Pac-12 Notes

April 23rd

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FBI witness: I paid football players at Penn State, Pitt, Michigan, Alabama, and Notre Dame

From CBS Sports … College football has been wrangled into the mud pit of college basketball’s corruption trial. And some of the biggest names in the sport were invoked Tuesday: Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State among others.

Tuesday saw opening arguments and the introduction of witness testimony in the second of three scheduled trials the government has brought against key figures who are accused of fraud and bribery in college basketball. The two defendants in this trial, Christian Dawkins and Merl Code, were found guilty of multiple counts of fraud in the first college basketball case, which concluded in October 2018.

The key witness now, in this trial, could prove to be Louis Martin Blazer, a self-made former financial advisor out of Pittsburgh who is a cooperating witness with the federal government. Blazer, 49, pleaded guilty to federal charges after the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office accused him of misappropriating funds of NFL players whose accounts he managed from 2010-13.

Blazer was in the position to financially advise NFL players because, per his testimony on Tuesday, he paid college football players at some of the biggest schools in the sport for more than a dozen years. His experience in that space led him to be the spark for the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.

On Tuesday, Blazer testified under direct examination that he directed payments to football players from Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Northwestern and North Carolina between the years 2000 and up until 2013-14.

Continue reading story here

NCAA amends targeting and overtime rules

From CBS Sports … As it does every year, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approves adjustmentsto college football‘s rules in an attempt to improve the game. Of the items up for discussion this year, targeting (surprise, surprise) and overtime were two of the bigger-button issues on the table.

The biggest complaint with the targeting rule is not necessarily the rule itself as much as the inconsistency with which it has been applied. There has been a well-documented trail of bad calls (see: Devin White vs. Mississippi State) and the inconsistencies between calls and penalties that can result in suspensions have taken away from the game.

Starting in 2019, the panel has approved an adjustment that removes away some of the gray area that gives targeting a more all-or-nothing feel: “Instant replay officials will be directed to examine all aspects of the play and confirm the targeting foul when all elements of targeting are present. If any element of targeting cannot be confirmed, the replay official will overturn the targeting foul. There will not be an option for letting the call on the field “stand” during a targeting review — it must either be confirmed or overturned. Games using the halftime video review procedure will continue to use the current process.”

The goal of the targeting penalty is to change the way players tackle/hit one another for safety reasons. Empirically, that part seems to be working. However, it’s not supposed to a punishment for a bang-bang play, resulting in an ejection because someone looking at replay can’t say for sure it isn’t targeting.

Continue reading story here


April 22nd

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NCAA relaxes transfer rules for incoming freshmen

From CBS Sports … There have been a number of high profile undergraduate transfers who have received waivers to play immediately this offseason. In the future, though, waivers won’t be necessary in every single case.

The NCAA Division I Council announced Friday that it has relaxed transfer rules for incoming freshmen athletes in certain situations, including those on teams that have made coaching changes. Incoming freshmen who enroll in summer school and receive financial aid can transfer and play immediately without a waiver if their coach leaves prior to the first day of fall classes. The rule only applies to those students who take their first semester of classes before the start of their first regular (non-summer) academic term, which means that it isn’t applicable to football early enrollees.

Walk-ons who receive financial aid and non-recruited walk-ons can also leave without sitting out. The new rules go into effect for student-athletes who transfer to new schools this fall.

“It’s definitely a win in our books,” Enna Selmanovic, NCAA Division I student-athlete advisory committee vice chair and a former swimmer at Cincinnati, said. “(Allowing student-athletes in certain situations to transfer and play immediately) provides student-athletes with more opportunities to have the best experience possible within their collegiate career.”

Continue reading story here


April 21st 

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Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens has some nerve 

… The same guy who had no issue doubling Jim Leavitt’s salary to get him from Boulder to Eugene (making Leavitt the first coordinator with a salary over $1 million) is worried that the revenue disparity between the Pac-12 and other Power-Five conferences are “drifting out of range” … 

From the Oregonian … Oregon Ducks athletic director Rob Mullens joined me for a discussion about the state of the Pac-12 Conference, Phil Knight’s support, the UO football program, and much more.

Listen to the full podcast interview here.

On how disappointed he is with the Pac-12 Conference revenue distribution:

“You have to flash back. Yes, it’s not what we want, that’s for sure. But we did make great progress in this deal. In the old Pac-12 TV deals we were basically on regional TV and our resources were way behind. When this new deal was done it closed the gap both in visibility and in resources, but the gap has widened again. We have to figure out how to close that gap. Resources do matter. We don’t have to have everything that everyone else has but we have to remain in a range that makes us competitive. And right now, we’re drifting out of range.”

On the Pac-12 basketball tournaments being in Las Vegas:

“Several years ago when the men’s tournament was at the Staples Center, you could step 50 yards outside the arena and not realize there was a tournament going on… it’s become an event in Vegas. It’s really elevated the Pac-12 basketball tournament.”

On how much UO is reliant on football revenue:

“Football is the economic driver. It really is. Even though we have a smallish football stadium, football generates 70 percent of the revenue.”

On Phil and Penny Knight’s support:

“If I’m drafting in any kind of competition I’m drafting Phil and Penny Knight first on my team.”

Continue reading story here

Utah down to a walk-on freshman kicker

From the Deseret News …  Chayden Johnston joined the University of Utah football program after a standout kicking career at Bingham High School, but now he’ll be leaving the Utes after attempting just one kick in a college game.

Johnston on Thursday announced via social media that he has decided to retire from football to focus on pursuing his career.

The 6-foot-1, 160-pound Johnston was considered one of the better prospects in the country at kicker when he signed with Utah in 2015. After serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he won the starting job in 2017 but missed his first attempt in the season opener.

That opened the door for Matt Gay to take over, and Gay wound up winning the 2017 Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s best kicker. Gay then had another excellent season in 2018, with Johnston compiling no statistics.

Johnston’s departure leaves a significant void in a special teams unit that is perennially among the nation’s best, as walk-on freshman Jadon Redding is now the only kicker on the Ute roster.

Freshman Ben Lennon of Australia will be assuming the punting duties.


April 20th

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The Athletic: Utah still the pick in the Pac-12 South

From Chantel Jennings at The Athletic

Do you have a sleeper pick for the Pac-12 divisions, either North or South?

Jorge A.

In the South, I predict chaos. Again. Always. Forever.

Utah is well positioned to repeat as the Pac-12 South champ, but in the true spirit of Pac-12 After Dark, I will go out and say something totally (TOTALLY) bonkers. … So, maybe UCLA?

Hear me out. The amount that team improved from game 1 to game 12 a season ago was impressive even though it was overshadowed by the whole nine-loss thing. But, the Bruin offense returns quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, running back Joshua Kelley and four starting O-linemen as well as some great targets at receiver. The defense and special teams return most of their two deep. And with a full offseason of the Chip Kelly experience under their belts, I think this team comes into 2019 stronger.

They also miss Oregon and Washington in the regular season and they get their two idle weeks before road trips to Stanford and Utah. And in a conference in which a five-win season really might get you to the title game, why not the Bruins?

(That said, I do think the Utes will repeat.)

And in the North, I’d say Oregon, which isn’t a sleeper, but how great would a UCLA-Oregon Pac-12 title game be? We could call it “A Tale of Two Chippies” … there’s a reason they don’t have me headline stories at The Athletic. But I will say that I think the Ducks’ are going to surprise some people with how they win. That offense is going to be able to score points. And even though Oregon has a new defensive coordinator in Andy Avalos, I have confidence that he’ll be able to thrive without Jalen Jelks/Justin Hollins/Ugo Amadi. Last season at Boise State, Avalos pulled off one of the more impressive coaching jobs as the Broncos suffered injury after injury to key players. He moved guys around and put others in positions to succeed and the unit finished the year as a top-30 scoring defense.

Read full story here


April 19th

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USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann on FB (5-7) and MBB (16-17): “I think both programs are on solid ground”

From The Athletic … Lynn​ Swann sat​ in his second-story office​ within Heritage Hall​ on​ Thursday, five days​ removed from​ the​​ three-year anniversary of his hire as USC’s athletic director.

Within his first two years on the job, USC won a Rose Bowl and a Pac-12 title in football and the men’s basketball team made an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, this academic year has placed Swann, the pro football Hall of Famer and Trojan legend who is also a first-time athletic director, under scrutiny and in the midst of a storm.

The football and men’s basketball programs both finished below .500 for the first time since 1983-84, and Donna Heinel became the second member of the athletic department to be involved in a federal investigation since Sept. 2017. This is without mentioning the criticism he’s received for his decision to retain Clay Helton.

What’s your feeling about the state of the football and basketball programs right now and the struggles they had this year?

I think you can pick them apart, look at them and say, “These are the reasons why they are where they are.” I think both programs are on solid ground. I think our basketball program, unfortunately, last year with the number of injuries, there were times you didn’t have 10 people you could practice with. It was unfortunate. If you look at their season, look at the way they played in the Pac-12 championship, they still got better. They still improved. They could have won and beaten Washington. You look at the Pac-12 championship and Oregon wins it, look how deep Oregon went into the (NCAA Tournament). That could have been USC. So there is reason to be optimistic about basketball and where they’re going. I think when (head coach) Andy (Enfield) was hired, he was hired to bring stability to a program and to move it up. And I think he’s doing that. You look at his recruiting class coming in and so forth, there are lots of things to be very positive about so we’ll see what happens in 2019-20 season.

Football, it was a bad season. But there are a lot of things that go into what happens in a football season, why a coach is there, the decision to retain and keep Clay was not made in a vacuum. I believe Clay has the ability to be a very good head coach and so my decision was made on a variety of parameters and a variety of issues. So he’s here. I think if you look at his recruiting classes, he’s done well with the recruiting classes. His team will be able to compete. He has a staff he’s put together, a staff he’s comfortable with. We’ve had a good spring and he feels very good about the spring. So 2019, with the opening of the Coliseum, kind of a remodeled stadium, we’ll see how we perform.

What do you feel the morale of the USC fan base is right now considering the 5-7 season in football, the struggles in basketball, the admissions scandal?

I think our fan base, they’re obviously disappointed and who wouldn’t be? But we seek to change that and improve that. People who came out and watched our spring practice, I think they saw improvement, a renewed enthusiasm. I think they probably saw, in terms of the coaching staff and what they were doing, a sense of urgency in implementing a new system, getting people ready and prepared. So I think there are some positives from that standpoint.

If you look at basketball and you look at the recruits who signed national letters of intent, I think you’re seeing talent come into this program and there’s going to be some great opportunities. It’s not that it’s going to be that easy. It’s not that the rules and things around us are making it easy. When you look at the number of kids who have signed up in the NCAA portal to transfer in football — I think over 2,000 kids are in the portal, maybe 2,500. Women’s basketball, there are 500 women in the portal. Over 900, maybe close to 1,000 in the portal. So there are adjustments for everybody to make along the way.

Read full interview here


Utah receives largest gift in school history

From the San Jose Mercury News … Oregon has Phil Knight. Stanford has John Arrillaga. UCLA has Casey Wasserman and Mo Ostin. Arizona has the Davis and Stevens families.

And now Utah has the family of Ken Garff.

The Utes have done well to contend in the Pac-12 with a stadium in need of renovation, but that wasn’t a realistic long-term existence.

Upgrading Rice-Eccles Stadium was essential. Former athletic director Chris Hill knew it, current athletic director Mark Harlan knows it, and Kyle Whittingham sure as heck knows it.

But Utah being Utah, fiscal sanity was required for the $80 million endeavor to unfold sooner than later. That took the form of a capital plan by which private donations had to account for approximately 45 percent of the funding.

In other words, the Utes needed $35 million in donations to get clearance for the remaining $45 million, which will come from bonded debt (and other sources).

Garff, who owed dozens of car dealerships, passed away two decades ago. His family came forward recently to pledge $17.5 million to the Rice-Eccles project, ensuring the Utes would hit their private funding goal.

(It’s the largest gift in the history of Utah athletics.)

The project will unfold between the 2020-21 seasons and include a small capacity increase, more premium seats, new lockerrooms, new concourses — everything required to 1) help recruiting 2) improve the fan experience and 3) generate new revenue streams (via the premium seats).

The development in Salt Lake City is critical not only for the Utes but the entire Pac-12. Each athletic department must pull its weight (relative to resources) in order for the conference to thrive.

Looking across the South, we see USC renovating the Coliseum, UCLA opening a slew of facilities on campus, Arizona State renovating Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona unveiling an indoor practice facility and Colorado just a few years removed from opening its new football complex.

It’s all exactly what the conference needs, and yet the process never ends.

Read full story here



April 17th

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ESPN FPI: Pac-12 “too well rounded” to make College Football Playoff

From ESPN … Let’s start with the most outrageous number: According to ESPN’s Playoff Predictor, the Tigers have an 83 percent chance to reach the playoff.

Though they lost some imposing defensive talent in their front seven, the reigning champs have stability at head coach and a superstar talent returning at quarterback in Trevor Lawrence — both key factors in earning the confidence of ESPN’s Football Power Index. And though FPI had Clemson as the top team at this time last year, it thinks this season’s squad is almost four points per game better than what it thought of Dabo Swinney’s team 12 months ago.

Add in the fact that the Tigers’ schedule rates as only the 56th-hardest among FBS teams, and it’s just hard to fathom how Clemson could not make the committee’s top four come Selection Day. We’ll hazard a guess that over the next decade, no team will have a higher preseason chance to reach the playoff — per our model — than Clemson has right now.

… The Pac-12’s two-year playoff drought is in good shape to continue: Our projections give the conference just a 21 percent chance to put a team in the playoff in 2019. The conference’s issue: It has plenty of good teams but no great teams.

The Pac-12 boasts eight teams between Nos. 10 and 36 in FPI’s rankings — but none better than Oregon, at No. 10. With so many teams in the same ballpark, it makes it more difficult to end up with a zero- or one-loss conference champion — generally (but not always) the recipe for a Power 5 conference to put a team into the playoff.

The Ducks are the most likely team to win the Pac-12 and reach the playoff, at 35 percent and 14 percent, respectively, but those numbers would surely be higher if Oregon could have avoided going to Washington, Stanford and USC in addition to playing a nonconference matchup against Auburn.

The only other Pac-12 team with better than a 1 percent chance to reach the playoff is Washington, at 4 percent.

Continue reading story here


April 14th

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Oregon booster: Top 100 schools should consolidate media rights to maximize worth

From CBS Sports … The top 100 football-playing universities have to consolidate their athletic media rights to maximize their worth in the future, a powerful Oregon official told CBS Sports.

“Why? Because there’s [not enough] money for athletics,” Pat Kilkenny said recently. Kilkenny is a former Oregon athletic director who now consults for multiple schools and is a longtime confidant of Nike CEO Phil Knight.

“The deficits they’re running on campuses isn’t sustainable,” he added, “… which means they have to raise the bar, which means they have to aggregate.”

The model, Kilkenny said, would resemble that of the NFL, which long ago aggregated its rights and sold them to the highest bidder. Because of that model, the Packers and Patriots get the same number from networks as the Bengals and Jaguars.

That business model is considered the foundation for the NFL being one of most powerful sports entities in the world.

But asking college commissioners to go in together and share revenue might be a pipe dream. For example, Big Ten schools are averaging $50 million annually in rights fee revenue. Could it be higher if those top 100 schools were the market instead of 14 Big Ten schools negotiating on their own?

In other words, there would be no college football unless media companies negotiated with those 100 as a unit.

Continue reading story here


April 10th

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Big 12 gets closer to its own network with an extra $22 million/year from ESPN

From CBS Sports … The Big 12 has its own network … well, sorta …

Conference officials said Wednesday that a new expanded media rights fees deal with ESPN gets the league as close to having its own network outlet as possible. The Big 12 is the only Power Five league without its own stand-alone network.

After Fox declined its option, ESPN took over the rights to three future Big 12 football championship games. It also acquired the rights to hundreds of contests across all sports, which will be moved to ESPN+, the cable network’s growing pay streaming platform.

“It’s going to be a huge addition for recruiting, a huge thing for anybody that wants more,” commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.

The deal is essentially a significant bridge deal that runs concurrent with the existing rights agreement, which ends after the 2024-25 academic year.  The expanded deal means an average of additional $22 million per year for the Big 12 for the remaining six years of its current agreement, according to Sports Business Journal. Bowlsby said that number was not accurate but did not elaborate.

Big 12 schools currently each get $40.1 million annually in rights fees. Even a modest increase in those fees would further entrench the league in third place behind the Big Ten and SEC in that category.

Continue reading story here


April 9th

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Way-Too-Early Top 25 basketball predictions for 2019-20 (at least one mentions CU)

From the San Jose Mercury News … What we saw Monday night — Virginia raising the trophy — we could see again a year from now. As of this moment, the Cavaliers are the team to beat in 2020.

The following rankings will be updated in late May, after the deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft.

Also considered (in no particular order): Mississippi State, Louisville, Arizona, Purdue, Syracuse, UC Irvine, Baylor, Memphis, Davidson, Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Florida, Arizona State, Buffalo and Iowa State.

22. Washington: Sure, the Huskies were hammered by the expiration of eligibility clocks, but there is hope: If Jaylen Nowell returns — and his NBA projections aren’t ideal — then the Huskies just might maintain their momentum. Nowell and 5-star big man Isaiah Stewart would be a dynamite duo.

12. Oregon: If everything breaks right, Kenny Wooten, Payton Pritchard and Louis King return and the Ducks are a top-10 team. If they all leave, the Ducks aren’t a top-25 team. We split the difference and await the decisions.

CBS Sports “Never-too-early Top 25”

From CBS Sports … With Virginia’s 85-77 victory over Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament championship game, the 2018-19 college basketball season was completed. So now it’s time to look ahead to the 2019-20 season. And, if these projections prove correct, next season will be all sorts of fun for fans in the state of Michigan because, I think, Michigan State and Michigan  should both be great.

They are No. 1 and No. 2 in the preseason Top 25 And 1.

And before you scream “but it’s too early to rank teams for next season because we aren’t even sure who’s coming and going,” understand that I did this exact exercise on the night of the 2018 title game, and 14 of the 16 schools that ultimately made the Sweet 16 of the 2019 NCAA Tournament were in my initial Top 25 And 1. So, at least last year, these rankings were a nice preview of the season to come.

From the Pac-12 … 

  • 16. Oregon
  • 17. Arizona

ESPN: “Loaded Michigan State leads Way-Too-Early Top 25 for 2019-20”

From ESPN … The 2018-19 college basketball season officially ended Monday, with Virginia beating Texas Tech 85-77 in overtime. That means it’s already time to look ahead to next season.

Things will change, of course. There are NBA draft decisions to be made, players waiting to enter the transfer portal, high school players still unsigned. There is also the second federal trial on college basketball corruption beginning later this month, and that could bring college coaches or players into the headlines.

From the Pac-12 … 

  • No. 11 – Oregon
  • No. 16 – Washington
  • No. 17 – Arizona

Sports Illustrated: “Way-Too-Early Top 25”

From Sports Illustrated … Way-too-early is an understatement—there might as well still be confetti on the court in Minneapolis—but with another college basketball season all wrapped up, it’s a good time to look ahead to the fall, if ever-so-briefly. These rankings are going to look way different come October, noting the impending flurry of movement (between NBA draft decisionscoaching changes, grad transfers and uncommitted recruits, there’s a lot left to happen). Think of this less as a personal affront to your school, and more of a cursory look at the field.

From the Pac-12 … 

  • No. 10 – Oregon
  • No. 14 – Arizona
  • No. 17 – Washington


April 8th

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Pac-12 Networks President Mark Shuken: “The ultimate objective is to elevate the value of our media rights between now and 2024 (when the current deals expire)”

From the San Jose Mercury News … Pac-12 Networks president Mark Shuken chatted with the Hotline last month in Las Vegas about a range of topics directly and indirectly related to the networks’ future.

The majority of our 45-minute discussion focused on Shuken’s plans to increase engagement, but we touched on the larger media landscape, as well.

The following Q&A has been re-ordered from the original conversation so the topics flow in a manner that will be easy for readers to follow, without impacting the context.

The Hotline’s deep dive into Shuken’s engagement plans — using football as the primary vehicle — can be found here.

For other Hotline content on the Pac-12 Networks, consider this landing page.

*** How do you know the increased emphasis on football is working?

“We’re excited about specific data around all the engagement on the other platforms (beyond linear TV). The question is, how do you monetize? How do you quantify the value of anybody who clicks, or anybody who watches?

“The industry isn’t there yet. But it has to get there — not just with sports necessarily but the whole thing.

“You look at Katelyn Ohashi” — the UCLA gymnast whose routine went viral — “there has got to be some way to make that matter from a business perspective.”

Continue reading story here


April 7th

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Deep Dive Part II: “Did The Pac-12 Need A Strategic Partner In 2012?”


If you read Part I of this series, you know that I’m building a model to judge the net present value of the 2012 decision for Larry Scott and the Pac-12 to not bring on a strategic partner for the Pac-12 Networks. Crucially, I’m judging this decision based on the time value of money, specifically an 8% cost of capital.

Bottom Line, Up Front

The Pac-12 Networks likely will miss out on somewhere between $276 to $869 million over the 12-year period from 2012 to 2024 by not joining with a strategic partner. That means that to justify this decision, the media rights deals signed in 2025 and beyond need to be worth something like $9 to $12 billion dollars, or three to four times the value of the current deal.

Top Down Calculation

Let’s take a step back and explain how I got there.

If back of the envelope math is the quick way to run numbers—which I did last time—I’d call “top down” the easy way, though it can still take a lot of time. Essentially, you take your opinion on what certain things are worth, and use them to calculate revenue, then flow that on down to your profits. The key improvement with this method is I’m going to account for the time value of money.

(Technically, the cost of capital applies to the free cash flow of a business. But since the Pac-12 isn’t actually a business—it’s a non-profit owned by other non-profits—it doesn’t have profit or free cash flow. But it does distribute the money it makes to its “owners,” and that’s good enough as a stand in for free cash flow for me.)

So the starting point is how much money has the Pac-12 Network made since it launched? Well, not much. As Jon Wilner detailed here, the numbers are pretty small:

I say these numbers are small, because of the expectations set by the Pac-12 at launch. As Jon Wilner reports, the Pac-12 expected to make much, much more:

When I first stumbled on these projections, I was stoked frankly. (Can you tell I’m from California?) These numbers are basically the perfect fill-ins for a “top down” analysis.

Assuming the Pac-12 did a 70-30% split (which is a little lower than the Big Ten’s 51-49% split but I’m okay with it), then in the middle case, the schools would have taken home $7 million each year after the partner cut. In the low case, they’d take home about $5 million, which is close to our $4 million back of the envelope number. That said, even that may be too low. The SEC Network launched and it added about $20 million to each school’s distribution. Even if you think the SEC Network (and B1G, which launched much longer back) aren’t comparable because of their bigger geographic regions, the ACC feels pretty comparable. When its network launches next year, it expects distributions to increase by $12 million per school. Looking at those comps, using $10 million as high case seems reasonable too.

We can take these numbers, multiple them by 12 to get to conference numbers and see the difference. I have the increased numbers start in year 2 (2015). I picked such a fast launch because ESPN basically turbo-charged the SEC launch and the ACC may see a similar bump. Then I picked a growth rate of 8% in the high and middle cases and 5% in the low case. As for the actual revenues, since the growth from 2017 to 2018 is about 6% ($30 million in 2017 to a projected $32 million this year) I’ll use that. (Though with AT&T U-verse dropping the Pac-12, this number could even decline next year.)

Continue reading story here


April 6th

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Deep Dive into the numbers: Questions about the Pac-12 business model

From … Explaining Net Present Value and the Time Value of Money

According to many in the media, Larry Scott has had a rough year or so. On the field, for the second year, his conference was shut out of the College Football Playoffs, and the Pac-12 has had a similarly dismal performance in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Off the field, there have been problems from questionable officiating to questionable salaries to questionable leasing decisions.

Those controversies are dwarfed by a much larger one: does the Pac-12 have a questionable business model?

The question hinges, it seems, on a key strategic point: The Pac-12 in 2012 prioritized owning 100% of the conference’s media rights. The defenders of Larry Scott—including himself, AJ Maestas, Joe Ravitch and even other athletic directors—summarize the defense along the lines of what Tom Stultz told AthleticDirectorU a while back:

“The true value of the conference’s strategy won’t be fully known until the next round of rights negotiations. The Pac-12 will have more options available to it than any other conference because of the rights it has retained. Whether or not that pays off will be clear once those negotiations occur.”

I’ve been frustrated by this debate, though, because I haven’t seen any good numbers on it. Do we really have to wait until 2025 to judge this strategy? The defenders of the Pac-12 hardly ever quantify the strategic decisions above. I have a saying on my website, one of my core beliefs, that, “Strategy is Numbers”. If you don’t run the numbers, you don’t actually have a strategy.

(I happen to be a diehard UCLA fan, so the success or failure of the Pac-12 is also pretty important to me. I was one of the few people watching UCLA gymnastics and volleyball on the Pac-12 Networks, until AT&T U-verse dropped them.)

As the Pac-12 considers selling 10% of its media rights to a strategic partner, it seems like some numbers can help us understand if Larry Scott and company made the right decision in 2012, if they’re making the right decision now, and what they should do in 2025. Since Larry Scott doesn’t share detailed numbers with his own Athletic Directors, it seems all the more relevant that someone should sketch out the stakes.

Since this is AthleticDirectorU, I’m going to lay out my process so that hopefully other ADs and leaders in college athletics could learn from my approach. Moreover, I’ll teach a few points about business strategy, that apply as much to college sports as consumer packaged goods. As for the numbers, I’m relying on the fantastic reporting of a few people, including Jon Wilner at San Jose Mercury News, John Canzano at The Oregonian and others.

To be clear, I can’t actually answer the question definitively. I don’t have access to the financials of the Pac 12 beyond the broad strokes in the Form 990s filed to the IRS—and released 10 months late—so I have to make a lot of assumptions. But I can sketch out the terms of the debate in hopefully a more concrete way. This article will have two parts. Part I will explain some terms, and Part II will explain my estimates with final conclusions.

Continue reading story here


April 4th

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NCAA President Mark Emmert declares victory in Alston case (despite actual ruling)

From ESPN … NCAA president Mark Emmert says a judge’s recent ruling in a federal antitrust lawsuit reinforced that college athletes should be treated as students, not employees.

Emmert spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday at U.S. Bank Stadium, the site of the men’s basketball Final Four, and made his first public comments since last month’s decision in the so-called Alston case.

Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the NCAA did violate antitrust laws and cannot prohibit schools from providing more benefits to athletes as long as they are tethered to education.

“There were also components of that ruling that reinforced what a number of judges and administrative court proceedings have reinforced, and that is that college sports is about student-athletes playing student-athletes, not employees playing employees,” Emmert said. “And the fact that, once again, another federal decision has come down reinforcing the fundamentals of what college sport is about, we’re very pleased with that. And the way that she wrote what could and could not be prohibited by the NCAA is not in any way fundamentally inconsistent with what we’ve been doing for about a decade now.”

… Even though Wilken’s ruling fell well short of that, plaintiffs’ attorneys have celebrated it. They called it another step toward unraveling the NCAA’s definition of amateurism, which they consider unjust and arbitrary. In 2014, Wilken ruled against the NCAA in an antitrust lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon. He claimed the NCAA and conferences inappropriately used the names, images and likenesses of college athletes without compensation.

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USA Today: Pac-12 spring storylines

From USA Today … The Pac-12 ended last season with two ranked teams: Washington and rival Washington State. That’s fewer ranked teams than the Mountain West, which had three. Likewise with the SEC West — and the SEC East. The Big Ten finished with five ranked teams, three in the East.

While the ACC matched the Pac-12 with just two teams ranked in the final polls, there’s one significant difference: Clemson. The Tigers tore through league play, the national semifinals and then Alabama. The Pac-12 was essentially removed from the College Football Playoff discussion after Washington’s loss to Oregon in October, even if the Cougars remained on the very periphery of the race heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

It’s springtime in the Pac-12. One question stands above the rest: Can this league put a team into the semifinals, or will it once again be left out of the conversation before even the debut rankings? The Huskies are the offseason favorite with several others in tow as the Pac-12 heads into April.

Colorado: The new offense

New coach Mel Tucker brings a solid defensive reputation to his new job, making that side of the ball the primary topic of offseason conversation. Yet it’s the offense that’s intriguing, especially given the question of how well senior quarterback Steven Montez fits into a scheme that seemingly asks its starter to threaten defenses with his legs.

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April 3rd

… Foe Pause … 

Bad optics: USC AD Lynn Swann at autograph show while program is in disarray

Related … “USC AD Lynn Swann defends his decision to sign autographs for money at a memorabilia show” … from CBS Sports

From YardBarker … The USC athletic program is in a state of disarray, and many fans are calling for athletic director Lynn Swann to either be fired or step down because of it. If the way he spent his time over the weekend is any indication, Swann is not bothered by that talk.

As Patrick Hruby of the Los Angeles Times noted, Swann was one of more than a dozen sports personalities and celebrities who attended a memorabilia show in Washington, D.C., over the weekend. He signed autographs for fans and collectors who paid $220 and up for his signature.

Meanwhile, USC trustees and senior leaders were meeting in Santa Barbara to discuss some of the many issues surrounding the school, which include the Trojans’ involvement in a recent FBI investigation into college basketball as well as the admissions scandal that has rocked the school. A university spokesperson told Hruby that Swann was invited to the event but was not required to attend, as there was nothing on the agenda that directly related to him.

That doesn’t make the optics any better. USC is facing some of the most significant issues in school history, and the athletic director is out profiting from an autograph signing. Former USC linebacker Ricki Ellison, who won a co-national championship with the Trojans in 1978, was in disbelief.

“Lynn’s a good guy, but isn’t his salary in the millions?” Ellison asked. “Why does he need to do this? It’s just embarrassing.

“With all of the issues going on right now, why would anybody support this brand or donate money to this school or send their child to this school? If you’re Lynn Swann, how does [going to an autograph show] gain additional credibility for USC?”

USC’s football team has taken some major hits in recent months, and Swann should at least be giving off the impression that he is doing everything in his power to fix it. It’s hard for him to make that case when he’s smiling and collecting money from fans while signing photos of himself.

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April 2nd

… Foe Pause … 

United Airlines offers to back out of naming rights deal to USC’s Memorial Coliseum

From ESPN … United Airlines offered Friday to withdraw from a $69 million deal to change Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to United Airlines Memorial Coliseum following criticism that adding a corporate name is disrespectful to the facility’s history of honoring troops who fought and died in World War I.

The airline made the offer to the University of Southern California, which announced the agreement for the naming rights last year as part of its extensive $270 million renovation of the nearly century-old landmark.

United Airlines California president Janet Lamkin said in a letter to USC official Todd Dickey that the company made “a significant commitment to financing this project” in exchange for the naming rights and was careful to keep the words “Memorial Coliseum” to honor the memory of veterans.

“If USC is not in a position to honor the terms of the agreement, including in particular the name change, United would be amenable to abiding by the wishes of the community, stepping away from this partnership with USC, and mutually terminating the agreement,” Lamkin wrote in the letter obtained by the Associated Press.

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Mike Leach’s “Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategy” class underway

From The Athletic … At​ the end​ of the first meeting​ of Washington State’s​ Insurgent​ Warfare and Football​ Strategy class​ a Q&A session​​ opened up. There were a few general questions, and then one student near the front of the class raised his hand and directed one toward co-teacher — and, also, head football coach — Mike Leach about the future of football, specifically regarding artificial intelligence.

Most in the classroom were general students, not well-acquainted with Leach beyond what they see in the video clips aired after games or on Twitter. They did not know well the regularity with which Leach might take hold of such a question and speak nonstop for upward of an hour, ending up at a place that has absolutely nothing to do with artificial intelligence or football.

To the casual observer, it might seem unconventional at best and chaotic at worst. At times, that can be Leach.

He strings together thoughts, jumping from one topic to the next with a thread that few might follow and many might chalk up to eccentricity, but in his head, it all makes sense.

And so, with the class — slotted to last an hour and a half — looking to end right on time, it’s understandable that those in attendance who knew Leach well sighed when the question about artificial intelligence and football came up.

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April 1st

… Foe Pause … 

Pac-12 men’s basketball closes forgettable decade with only one Final Four appearance

From the San Jose Mercury News … The decade is over for Pac-12 men’s basketball (as defined by the NCAA records book), and it was a forgettable one, indeed.

Over the course of 10 NCAA Tournaments, the conference produced one Final Four team: Oregon ’17.

How does that compare? As you probably guessed …

Final Four appearances for the Pac-12, by decade:

1980s: 2 (UCLA ’80, Arizona ’88)
1990s: 4 (Arizona ’94, UCLA ’95, Arizona ’97 and Stanford ’98)
2000s: 4 (Arizona ’01, UCLA ’06, ’07 and ’08)
2010s: 1 (Oregon ’17)

Final Four appearances per conference 2010-19 (based on affiliation of the school at the time of its appearance in the semifinals):

Big Ten: 8
SEC: 7
Big East: 7
ACC: 6
Big 12: 4
Horizon: 2
Missouri Valley: 2
American: 1
Pac-12: 1
WCC: 1

Not sure there’s much to add.

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“Best Coast” Mailbag with Chantel Jennings from the Athletic

From The Athletic … Three related questions, the answers to which are not necessarily the same:

1. What constitutes a good season for the Pac-12?

2. What will it take for the Pac-12 to regain national respect?

3. What will it take for Pac-12 fans to stop declaring that the sky is falling?

Garrett P.

Starting and ending the season on high notes while avoiding PR drama in the middle.

The Pac-12 needs to show up in its marquee non-conference games this year: Early on, Stanford has Northwestern and UCF, Washington State has Houston, Oregon has Auburn, Colorado faces Nebraska, Arizona State has Michigan State, and Arizona has Texas Tech. The Pac-12 needs to win a majority of those games and, ideally, in convincing fashion. Then, the season needs to be defined by the football, not by off-field or HQ drama. Come bowl season, another playoff absence would just add to the narrative that the Pac-12 is falling further and further. So, a playoff appearance plus some convincing bowl wins would go a long way.

Is that too much to ask? At this point, I honestly don’t know.

With regard to national respect, consistently making the playoff and convincing West Coast talent to stay in the West is crucial. Produce a playoff team most years and the conference will be fine on the national stage. Plus, being a part of that conversation on TV networks and in major publications is great for recruiting and would figure to help attract more talent.

And finally, the sky-is-falling crowd is always going to be there. We are all Chicken Littles just trying to get through the season. Everyone is always going to think that the worst thing is just around the corner. But hey, it’s kind of fun to live on that edge, right?

How patient are Buff fans going to be with Mel Tucker? Are they in a kind of a “Year Zero” situation?

Tyler D.

Every coaching transition takes time. The energy and enthusiasm in Boulder are genuine, and I do believe there’s an intensity the team is playing with that maybe hasn’t been there consistently. But, Colorado has serious gaps to fill at linebacker, safety and running back, and though the passing game returns talent in Steven Montez, Laviska Shenault and K.D. Nixon, they’re also all adjusting to a new system.

I say this every time there’s a coaching change, because fans want to put a bar down at the beginning of the season and say that one side is success and one side is failure. It just doesn’t work like that. I think Colorado fans need to see how the offensive execution improves from week 1 to week 4. I think they should look at how the team is playing in the fourth quarter when the score is unbalanced (with the Buffs being up a lot or down a lot). I think they should see what the morale of the team looks like if the group loses a few games in a row and how maybe that’s different than it was in seasons past. I know that’s not what fans want to hear because how can you measure any of that? And, sorry, you can’t. But success in year 1 looks so different at every single program. Every new beginning is hard. So, look for growth and change.

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