Because of the quantity of questions, we are unable to answer all of them each week. Thanks for you understanding.
Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Can you explain why expansion candidates like San Diego State need to wait until after the Pac-12 media deal is signed? Isn’t a prospective media package stronger if it’s known that SDSU and, say, SMU will be in the fold? — @Cargoman0363
A rich topic, for sure. And I’ll attempt to address the most relevant facets here.
First, and for those unaware, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff was asked recently which piece comes first (the media rights deal or a decision on expansion) during a college athletics forum last week in Las Vegas.
“You can do it either way,” he said. “We’ve decided to sequence it as follows: media deal first, grant of rights next, expansion third.”
Understandably, Kliavkoff has been wary of sharing too many details of the Pac-12’s negotiating strategy, so we’re left to make our best guess.
And our guess is the conference has determined no expansion candidates are obviously revenue accretive, minimizing the need to expand before hammering out the media rights deal.
If the 10 remaining schools stand to receive $ 30 million annually in media revenue (to use an easy, round number), none of the expansion options (San Diego State, SMU, Gonzaga, Fresno State, UNLV) would increase that figure materially.
As a result, the conference is focused on finding the right network partners and the right packages of games on those network partners — in other words, the exposure piece.
But that approach comes with some risk: The expansion candidates grow impatient and accept offers from other conferences. (Hello, Big 12.)
We suspect that risk is low, especially with the football expansion options.
The Big 12 has already passed on SMU, and San Diego State has strategic aims beyond football that make the Pac-12 its strongly preferred destination:
The campus specifically and the California State University system generally would leap at the chance to align with a conference that includes Stanford and Cal.
For that reason, SDSU won’t make a move until it hears from the Pac-12.
(Gonzaga’s situation is different, but our hunch is the Zags much prefer membership in the Pac-12 to life in the Big 12.)
So while there is risk in the Pac-12’s approach, it seems somewhat mitigated in each case.
That said, the Hotline has spoken to numerous sources in the sports media world over the past few months who believe the strategy is backward — that the Pac-12 should solve the expansion piece first, then formulate a media rights deal.
Why do you favor SMU over San Diego State? — @SkipLongbottoms
To be clear: The Hotline doesn’t “favor” one over the other as Pac-12 expansion options. We are simply attempting to guess along with the university presidents.
The Mustangs have the right institutional profile, particularly on the academic side, and would allow the conference to both carve out a new media market and gain a foothold in key recruiting territory.
San Diego State makes sense on multiple levels. But in our view, the Aztecs are, first and foremost, a defensive play for the Pac-12:
Pass on SDSU, and the Big 12 will surely swoop in.
The conference will be challenged enough with two Big Ten campuses in Los Angeles. Imagine having a Big 12 school in San Diego, as well.
Unless a media bidder urges the Pac-12 to add more schools, why would the conference need more than 10 or 11 teams? I get the Southern California recruiting theory, but all the Pacific Northwest programs get lots of SoCal players now. — @CurlyMoeLarry1
The Pac-12 could very well pass on expansion and move forward with the current 10 schools if there are no material (i.e., financial) benefits to expansion.
Or it could add one football member and play with 11. The importance of having an even number of teams is diminished without divisions.
But don’t dismiss the inventory issue: More teams allow for more games, and more games could satisfy the programming needs for network partners.
What if Amazon wants a weekly Friday night game? With 10 members, the percentage of total games played on Friday would be higher for each team than with 12 teams.
That’s just one example of the inventory calculation, which is critical to the overall strategy.
When do you expect the TV rights deal to be made public? I have to believe that negotiations were done with UCLA staying and leaving? — @flintaeroinc
My guess is that resolution comes in the second half of January or the first part of February. But it could stretch into March. Kliavkoff has said repeatedly that he feels “no urgency” to complete the deal.
(Whether that’s a smart strategy is debatable.)
And remember: The media rights deal is just one step in the larger process of determining the Pac-12’s future structure.
The second piece is signing the grant of rights, in which each school agrees to bind its media revenue to the conference. That piece could take days, maybe weeks. It’s difficult to know.
Then comes the third step: a decision on expansion.
All in all, the entire endeavor could be completed early in the first quarter of 2023 or not until sometime in the second.
And yes, the conference and its network partners ran multiple sets of valuation models, with and without UCLA.
But all along, they were assuming the Bruins were gone.
Would it be possible to have Amazon include Amazon “stores” for all players in the Pac-12 with a media rights deal? This could be a launching pad for players to grow their name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities like no other conference can. — @EliteFitMob
I’m not sure that works. If Amazon partners with the conference, then it’s doing business with each university and that potentially becomes a conflict of interest.
NIL deals cannot be tied to the schools and typically are brokered by third-party exchanges. I doubt Amazon would qualify in that situation.
But Amazon would create endless commercial opportunities for the schools beyond the game broadcasts, as we suggested a few months ago.
The Pac-12 isn’t evaluating Amazon based on the sports media world as it exists today.
It’s evaluating Amazon based on what a partnership would look like in four or five years, in a rapidly evolving landscape of technological change and media consumption.
What are your thoughts on the number of late kickoffs per season that the new Pac-12 media deal will have? Should the conference limit the number for each school, so as to provide certainty to season-ticket buyers? — @BruinSharman
This is a high-interest topic, but there are actually two pieces: 1) The number of night games per school; and 2) The timing of the kickoff announcements.
Our sense is that a chunk of the frustration is rooted in the 12- and six-day selection process. If fans were given more notice, the night games would feel more palatable.
That said, the conference must strike the right balance. The media networks want the flexibility to place the best matchups in premium broadcast windows — and they will pay for that option.
Meanwhile, Kliavkoff has stated a desire for the conference to retain some control over kickoffs in order to give its best teams and players maximum exposure during the crucible of November.
Additionally, there is the weeknight piece to consider: We suspect the Pac-12’s network partners will have significant interest in Friday night broadcasts. How might that factor into the number of 7 p.m. (or later) kickoffs?
There isn’t a clear answer.
Yes, the number of night games per school should be capped. But where’s the line? And how much notice is required?
It’s safe to assume the inventory logistics are consuming plenty of oxygen in the ongoing negotiations.
Are you in agreement, come 2024, with the four top-ranked conference champions receiving a first-round bye in the expanded College Football Playoff? In 2022, that would have produced seventh-ranked Clemson as the No. 3 seed and eighth-ranked Utah as the No. 4 seed. — Jon Joseph
The Hotline is strongly in favor of the format for determining byes established by the CFP. There must be a reward for winning your conference.
Also, anything that adds significance to conference championship games benefits the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Group of Five by making those matchups more attractive (i.e., valuable).
But there is a downside to the format, and it’s not a small one: Because they receive byes into the quarterfinals, which are played at neutral sites, the top four teams don’t host playoff games on campus.
The on-campus dates for the No. 5-8 seeds in the opening round will be enormous events for those universities.
Do you think schools that develop a reputation as being heavily reliant on the transfer portal for developing rosters will eventually have more difficulty attracting high school recruits? — Dave Hayashida
An interesting topic, and one we have not plunged into.
My guess is that everything will even out. No program is immune to losing players to the portal — NIL opportunities play a major role in that, by the way — and attrition naturally leads to backfilling from the portal.
At the same time, high school players won’t pass on scholarship offers from desired schools, even if the program has a reputation for leaning into the portal.
I’ve read contradictory reports regarding the amount UCLA will have to distribute to Cal. What’s the real deal? — @SJVst
The deal is this:
— The regents decided to revisit the so-called ‘Berkeley tax’ once the Pac-12 signs its media deal. They are not bound to impose one, only to consider it.
— The minimum amount of what the regents called “a contribution by UCLA to the Berkeley campus” would be $2 million annually, the maximum $10 million.
— Exactly how they will determine the amount, we cannot say.
Our presumption is the regents will consider the difference in what the Pac-12 would have received in media rights with UCLA (projected) and what it receives without UCLA (actual).
— Another unknown: If imposed, would the annual payment span the entirety of the Pac-12’s media rights agreement?
Essentially, the regents did what politicians do: They attempted to appease as many constituents as possible while leaving themselves as much room to maneuver as possible.
How serious do you take point spreads and predictions in the upcoming bowl season since so many players have opted out or will before the bowl? Isn’t it going to be like a glorified intra-squad scrimmage? — @johnniethek
In theory, the spreads move when key players opt out, but that’s hardly an exact science.
Projecting the outcome of bowl games, especially games below the CFP level, has always been difficult because of coaching changes and disparities in motivation between the teams. The opt-out trend has simply made forecasting bowls more difficult.
But therein lies one of many benefits to CFP expansion: The major bowls will feature full rosters.
Opting out of a playoff game could harm a player’s draft value by causing NFL teams to question his competitiveness.
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