I’m not all that bothered by what happened with USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12.
May of 2016 I finally had seen enough of how Arizona and Arizona State were treated as second-class citizens within the Pac-12 media deal. The late-night games on the lightly distributed(I’m being kind) Pac-12 Network, the Territorial Cup airing on a secondary channel opposite of Alabama v Auburn. Shameful. I wrote this Three Dot Thoughts piece then and feel the need to bring it back now.
Arizona and Arizona State still don’t need the Pac-12 even after USC and UCLA bolted for the Big Ten this past week. This is not the time to wallow in self-pity or shoot spit wads at those who left you behind. It is time to wonder if Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff can recover from having his Big Ten counterpart Kevin Warren pull the rug out from under him. Remember The Alliance? Yep. How did that turn out? It’s a time when those who ardently supported Larry Scott should seriously be under the microscope for their jobs.
UCLA and USC made prudent business decisions helped along by television network executives who showed the two schools that there is likely going to be 100 million dollars(or more) per school in the upcoming Big Ten media rights deal. What happened this week has EVERYTHING to do with the TV markets and ratings points the networks will gain by adding the LA market. Rutgers is 38 miles from New York City, Northwestern is in Chicago, etc. etc. TV networks can now say, “buy with us and you’ll get airings of games in the New York, LA, and Chicago markets”. This is all about TV money.
Change happens. If you’re one of those who believe that college athletics have been ruined in the last year by the transfer portal, NIL, and expansion, then you probably wish that people still used a rotary dial phone or watched Columbo on Friday nights at 9pm on NBC(I loved that show as a kid). Change happens, and change can be good. Life is too short to be stressed out over sports.
I think for context’s sake you have to look at the two in-state programs from different lenses. Phoenix is the 12th largest TV market(and growing) in the country. The current state of the football program(pending NCAA investigation) coaching change, etc shouldn’t mean a thing in finding conference mates. The lack of an up-to-date (I’m being kind again) basketball arena, wouldn’t factor in either. In Tucson, the football program was the worst D1 program just a couple of years ago but is certainly trending in the right direction under Jedd Fisch. The men and women basketball teams are national brands. There is certainly enough selling points academically from the two schools if that matters to recruits beyond “what is my NIL going to be if I come to you”.
Today, going to the Big 12, or inviting a combination of schools from other conferences to as my friend Jon Wilner said on the air to me, “whatever they call this new conference”(it’s still the Pac-12) there’s no reason to panic. Moving forward wrap your mind around TV market size, think athletic departments coast to coast that you can build a solid TV portfolio around and then make the move. The University of Oregon is a national brand because of Nike, so TV market size for them doesn’t matter. They are a brand I would want to be part of. Same goes for Kansas, for the obvious reason of the basketball brand.
The TV market sizes and schools that would make the most sense ($ents) to target.
Dallas is the 5th largest TV market. TCU, SMU, Baylor
San Francisco(6th) Stanford, Cal
Washington DC(7th) ACC Schools
Houston(8th) University of Houston
Boston(9th) Boston College
Atlanta(10th) ACC schools
Tampa/St. Pete(11th) ACC schools
Seattle(14th) University of Washington
The ACC is the one conference that is most intriguing. If I can align with Duke and North Carolina basketball, I’m on the national stage. If I am competing against Clemson in football, I’ve got a seat at the national table(Something that USC and UCLA didn’t bring in the last 15 years to the Pac-12)
The most interesting school to me in all of this is Notre Dame. They have a partial deal with the ACC in football. Would they give up their own TV network deal with NBC to join a new conference? I wouldn’t think so. Obviously, if Arizona State and Arizona were in the same conference as Notre Dame, UCLA and USC are after-thoughts. Hate on the Irish all you want, but there’s not a bigger/better brand in ALL of college sports than Notre Dame. Would the Golden Domers look at a national conference that included a combination of Pac-12 schools?
Adding athletic departments to the Pac-12 like San Diego State,UNLV, and Boise State doesn’t do much for me in terms of competing on a national stage with the Big Ten or SEC. It’s not terrible, it’s just not going to move the needle for where Arizona State and Arizona should aspire to go on the national stage…
Hastily jumping into bed with other schools wouldn’t be wise. Coach John Wooden had the great line “be quick, but don’t hurry”. That applies here…