’t make that deadline, there’s real trouble: Regardless of day or time, the news would get swallowed by March Madness.
Rising (possibly): Pac-12 football schedule.
There’s one way the conference can salvage the situation — not entirely but perhaps partially: Turn the release into an event.
Here at the Hotline, we’re big on schedule unveilings.
They can’t all be the World Cup draw, but the college football schedule packs plenty of intrigue because the regular season carries such significance.
The Hotline has advocated for years that the Pac-12 block out a day in early December — the week after the conference championship game — for a multi-hour schedule release.
Show it on the Pac-12 Networks. Intersperse analysis and interviews with coaches. Make it an event that engages fans and thrusts the conference into the news cycle during what is typically a slow week in college sports.
(The schedule reveal could be part of a weeklong news-making cycle for the Pac-12.)
If we were to apply that approach to the pandemic-delayed situation, the conference should turn the ’21 release into several hours of intrigue on the Pac-12 Networks.
This delay is bad enough. At least try to make something of a difficult situation.
Falling: Pac-12 quarterbacks.
The Pac-12 needs its quarterbacks to perform better (collectively) than we expect, or ’21 could be a difficult year.
Granted, it’s early, and the next Gardner Minshew could emerge from the transfer portal at any moment. But the current outlook is murky for the position that has typically defined the quality of play in the conference.
With Tyler Shough’s departure from Oregon — he’s headed to Texas Tech — just half the teams possess returning starters who are not suspended or seriously injured.
Those six are Washington, Cal, UCLA, USC, Arizona State and Colorado.
Meanwhile, Arizona (Grant Gunnell) and Oregon (Shough) lost their starters to the transfer portal; Stanford’s starter (Davis Mills) is prepping for the NFL draft; Washington State’s starter (Jayden de Laura) is suspended following a DUI arrest; Oregon State’s (Tristan Gebbia) is injured; and Utah’s (Cam Rising) is neither healthy nor a true returning starter, since he was injured in the first half of his first game.
All of which makes a reasonable facsimile of spring practice that much more important for those six programs.
Rising: USC basketball.
The resounding win over Oregon earlier this week improved USC’s position in the conference race and seemingly solidified its claim to yet another postseason award.
It sure looks like the Trojans are set up to sweep the majors: Andy Enfield leads for Coach of the Year; Evan Mobley has locked up Freshman of the Year and likely Player of the Year; and transfer Tahj Eaddy looks like the front-runner for Transfer of the Year.
In fact, Eaddy, who joined the Trojans from Santa Clara, is making a strong case for first-team all-conference. He scored 24 points in the win over Oregon and had 29 two weeks ago at WSU.
He’s averaging 14.3 points (second on the team, behind Mobley), he’s shooting 38.5% from three-point range, and he has provided a calming influence for the mix-and-matched roster.
There’s really only one flaw in Eaddy’s candidacy for Transfer of the Year.
The award doesn’t exist.
The Pac-12 awards a Freshman of the Year, but there is no honor for transfers.
Given the heavy reliance on transfers across the conference — they form the core of some starting lineups — the conference needs to add Transfer of the Year to its lineup of postseason awards, pronto.