The Hotline mailbag is published every week. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and include ‘mailbag’ in the subject line or hit me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline.
Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Should the Pac-12 set a fixed week for the Washington-Oregon matchup to maximize the exposure and allow the loser adequate time to recover in the rankings? — @RockDawg3
Before we dive into the timing of the game, let’s take a broader view of that fabulous rivalry.
In the post-USC edition of the Pac-12, the Oregon-Washington matchup will be the premier game on the schedule and should be treated that way.
Under former commissioner Larry Scott, the conference placed far too much emphasis on treating every school equally. Oregon State and Arizona State, for example, seemed to carry as much weight at the executive level as Washington and USC.
It was nonsense.
The SEC doesn’t treat South Carolina and Mississippi State the same as Alabama and LSU.
The Big Ten doesn’t treat Minnesota and Purdue the same as Ohio State and Michigan.
In a prosperous and thriving conference, the big brands lead. They lead in the boardroom and on the field. And it’s the commissioner’s job to manage the stakeholders and ensure harmony even though everyone knows where the clout lies.
Moving forward, the Pac-12 should lean into its strengths, and Oregon-Washington is the strength.
From that standpoint, the logistics seem clear:
— Give the teams a bye the week before the game.
The extra week would help with injuries — you want the teams at their best — and it would create two weeks of hype. The conference should take every opportunity to promote the coaches and players during the build-up.
— Schedule the rivalry for the final Saturday of October every year.
Any earlier, and it might lack relevance in the College Football Playoff race. Any later, and the losing team would not have time to get back in the CFP race.
Also, a mid-November slot would increase the chance of inclement weather.
Our final point on the date:
To the greatest extent possible, the Pac-12 should avoid conflicts with major matchups across the Power Five in order to give Oregon-Washington the best chance for a primetime broadcast window (and possibly a visit from ESPN’s GameDay).
Unfortunately, we don’t have insight into the long-haul scheduling plans in the SEC and Big Ten, other than one game: The Alabama-LSU matchup is always the first Saturday in November, and both teams are given two weeks to prepare.
Slotting the Oregon-UW duel in late October would avoid a direct conflict with the SEC’s marquee game and help clear the competitive deck because Alabama and LSU are idle that weekend.
— Lastly, the conference should take care to avoid giving the Huskies and Ducks a marquee game the following week.
It’s impossible to predict season trajectories and game outcomes, of course. But there is no reason (none, zero, zip) for the Huskies or Ducks to face Utah the week after their showdown. That doesn’t make sense for anyone.
And speaking of sense, we are focused on the common form:
Don’t treat every game equally.
Lean into the most valuable programs and matchups.
Elevate the Oregon-Washington rivalry, and don’t be shy about it.
Based on public comments and your podcast (‘Canzano and Wilner’), I firmly believe the Pac-12’s media deal is all but signed. So is the Colorado smoke coming from Colorado because the school wants to leverage something? Or is it more from the Big 12? — @hereforsportUoU
Two things can be equally true and, in the Hotline’s opinion, are equally true:
— Colorado, Utah, Arizona and ASU much prefer to remain in the Pac-12.
— The four schools must perform their due diligence, and keep their options open, in case commissioner George Kliavkoff presents an untenable media rights deal.
We have no doubt the Buffaloes have met with Big 12 representatives. In that regard, the media narrative is more than smoke.
But meeting with Big 12 representatives and preferring the Big 12 are two different things. From that standpoint, much of what you hear and read is smoke.
Chancellor Phil DiStefano said earlier this spring that he was content to wait for Kliavkoff to present the schools with an offer. We have no reason to believe his view has changed.
If the offer is reasonable, the Buffaloes will remain in the conference. If not, they will leave. And that’s true for other schools, as well.
The Hotline continues to expect a reasonable offer.
That said, nothing is certain until the schools sign on the bottom line.
What will be the process for determining the amounts given to those Pac-12 schools that qualify for the College Football Playoff starting in 2024? — @Al_Avina
The revenue-sharing discussion has been ongoing, and we fully expect the signed grant-of-rights to include a participation-based financial model.
Will teams receive 50 percent of the College Football Playoff money allocated to the conference, or 25 percent? Will the percentage decrease by round, as the pot of cash increases? We don’t have insight into the specifics.
But the Hotline recently published an analysis of this issue that included the following:
— A pot of $250 million allocated to each round of the playoff, divided by the number of teams in each round.
— If a team reaches the quarterfinals, its conference would collect $31.25 million. Advance to the semifinals, and the amount would climb to $62.5 million.
— The Pac-12 should assign 50 percent of the total earned each round to the participating team.
That model would reward schools for winning the conference and help them close the revenue gap with the SEC and Big Ten, and it would incentivize others to invest.
If — and I do mean if — the Pac-12 implodes, Oregon State and Washington State, in particular, are going to be in a really tough financial spot. If the Mountain West is where they go, those media payouts are drastically reduced. Are there better options for them in other conferences? — @Cargoman0363
For Washington State and Oregon State, conference affiliation is tied to their in-state rivals.
As long as Washington and Oregon are committed to the Pac-12, or a reconfigured version of the Pac-12, the Cougars and Beavers will be fine.
At this point, the Huskies and Ducks appear locked in.
If that changes, we will address the specific options for WSU and OSU.
Are you surprised the Big Ten’s reported vetting of schools included Utah but not Colorado or the Arizonas? — @MatthewKreuter
I haven’t seen the report but would urge you to ignore that issue. The Big Ten has no plans to expand again in the short term and certainly would not seriously consider adding any of the Four Corners schools anytime soon.
Is there a future scenario in which Utah has the option to move into an expanded Big Ten? Perhaps, but not until the 2030s.
(In order to position themselves for consideration, the Utes must elevate their football brand, and there is one way to accomplish that goal: regular participation in the playoff. That is much easier in a Pac-12 without USC than in a 16-team Big 12.)
Our broad view of the realignment landscape remains unchanged: The next target for the Big Ten and its media partner, Fox, is the state of Florida.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the reason the Pac-12 didn’t have or couldn’t have a championship game was because the minimum requirement was 12 teams? What happens to the championship game if the conference has less than 12 teams? — @smoothface6285
The conference created the championship game when it added Colorado and Utah and split into divisions more than a decade ago. However, the NCAA has changed the requirements.
Conferences can stage title games without divisions and without 12 teams.
The Big 12, for example, has been a 10-team league for years and has a championship game.
If the Pac-12 moves forward with 10 (i.e., no expansion), it will continue to host a title game.
I’m late to the party but, what are the advantages of negotiating a media rights agreement after the other Power Five leagues have already done so? — @nickbeatty72
Kliavkoff believes the Pac-12’s status as the only Power Five conference with football inventory available between now and the 2030s has tilted the supply-demand calculation in his favor.
We know the demand for live sports continues to soar and that college football is one of the most popular sports.
The Pac-12 has several of the nation’s biggest media markets and a valuable broadcast window (7:30 p.m. Pacific) that no other conference can fill on a weekly basis.
Is Kliavkoff’s assessment correct? We should know soon.
If you had to guess when the Pac-12 gets the media deal done, when is it? — @Ian115798211
That depends on how you define “done,” because the Hotline believes there is a distinct possibility the conference finalizes the framework of a deal well before it announces the deal.
If you want a deadline for everything, I’d offer July 21: The date of the Pac-12’s preseason media showcase in Las Vegas.
The event is intended to promote the teams, coaches and players ahead of the most anticipated season in memory.
If there’s no media deal in place, the existential crisis will dominate the coverage.
I am a vigorous college football consumer. When the Pac-12 and all current TV deals are set, how much will it cost to access the maximum number of games at home on my TV? — @MercPurdy
I cannot offer a reasonable guess, unfortunately.
The cost will depend on ESPN’s monthly price once it becomes a streaming service in a few years — and how the cable distributors (Comcast, etc.) respond with their subscription fees and bundle configurations.
To view all the major conferences, consumers might need separate streaming subscriptions to ESPN, Peacock (NBC), Paramount (CBS), Amazon/Apple and cable (Fox and ABC).
Only a small percentage of fans will pay for everything.
In what time slot would you like to see the Pac-12’s premier game of the week? — @benmillerMKE
The unrealistic answer: The same time.
A fixed slot each Saturday for the marquee matchup — whether it’s 12 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. or anything in between — would be ideal for the Hotline’s content-production schedule.
But as we all know, the premier matchup will undoubtedly shift from week to week, depending on which network owns the No. 1 selection and which broadcast windows are available.
Kliavkoff has spoken of creating a flex-scheduling component in the media rights contract that would give the conference some control over the timing of marquee matchups.
Of course, schedule control and network cash move inversely. Can Kliavkoff meet his objective at a price point that satisfies revenue needs?
It’s one of many fascinating aspects of the media rights saga.