Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the field …
Falling: Expansion options
Commissioner George Kliavkoff opined last week that expansion isn’t required for the conference “to compete and thrive” and, as the Hotline noted in our Pac-12 survival guide, the options for expanding are extremely limited.
None of the remaining Big 12 schools (Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kansas State) are proper fits academically, financially and competitively.
And now we have additional supporting evidence.
During a Texas senate hearing Monday, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby offered details on the outsized media revenue that Texas and Oklahoma bring to the conference — and what the other eight schools generate annually. The Pac-12 should be wary, indeed.
(Warning: Oversimplification ahead.)
According to Bowlsby, the Big 12 receives about $280 million annually from its media deals with Fox and ESPN, with Texas and Oklahoma accounting for half that amount.
If we assign $140 million to the remaining eight, that’s an average annual valuation of $17.5 million per school.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 will receive $291 million this year from ESPN and Fox for the football and basketball regular seasons and football title game, according to the term sheet of the Tier 1 rights agreement.
That’s $24.3 million per school.
Yes, those numbers are from contracts signed years ago and don’t reflect current market valuations.
But they also don’t account for revenue generated by the football and basketball broadcasts on the Pac-12 Networks.
What’s more, the $17.5 million assigned to the Big 12 schools carries an associate value:
They’re assuredly worth more to the TV networks as members of a conference that includes longtime rivals Oklahoma and Texas than they would be in the Pac-12, where there is no competitive history or geographic fit.
We’re deeply skeptical the remaining Big 12 schools would be value adds for the Pac-12 — that they would increase the annual media revenue for the 12 existing members, above and beyond what they could receive without expanding.
Rising: George Kliavkoff
Every step matters and every utterance is being watched closely within the conference.
So far, so good for the new commissioner.
Kliavkoff was candid and sharp last week during his remarks at football media day, and sources indicate he was impressive during meetings with the athletic directors and football coaches.
The former president of MGM’s Sports and Entertainment division is a quick study on key college football issues but also honest about what he doesn’t know.
He’s willing to listen, intent on collaborating and agreeable to any and all options for the future.
Here’s why his early victories — both the private successes with the coaches and ADs and the public wins with the media — are significant:
Kliavkoff’s appointment is (very) roughly akin to a school hiring a new football coach who has never actually coached football.
That doesn’t mean he can’t win, but avoidance of early stumbles is essential to build trust and generate momentum.
To date, he has made all the right moves.
Unchanged: Pac-12 postseason position
The College Football Playoff was on the expansion fast track until news broke last month that Texas and Oklahoma were headed to the SEC. Since then, support for a quick resolution has slowed dramatically.
One of the key architects of the 12-team format was none other than SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who was secretly privy to the plans in Austin and Norman.
Another architect was the Big 12’s Bowlsby, who worked closely with Sankey on expansion while unaware his league was about to lose its most powerful members.
Meanwhile, the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 were not represented on the subcommittee that spent two years on the process.
Toss everything into a caldron, and there is mounting resistance to finalizing CFP expansion this fall and starting the new format in the 2023 season.
That’s good and bad for the Pac-12:
— Bad, because the conference needs a wider path to the sport’s biggest stage sooner than later; waiting until the 2026 season could result in additional CFP shutouts.
— Good, because a delay seemingly would increase the likelihood of an open bidding process for the media rights to the 12-team, 11-game event.
If the CFP expands for the ’23 season, then ESPN, the current broadcast partner, would continue to own the rights. But if the CFP delays expansion until ’26, then all interested media companies could negotiate for the new contract.
The Pac-12 wants more entities involved.
As we explored last week, ESPN’s all-in arrangement with the SEC, combined with complete ownership of a 12-team playoff, could limit the resources other media entities are willing to plow into the rest of college football.
That just might include the Pac-12.
Rising: Pac-12 vaccinations
As of last week, four football programs had vaccinated at least 90% of their rosters and four more had hit 80%.
This week, the conference office implemented a mandatory vaccine policy for all employees in San Francisco or those working on assignments on the campuses.
We asked for context on the decision; the conference issued the following statement:
“The Pac-12 is committed to the health and safety of our staff and all those connected to Pac-12 sports. Our universities have been leaders in research and initiatives to combat COVID-19 and make our communities as safe as possible, and the Pac-12 has been strongly encouraging vaccination through educational forums and public service announcements.
“Nine of our 12 universities currently require vaccinations of all students. Over 90% of our staff are vaccinated, and following a companywide survey and extensive internal discussions, we have made the decision to require vaccinations for all staff working in our headquarters or traveling to Pac-12 athletic events. We believe this policy, which does include exceptions for those with medical conditions or sincerely-held religious beliefs, will best ensure the health and safety of all staff along with all those working across Pac-12 athletics.”
The vaccine requirement is a winning position politically for the conference — nine of the 12 campuses are requiring shots for students — and has the added benefit of, you know, being on the right side of science.
Falling: Nick Rolovich
We won’t spend time slicing and dicing WSU coach Nick Rolovich’s decision to not get vaccinated.
In our opinion, it’s the wrong move, it sends the wrong message, and it could contribute to COVID-19 spread and mutation.
But we will offer a few words on the practical, immediate impact of his decision:
It exponentially increases the pressure on Rolovich this season.
Each mistake on the field, each questionable call from the sideline, each loss — everything will be cast against, and magnified by, his refusal to get vaccinated.
He won’t be afforded much leniency as a second-year head coach with less-than-elite personnel whose first season was swallowed by the pandemic.
Instead, scrutiny will be fierce, patience low and criticism unrelenting.
It’s not necessarily fair to Rolovich or the Cougars, except this is a global pandemic and he’s arguably the most public face of a university mandating vaccines for its students.
The only antidote for Rolovich, it seems, is winning.