Wilner Hotline – Thanksgiving Day Pac-12 Doings

Arizona Sports News online

Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the field …

Rising: Pac-12 exposure

Amid the playoff wreckage last weekend in Salt Lake City, ESPN came forth with good news for the Pac-12 on another important front: TV ratings.

Utah’s demolition of Oregon drew 4.8 million viewers, making it the Pac-12’s most-watched regular-season conference game since 2014, according to ESPN.

(The network did say which game in 2014 exceeded 4.8 million viewers, but a quick check of the sports media watch ratings database showed the USC-UCLA game drew 4.85 million on ABC. Both teams were ranked at the time.)

For the sake of context, we should note that 22 games across the country have topped the five-million-viewer mark this season, including Oregon’s victory at Ohio State in Week Two (7.7 million).

But it’s rare for Pac-12 conference games to exceed four million sets of eyeballs, partly because of issues related to population and fan interest but also because:

— So many games are placed in TV windows with limited viewership (10 p.m. or later Eastern).

— So many games are on the Pac-12 Networks, which have extremely limited reach (approximately 14 million subscribers).

— So few games receive prime-time coverage on broadcast television during the month of highest interest (November).

But when the schedule produces a playoff contender against a ranked opponent, the networks respond in kind: The Ducks and Utes kicked off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern on ABC.

And the viewership followed.

Falling: Marquee Pac-12 matchups

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The viewership data noted above makes this a fine time to offer a reminder.

All those September losses to BYU and Utah State, to Nevada and San Diego State, to Kansas State and Purdue — those losses are fodder for jokes and easy to dismiss because they don’t impact the conference race.

But they matter. Oh, do they matter.

The number of losses affects any given team’s ranking (in both the AP and CFP polls), and those rankings impact TV selections.

And the TV selections impact …. exposure.

Once Pac-12 teams start conference play, the zero-sum game begins. Significant ascents up the rankings are exceedingly difficult and require (unlikely) winning streaks of four or five games.

The Pac-12 went three consecutive weeks during the middle of the season with only one ranked team, Oregon, which can only happen to a Power Five conference if the early-season loss count is exorbitant.

Had the Pac-12 been more successful against Group of Five opponents, it would have produced multiple ranked teams throughout the season.

That would have created more quality matchups for the networks.

And more eyeballs for the product.

Rising: Pac-12 coaching talent (potentially)

An interest nugget appeared on Twitter earlier this week: former Cal coach Jeff Tedford is looking for work.

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Tedford stepped down two years ago after a successful run at Fresno State and, according to Yahoo, had a heart procedure.

But he’s reportedly healthy and energized and wants to return to the grind.

We can think of 12 programs that could benefit, in some fashion or another, from Tedford’s mastery of offense.

The health problems don’t make Tedford un-hireable, but they would require due diligence and deep faith on the part of potential employers.

(Plus a sound succession plan.)

Whether he’s only interested in being a head coach or would be open to a coordinator or analyst position, we cannot say.

But clearly, the Pac-12 would be a better place in 2022 with Tedford in it.

Falling: Pac-12 coaching recognition

The Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant, recently revealed the list of 15 finalists for the 2021 honors.

Not a single Pac-12 assistant or coordinator made the cut.

The Hotline has been critical of the state of coaching this season, particularly on offense.

But it’s laughable to think there are no deserving candidates for the Broyles Award.

What about Oregon State offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren?

Or Washington secondary coach Will Harris?

Or UCLA offensive line coach Justin Frye?

Or anyone on the Oregon or Utah staffs?

One impediment to Broyles Award recognition for Pac-12 coaches — perhaps the primary impediment — is the makeup of the selection committee. It features 15 former head coaches and three media members.

All the media members are from ESPN.

How many of the head coaches were in the Pac-12?

Only two: Mike Bellotti (Oregon) and John Robinson (USC).

Meanwhile, four of the 15 coached at schools in the Big 12, which has fewer teams than the Pac-12, and three coached at Georgia: Mark Richt, Vince Dooley and Jim Donnan.

That’s right: 20 percent of the coaches on the selection committee are former Bulldogs.

Again, it’s laughable.

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