Mailbag: The ‘Pac-2’ and the Big 12 and ACC, an alternative outcome for the Pac-12, the role of the UC regents and more

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

The Hotline mailbag publishes each Friday. Send questions to and include ‘mailbag’ in the subject line. Or hit me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline.

Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Any truth to the talk about other conferences using remaining ‘Pac-2’ assets as a reason to invite Oregon State and Washington State? — @CelestialMosh

Let’s split this question into two buckets: One that addresses the legal weeds, the other that tackles the realignment landscape.

The outgoing schools are concerned about this very issue, according to a conference source. It’s one reason the ‘Pac-10′ are loath to give Washington State and Oregon State full control of the Pac-12 board.

Specifically, the worry is that WSU and OSU would retain all the assets once the 10 leave next summer, then simply join another conference — just as the outbound schools are doing.

In other words, they would be no different than everyone else, save for the delayed timing of their announced move … and the millions they would pocket.

We believe the Cougars and Beavers are serious about using conference assets to rebuild the Pac-12 — to the extent there are substantial assets — but cannot claim to know every detail of their plans.

(The Hotline reported last week that the Pac-12’s emergency reserves have been effectively wiped out.)

More than anything, the two schools want control of their own fate, wherever that takes them.

With regard to using the assets as leverage for access into a new conference, let’s be clear: Washington State and Oregon State are not joining the ACC, and anyone who spends a single second reading, writing, pondering or believing that outcome is wasting their time. Ignore any “reports” suggesting that scenario.

The schools don’t fit in the ACC in any regard. The geographic hurdles that accompanied Stanford and Cal were offset by the schools’ academic reputations and broad-based athletic success, plus the Bay Area media market’s appeal to ESPN (for ACC Network subscribers).

The Cougars and Beavers simply don’t bring those elements.

You never say never in realignment, except in this case.

The same goes, to a slightly lesser extent, for the Big 12, which is quite content with its 16-school configuration.

WSU and OSU are better fits for the Big 12, but they don’t bring enough of any particular realignment component to make it worthwhile for the conference and its network partners, ESPN and Fox.

Put another way, there is zero chance of WSU and OSU joining the ACC and a 0.1 percent chance of them joining the Big 12 anytime soon.

Which leaves the inevitable pairing of the Mountain West and the ‘Pac-2’ schools.

The only unknowns at this point are the starting date of their partnership, the name of the conference and the scope of the membership. (Will it be all 12 MW schools or just the top football programs?)

The Pac-12’s assets could prove valuable in making the marriage work by helping offset the exit fees and transition expenses for MW schools.

But in our humble opinion, that’s the only endgame for WSU and OSU with regard to whatever cash remains in the Pac-12 coffers. The ACC and Big 12 are not viable alternatives.

Any progress on Washington State and Oregon State bringing in the Mountain West schools to create the Pac-12 (or Pac-14)? Would they try to recruit any other schools to come along? — @MarcSheehan006

Yes, other schools are possible — anything is possible. WSU and OSU are taking great care to consider all options.

They could 1) join the Mountain West, 2) welcome all the MW schools in a reverse merger or 3) combine with only the top-tier MW football programs to form an eight- or 10-team league.

While the Cougars and Beavers are exchanging ideas and assessing scheduling models, final decisions are on hold while the Pac-12 legal process unfolds.

The ‘Pac-2’ and ‘Pac-10′ are in mediation, and our hunch is the sides will reach a settlement before the Nov. 14 preliminary injunction hearing.

If the ‘Pac-2’ schools decide to go their own way for a couple years, how will people watch games? — @TWamsgans

We’re skeptical WSU and OSU could land any type of deal with a national media company, streaming, linear or otherwise.

The best bet: They strike deals with local TV stations to broadcast games on a statewide or regional basis in a manner that roughly resembles the Pac-12’s media contracts in the 1990s, when games not carried by Fox would appear on a local over-the-air TV station.

There’s one caveat, however: We don’t know what will become of the Pac-12 Networks starting next summer, when 10 schools leave and the distribution contracts expire.

If the Cougars and Beavers rebuild the conference, they could potentially use the networks’ infrastructure as a means of streaming their games.

Could the Pac-12 have pulled a Rod Tidwell (from the movie “Jerry Maguire”) after looking at the Apple contract and bet on itself by waiting until after the football season to negotiate a TV deal? Was that an option? — @brycetacoma

Yes, it was an option, and we addressed that very issue a few weeks ago.

Had the Pac-12 bet on itself and taken the media rights negotiations into the fall, the conference would have a slew of motivated buyers right now.

Of course, that strategy would have required more faith in commissioner George Kliavkoff, greater unity among the presidents and a larger appetite for risk by institutions of higher education that are inherently risk-averse.

If the negotiations were ongoing, the conference could have used Apple’s bid to drive up the price for ESPN, Fox and any other interested networks — not to Big Ten or SEC levels, of course, but into the mid-$30 million range annually (per school).

That would have secured the grant-of-rights signatures from all 10 schools.

Which unequal revenue distribution system is most likely to be adopted: Equal grant-of-rights sharing with all postseason football and basketball revenues being divided 50/50 with the winning school and conference? Or all postseason football and basketball revenue going to the winning school? — James Skinner

Revenue-sharing is inevitable in every power conference, although the process could take longer in some leagues than others. Ohio State, for example, will continue to share revenue with Rutgers for only so many years.

But as you mentioned, there are different forms.

Our sense is that more athletic directors view sharing from the center (the regular-season broadcast revenue) as a recipe for internal friction.

Instead, they favor sharing postseason revenue: If you earn it, you keep it.

The ACC is working to implement that very system. Others will follow.

If the University of California Board of Regents had ordered UCLA to stay in the Pac-12, would that have saved the conference? I can understand the regents’ decision only if UCLA’s financial situation was not salvageable without Big Ten money. — nelangland

We won’t debate whether the regents should have forced the Bruins to remain in the Pac-12. That’s a different issue entirely.

But had they directed UCLA to stay put, the Pac-12 absolutely would be alive and well right now, with a media deal that more than cleared the bar in annual revenue and media exposure.

Our best guess: The conference would have partnered with ESPN as the primary rights-holder and sold smaller packages to Fox and Amazon.

The total value would have been in the $35 million to $40 million range (per school per year).

Why does the Pac-12 still run promotional ads for football during games? It’s not like 10 teams will still be in the conference. Seems like they could pocket the money and save it for something else. — @Milkbear79

I can’t give you a specific answer but would guess the ads were cut prior to Black Friday, Aug. 4, the day the conference collapsed.

And once the ads were cut, there was no reason to keep them off the air. The Pac-12 Networks still have a duty to promote the conference and the schools — they are a marketing tool, after all.

Next year, will you rename the Pac-12 Hotline to the Pac2/ACC/Big12/BigTen Hotline? — @kmasterman

I haven’t finalized the details, which depend in part on what happens to Washington State and Oregon State.

But this much is certain: The Hotline will continue to cover the schools and the issues that matter to them, on the field and off, regardless of conference affiliation.

We aren’t going anywhere.

One of the Hotline’s continual goals is to help fans navigate the shifting, confusing world of major college sports (think: Virgil, who helps guide Dante through the Inferno and Purgatorio).

That role doesn’t change. In fact, it becomes more important.

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