Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Has the Pac-12’s strong season improved its media rights value? — @NIRVANwA
How much money did the Pac-12 lose by having stricter COVID restrictions, from the perspective of media rights valuation? The perception of the league was severely damaged for two years prior to media negotiations. — @justinb02164884
In our view, the truncated 2020 season didn’t harm the Pac-12’s reputation to the extent many fans might think, largely because of the obvious role state and university politics played in the decision to delay the start of play. It was unprecedented in every regard and therefore easy to dismiss the results.
However, the COVID hangover that contributed to the Pac-12’s disappointing performance in 2021 absolutely impacted the conference’s reputation and, perhaps, media valuation.
All the September non-conference losses affected top-25 rankings and TV ratings, adding to the perception of the Pac-12 conference as the fifth member of the Power Five.
But there is some nuance to the media rights piece, courtesy of USC and UCLA.
If the Los Angeles schools hadn’t bolted for the Big Ten over the summer, the Pac-12 would have stayed on the normal timeline and commenced media negotiations this winter — after what has been the conference’s most successful season in years.
In that case, the wins, rankings and ratings clearly would have influenced its valuation and leverage with potential partners.
Instead, the L.A. thunderbolt forced commissioner George Kliavkoff to expedite the media rights negotiations, which have played out concurrently with the on-field success.
To what degree were valuations established by ESPN, Fox and Amazon before the victories mounted?
To what extent can the dollars be adjusted to reflect the rankings and ratings?
Lacking direct knowledge of the discussions, we cannot offer any concrete insight.
Yes, the L.A. schools have played a vital role in the upturn, but they haven’t been fully responsible.
Our hunch is the valuations are somewhat elastic — and that the success of Oregon, Utah and Washington has served the Pac-12’s interests.
Is Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff delivering? Where has he undelivered, and where has he over-performed? — @Kevin10TV
Kliavkoff has been criticized for failing to keep USC in the conference, the single most important task on his list.
While the Hotline doesn’t disagree with the criticism, it’s a tad more complicated in two regards:
1) We suspect there was nothing Kliavkoff could have done to prevent USC’s departure, given the dollars at stake and the school’s desire to play football on the biggest possible stage.
2) We don’t know the nature of Kliavkoff’s conversations with USC president Carol Folt and what she told him about the school’s commitment to the Pac-12.
That said, the success of Kliavkoff’s tenure now hinges on keeping the conference together, which depends on the media rights deal he places before the presidents (likely in the next few weeks).
Once this saga ends, we’ll return to the topic of Kliavkoff’s job performance.
It seems to me that the Pac-12 would have an advantage to allow kickoff times throughout every television broadcast window, starting at 9 a.m. Pacific, in the next media contract. After the early rumblings, 9 a.m. kickoffs have not been talked about. Is this still a possibility? — @Jeff_Ute
Anything is possible as Kliavkoff creates packages of football games to negotiate with interested media partners.
The Hotline has long been in favor of 9 a.m. kickoffs on Pac-12 campuses — it was our idea, after all. But the original concept (in June ’19) was based on providing a quality matchup for the ‘Big Noon Kickoff’ on Fox.
Moving forward, that window will carry a Big Ten game every week under the terms of that league’s recently completed media agreement.
Would ESPN be interested in an early Pac-12 game? Unlikely. It has plenty of ACC, SEC and Big 12 options for the 12 p.m. Eastern time slot.
So where could the conference turn to create a new broadcast window and increase its media valuation? There’s one obvious spot: 7:30 p.m. Pacific on a broadcast network.
Fox has shown two games in that spot this year: USC-Fresno State in September; and UCLA-Arizona a few weeks ago. (The latter drew an impressive 1.9 million viewers, according to SportsMediaWatch.)
The 7:30 p.m. window could work for Fox, ABC or both, and only the Pac-12 can fill it on a regular basis.
It’s worth keeping in mind as the media negotiations unfold.
Can USC back out of the Big Ten deal? — @elMachoGabriel
Sure, the Trojans could back out — and pay whatever penalties result — but they won’t.
Don’t be fooled by their proximity: USC and UCLA are as different as any set of natural rivals in the conference. It’s not just the private vs. public status; it’s also the athletic ethos and identity.
Their moves into the Big Ten shouldn’t be viewed through the same lens. The Trojans are as gone as gone gets.
Between a one-loss USC and undefeated TCU, which team would make the College Football Playoff if only one spot is available? — @Milkbear79
That scenario is unlikely. Unless LSU upsets Georgia in the SEC championship, there should be room for both 12-1 USC and 13-0 TCU, along with the Big Ten champion and Georgia.
But in the event the selection committee faces that choice, I would expect TCU to receive the final bid.
The Big 12 is mediocre this season, not nearly as good as the Pac-12. (It resembles recent versions of the Pac-12, with one elite team and a mass of mediocrity.)
But it’s difficult to envision an undefeated Power Five champion being left out.
You may just know this (or have answered in the past, or can just answer here), but where does the Pac-12 publish which officiating crews are assigned in advance? — @TJAltimore
I am not aware of the conference itself making the information public in order to shield the crews from any outside influences prior to kickoff.
However, the website footballzebras.com provides excellent coverage of NFL and FBS officiating — you might want to poke around there.
Washington coach Kalen DeBoer’s pay raise feels low, and I like the buyout — it’s UW-friendly. What’s your feeling? — @LiveInHothAK
First, let’s assume the Huskies began working with DeBoer and his representation on a contract extension weeks ago — long before the win at Oregon.
I’m sure the Nebraska vacancy was a motivating factor given that DeBoer is from South Dakota. (The Cornhuskers fired Scott Frost in September.)
The average annual compensation in DeBoer’s revised contract (approximately $4.5 million) remains school-friendly and places him in the middle of the Pac-12 football salary hierarchy — all of which makes sense given the small sample size.
But if the Huskies have another first-class season, I would expect the school to hand DeBoer an entirely new deal in the winter of 2023-24 that pushes his salary above $6 million and makes him one of the top-paid coaches in the conference.
Do bad losses trump great wins? Your AP top-25 vote appears to diminish Washington beating Oregon in Eugene because of the Huskies’ loss to Arizona State. — @jaytorrell
Bad losses and good wins are taken into account for all teams under consideration for my weekly AP ballot.
UW fans have expressed outrage over my latest version, especially the disparity between No. 7 Oregon and the No. 15 Huskies. And that’s to be expected.
I’d offer two pieces of context:
— The placements flow naturally from each team’s position the previous week, when UW was slotted 16th and Oregon 10th.
From there, the Huskies moved up one spot after a blowout win over Colorado — a result that hardly moves the needle — while the Ducks moved up three spots after a first-class victory over a ranked opponent, Utah.
Those two moves hardly seem unreasonable.
— The Ducks are three spots higher on my ballot this week (No. 7) than in the AP poll (No. 10). In fact, they are the highest-ranked Pac-12 team on my ballot — one spot above USC.
Why? Because of the Georgia game.
One of Oregon’s two losses was a non-conference challenge unlike any result for any team in any conference. Nobody else took on the defending national champs — and the best team in the country this season — in what was essentially a Georgia home game.
The Georgia loss has impacted our assessment of Oregon throughout the season, which shouldn’t be news to regular readers:
We published an entire column on the outlier nature of that game about how it has skewed the perception of the Ducks relative to Pac-12 competition and the betting lines.
To a certain degree, we treat Oregon as a one-loss team when formulating the rankings because no one else (anywhere) had an equivalent matchup.
(Washington’s version of Georgia was a home victory over Michigan State, which is 5-6 overall and 3-5 in Big Ten play.)
UW’s head-to-head win in Eugene certainly factors into our calculation. But so does the fact that Oregon has beaten UCLA and Utah while the Huskies lost to the Bruins (decisively) and haven’t played the Utes.
And if our explanation further infuriates Washington fans, that’s fine. Debate and disagreement are essential parts of the college football machinery.
If USC and Oregon win on Saturday, are the Ducks guaranteed a Rose Bowl berth regardless of the result of the Pac-12 championship? — @BearFlagFan
For those unfamiliar, the logic here works as follows:
If the Ducks qualify for the championship game, a victory over the Trojans would send them to Pasadena as the conference champions while a loss would make them the replacement team for playoff-bound USC.
But I’m not sure it’s quite that simple.
The process of selecting a replacement team does not bind the Rose Bowl to the loser of the conference championship or the next-highest-ranked team in the CFP selection committee’s final top 25.
The Rose Bowl could take either of those paths but ultimately would have the procedural flexibility to create the best matchup possible.
Our suspicion is that a decisive win by the Trojans (multiple touchdowns) would result in Oregon and Washington being ranked close to each other — and that the Rose Bowl might pick UW based on the head-to-head win.
If Washington loses the Apple Cup, that changes the dynamic significantly.
Could you use your platform to help encourage the idea of renaming the Oregon-Oregon State rivalry ‘The Fight for the Forest,’ with some of the proceeds from the game and apparel sales going to wildfire recovery and prevention? — @DucktorKwacks
The concept sounds terrific, but I wonder if the schools would be hesitant to make the commitment — it could create backlash from other worthy endeavors.
Certainly, they could support wildfire recovery and prevention efforts with game proceeds without actually naming the rivalry after the cause.
If UCLA finishes with a win over Cal and a reasonable bowl outcome, is there any heat on Chip Kelly going into next year? — @solarschmidt
Who are the leading candidates for the Colorado and Arizona State head coaching positions? — @MarcSheehan006
When does Stanford move on from David Shaw? — @markkahn
The Hotline will publish a thorough examination of every team’s coaching situation on Monday.
If there are major developments before then, we will respond accordingly.