Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.
It has long been held that the biggest impediment to Pac-12 success in the College Football Playoff is defensive line play. What options are out there for recruiting top talent at that position? Is opening new recruiting areas a consideration in Pac-12 expansion? — @jlahaye76
It is, and we can answer that question with three letters: S-M-U
The conference is seriously considering adding the Mustangs for a variety of reasons that include access to the Dallas market for media dollars and recruiting.
With regard to defensive linemen in particular, the Pac-12 clearly needs help. It’s an essential position but in limited supply within the conference footprint.
That’s not the case in Texas.
The Hotline tallied the number of blue-chip defensive line prospects (four- or five-star ratings) in both Texas and California over the past three recruiting cycles, according to the 247 Sports database.
The Lone Star State has produced 33 blue chippers, the Golden State just 12.
(And that number, like California’s water supply, appears to be shrinking.)
Granted, there is more competition for prospects in Texas than in California. But access to the marketplace through a campus in the heart of the DFW metroplex cannot hurt.
At least some university presidents are aware of the need to improve recruiting and — for that and other reasons — have become intrigued by the prospect of adding SMU.
With the money to be made from a 12-team playoff, do you think there is a chance for one regular season game to go away so there is less exposure to injury? — Jon Joseph
The player safety issue is central to any discussion about the length or structure of the season. So is revenue. And those forces are in constant conflict — in any major sport, pro or college — because more TV broadcasts usually translate to more media dollars.
I don’t see college football eliminating a regular-season game under any circumstances. The conferences would have to give back cash to their TV partners.
If anything changes, it will be the calendar: The regular season will move up one week and begin on what is now referred to as Week Zero.
In that scenario, every team would start the season on the final Saturday of August to create an extra week — an extra chance to rest — before the playoff begins in the middle of December.
And yes, that likely means training camp would start earlier, in late July.
Have any Big 12 teams delayed signing their grant-of-rights agreements? Wondering if there is any chance some could still flip to the Pac-12. — Justin Steele
I cannot confirm whether the Big 12 has signed its grant-of-rights deal, but I suspect the agreement has not been finalized.
After all, the conference hasn’t uttered an official peep about the new TV deal. All the late-October reports about the renewal of a deal with ESPN and Fox were based on anonymous sources.
If the agreement had been finalized with a grant-of-rights contract, surely the Big 12 would acknowledge as much.
So we wait … and wait.
Could the Big 12 schools be holding out for an offer from the Pac-12? While that seems highly unlikely, nothing would surprise us.
In realignment, nothing is done until it’s signed and sealed.
Will the Pac-12 include in the next media deal that announcers must be at the location of the event? It’s unreal that Fox didn’t send the announcers to several games this year. — @UACatManDo
This frustrates Pac-12 fans and campus officials alike, but I doubt the media companies would agree to such terms. They want control over the deployment of their own personnel.
You think Fresno State to the Big 12 is more likely than Fresno State to the Pac-12? — @lilcmac5
I do, indeed.
The Bulldogs are a better fit in the Big 12 institutionally and would help the conference gain a footprint in the Pacific Time Zone.
They bring access to a talent-rich region and a top-25 media market — if Sacramento is included in Fresno’s DMA — and they would create more Big 12 kickoff opportunities in the 7:30 p.m. (PT) window.
(Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark has made no secret of his desire for a West Coast campus.)
At the same time, the Hotline hasn’t sensed much momentum inside the Pac-12 for adding the Bulldogs. We see San Diego State as the priority among California schools.
If one or a collection of digital media companies (Apple, Amazon, Google) makes a significant media offer that includes the L.A. schools, can they stay in the Pac-12? Or are they legally committed to the Big Ten? — Shawn Kearney
Sure, they could. Any contract can be voided for the right price. But we don’t see it happening.
Nor do we envision Apple, Amazon, or Google agreeing to an above-market valuation for the Pac-12 unless the agreement is sweeping in nature — unless it extends beyond a sports distribution deal and involves business opportunities across the campuses.
Otherwise, any deal with Big Tech would be a market price and zero interest from USC and UCLA in reversing course.
If the conference arrives at expansion, do you think commissioner George Kliavkoff at least makes a phone call to Notre Dame? — Doug Ware
It would be a waste of time. The Irish aren’t joining a conference — for football — until Independence no longer works competitively or financially.
The CFP expansion format (six at-large slots) meets the competitive requirement, and the looming media deal with NBC should meet their revenue needs.
And when the Irish eventually park their football program in a conference, it will be the Big Ten.
When is the conference going to release the 2023 football schedule? — @awesomeshark789
I expect news on that front in the next few weeks but don’t have a firm date.
Do you think it’s easier to quickly build a good offense (compared to a good defense) through the transfer portal? Is it realistic to think that a mediocre defense can be transformed into an elite defense through the portal in one year? — Dave Hayashida
It’s easier to upgrade your offense because so much depends on a single position.
Find the right quarterback, and everything changes — we saw that with Washington (Michael Penix), Oregon (Bo Nix) and USC (Caleb Williams).
(The success each program experienced with transfer quarterbacks in 2022 will help the next time it hunts for a starter in the portal. Success begets success.)
Although edge rushers and cornerbacks have gained significance in this era, there is no equivalent to quarterback on defense. Upgrades across multiple positions are required to transform the unit.
Do you believe that Arizona State’s Facilities District is an unfair competitive advantage the Pac-12 should look at? ASU doesn’t have to fundraise for athletic facilities because they created a special taxing district. It comes across as unfair. — @17Readymade
There is nothing the Pac-12 can (or should) do. ASU has crafted a revenue stream that maximizes its resources and works for its business model.
It’s no different than Oregon taking advantage of its ties to Nike, or the L.A. schools using their geography for recruiting leverage.
Each campus has unique advantages and challenges. The conference office has no jurisdiction.
And no university president would dare attempt to legislate in that regard for fear that his/her own campus could be subject to the whims of others.
A better question is which schools have, and have not, maximized their resources? Which do less with more … and more with less?
Did chancellor Carol Christ and athletic director Jim Knowlton kill Cal football and basketball by pretending this was the 1960s rather than 2023? And if they can’t deal with the institutional roadblocks, why are they in their positions? — @alpha1906
You are not alone in thinking the administration is partly, if not largely responsible for the state of the Bears’ major sports.
There are a slew of issues, including the way COVID was handled, that created unique obstacles for Cal’s revenue producers.
And certainly, the Bears — like Stanford — are struggling to navigate the era of the transfer portal and name, image and likeness without sacrificing the institutional mission.
The struggle to define Cal’s athletic identity has existed for eons. At times, the Bears seem well-equipped for life in the Pac-12. At times, they seem better suited for the Ivy League.
The changing economic landscape has merely exacerbated the challenges.
Utah quarterback Cam Rising has (a leg) injury. What’s on the table for the Utes at the position next year? — @DrBTru
First, the Hotline has not received confirmation about the extent of the injury and whether it could impact Rising’s availability next season if he returns to school.
In the event he leaves for the NFL or won’t be ready to play in September, second-stringer Bryson Barnes presumably would compete with the other returnees
Or the Utes could find a first-rate talent in the transfer portal.
We should know more in the coming weeks with the Jan. 16 deadline for NFL Draft decisions. Rising’s future is near the top of the list of unanswered Pac-12 personnel questions.
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