Falling: Pac-12 football respect.
The Coaches preseason poll, released Tuesday, was predictably light on Pac-12 representation. Only three teams made the cut, and none ranked in the top 10.
Oregon occupied the No. 12 position, followed by No. 14 USC and No. 21 Washington.
In quantity and quality, it’s the worst showing for the conference in the Coaches preseason poll since 2010, when Oregon (No. 11) and Oregon State (No. 22) were the only teams ranked. (USC was ineligible.)
The preseason polls are not entirely meaningless. They help establish expectations for coaches, teams and conferences that are difficult to shed.
The lower you start, the more difficult the climb into the top 10 — the longer it takes for preseason bias to evaporate.
Oh, and don’t forget this for a conference in need of exposure for its top teams: The top-25 rankings influence TV executives when they decide which games to slot into various windows during the weekly selections.
Rising: Pac-12 football opportunity.
We expect the AP preseason poll, scheduled for release early next week, to track closely with the Coaches poll in its treatment of the Pac-12.
Combine the two, and expectations for the conference entering the 2021 season will be lower than in any non-pandemic year since expansion a decade ago.
That creates a prime opportunity for the Pac-12 to produce an upside surprise, fueled by quality depth, roughly comparable to what we saw in the NCAA tournament.
At this point, it’s difficult to pinpoint a roster capable of reaching the College Football Playoff — a roster good enough to go 13-0 or 12-1. (No two-loss team has ever made the CFP, and the first one surely won’t come from the Pac-12.)
But with so many returning starters across so many rosters, the Pac-12 could very well produce five or six ranked teams by the end of the season.
The Hotline’s preseason ballot, submitted to the AP yesterday, reflects the expectation of impressive quality depth.
We ranked Pac-12 teams in the following positions:
No. 11 Oregon
No. 13 Arizona State
No. 16 Utah
No. 20 USC
No. 22 Washington
If you’re looking for potential precedent for the coming fall, the Hotline would suggest the oft-overlooked 2013 season:
The Pac-12’s top team at the end of that year, Oregon, was merely No. 9 in the final AP poll, but there were six ranked teams.
Falling: Pac-12 governance respect.
The NCAA on Tuesday released the names of 23 college officials who will serve on a Constitution Committee designed to “identify the core principles that define college sports and propose a new governance model.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert wants to restructure the sprawling association — at least, he claims to wants to — and has charged the committee with formulating an action plan.
The group includes representatives from every major conference … except the Pac-12.
It’s a startling omission but not necessarily a permanent one: We believe the situation is fluid and that by the time the committee begins its work, the Pac-12 will, in fact, be represented.
Rising: Pac-12 governance opportunity.
Let’s assume an administrative oversight by the NCAA (imagine that!) was the cause of the omission and the conference receives a seat on the committee sooner than later.
Then what? How might the committee impact the future of college sports?
That’s anyone’s guess. There’s good reason to wonder if dozens of administrators whose careers are rooted in the system will actually execute on the task of overhauling that system.
But as even Emmert realizes, massive change is necessary.
The NCAA can no longer cling to a governance model that binds Alabama to the same economic regulations as Alabama A&M.
If Emmert doesn’t take a proactive approach, he will face revolution.
The NCAA doesn’t control the money flowing to college football, where media rights are funneled from the networks to the conferences to the schools.
But there is a massive source of cash within its jurisdiction: March Madness, which generates more than $700 million per year for the NCAA.
Only a portion of that cash goes directly to the conferences that generate the TV audience that justifies the advertising dollars at the root of the media contracts that make up the majority of the NCAA’s annual revenue.
That revenue, in turn, supports athletic departments all the way down to Division III.
And the big schools are growing frustrated. They need cash, they’re tired of supporting Division II and III, and they want the structure to change.
While an overhaul of the economic model isn’t Emmert’s stated goal, it’s the likely endgame in his plan to “reimagine aspects of college sports” — a plan that starts with the constitution committee.
Falling: Arizona State’s coaching staff.
Two more assistants have been disciplined since the NCAA’s investigation began, with receivers coach Prentice Gill and defensive-backs coach Chris Hawkins joining tight-ends coach Adam Breneman on paid leave.
That’s three assistants on the bench, one dossier of evidence and zero reason (thus far) for the public to believe the allegations — that ASU hosted prospects during a recruiting dead period caused by the pandemic — are false.
What’s next? Two issues are worth monitoring:
— The timing.
Will the NCAA either clear ASU of wrongdoing or issue sanctions before the season?
We’re skeptical. Even with the dossier helping expedite the process, the opener is in three weeks.
An enforcement arm that typically moves like a tortoise would have to turn into Usain Bolt.
— The personnel.
So far, only position coaches have been placed on leave — the same three position coaches cited in the original media reports.
The next disciplinary step, if a next step is coming, would seemingly involve one of the big three: defensive coordinator/recruiting mastermind Antonio Pierce, head coach Herm Edwards or deputy athletic director Jean Boyd, who oversees the football program.
Meanwhile, the Sun Devils are churning forward with a loaded depth chart and their sights on the division title, seemingly dead set on creating a nightmare scenario for the conference:
A program under investigation for deplorable violations playing for the Pac-12 title on the big stage at Allegiant Stadium.
Rising: UCLA basketball schedule.
The news was significant but easy to miss, especially for fans who don’t follow the Bruins closely and are fully engaged in football matters.
UCLA’s nonconference lineup for the 2021-22 season has been finalized, and it includes Villanova, Gonzaga and North Carolina.
(The first is at home, the latter two in Las Vegas.)
Those are showcase games for the Bruins, who return their entire core and should hold a top-five ranking when the season begins.
And they are showcase games for the conference, which needs marquee wins early in the season to build on the momentum generated last March and to position itself for desirable seeds on Selection Sunday.
Nothing would strengthen the conference’s metrics and boost its reputation better than marquee victories by its top basketball brand.