The Hotline mailbag will be published each Friday through the college sports season. Please email questions to [email protected] or hit me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline. (In each case, include the tag #Hotmail, as an acknowledgment that you have authorized publication of your name and question.)
Thoughts on this Tweet from @dennisdoddcbs, particularly Cohen’s mention on this list?: Names to consider for Pac-12, UCF openings: Jen Cohen, UW AD; Andrea Williams, CFP COO; Gloria Nevarez, WCC commish; Nina King, Duke; Grace Calhoun, Penn AD. — @snovalleysports
If you’re asking whether Washington athletic director Jen Cohen is qualified for the position, the answer is: Yes, absolutely.
But that alone does not make her a potential candidate for the job. There are three other pieces to the calculation:
1. Do the Pac-12 presidents believe an athletic director — any athletic director — possesses the skill set necessary to thrive in the job as they envision it?
2. Would the Pac-12 presidents consider an athletic director currently working in the Pac-12?
3. Is Cohen interested?
The answer to No. 1 should be yes. (If not, that’s a problem.)
The answer to No. 2 isn’t known — there are internal politics to consider — but also should be yes.
The answer to No. 3 is, in our opinion, the chief hurdle to Cohen being a legitimate candidate.
Commissioners don’t work on campuses. As a result, they are detached from the daily interaction with athletes that, for many ADs — and Cohen is a prime example — provides a continual source of energy and inspiration.
The commissioner position is far more of a corporate job and, frankly, we aren’t sure if that appeals to Cohen.
The other piece is personal (and likely applies to many possible candidates): Would Cohen be willing to uproot her family?
The presidents have not settled on a location for the conference office — that’s an issue they want to resolve with the next commissioner.
Were Cohen to emerge as the preferred candidate, it’s entirely possible the presidents would be willing to move HQ to Seattle.
But that’s hardly a centralized location and, we suspect, there could be pushback from the Los Angeles and Arizona schools, in particular.
(Also, office space in metro Seattle, while less astronomical than downtown San Francisco, isn’t exactly cheap.)
If the best option for the collective is to keep the conference office in California, or move to Las Vegas, would Cohen, who has two kids, be willing to move?
We cannot offer insight into that matter, other than to say it’s one of several issues needing resolution in order for Cohen to become an actual candidate — as opposed to a media-created candidate — and illustrates the complex nature of the Pac-12’s hiring process.
Based on the pulse you may have from CEOs/presidents (and industry experts), how should the new commissioner be positioning the Pac-12 Network in the looming TV deal negotiations? What value, if any, remains or could be realized going forward? @BlairWillisUA
It might be easier to answer the second part first: As a longtime sports-media dealmaker once told me, networks are worth as much as the content under contract.
With that as the guide, the Pac-12 Networks are worth three years of the existing football and men’s basketball inventory — not that much in the grand scheme of sports-media rights.
The problem … check that: one problem … is the best football games are on ESPN and Fox, which have the top picks in the weekly selection process.
So the best inventory on the Pac-12 Networks is actually the second-tier inventory on a network with third-rate distribution.
(FYI: In a non-pandemic year, the Pac-12 Networks generate about $125 million in revenue. The SEC ‘Game of the Week’ package just sold to ESPN for $300+ million per year.)
What to do with the Pac-12 Networks beyond the expiration of their distribution contracts with Comcast, DISH, etc., in the summer of 2024, is far more complicated.
We have discussed the matter privately with industry experts for years. Most believe the business model is all wrong, but there is zero consensus on the strategy for the negotiating table.
— The Pac-12 could renegotiate its Tier 1 contracts and keep the networks as a conference-owned entity (which makes no sense).
— It could dissolve them entirely and hope there’s a market for the Olympic sports content.
— It could create its version of the SEC, Big Ten and ACC models, whereby the Pac-12 Networks were owned and operated by ESPN or Fox.
(You might recall that ESPN offered a few years ago to take control of distribution, and the Pac-12 declined.)
— Or it could pick Door No. 4, an alternative path that mixes and matches the above options.
Here’s what we know:
The next commissioner will take charge this summer and spend a year plotting a media strategy prior to the negotiations, which are set to begin in late 2022.
Then the conference will head to the table willing to listen to any and all options.
And then, in theory, it will make the best deal available — one that satisfies the equally-dire needs for revenue and exposure.
The problem is, those needs won’t necessarily align: The best financial deal could limit the audience, and vice versa.
That there is no consensus on the path forward — that there are such obvious shortcomings and desperate needs on multiple fronts — illustrate just how flawed the business model is.
The #PAC12 and #Big10 announced a scheduling agreement in 2012 but canceled it before it was enacted. Do you see this alliance as feasible going into the new tv negotiations? @kmasterman
To be clear: The Pac-12 backed out.
Our read on the matter at the time was that commissioner Larry Scott agreed to a deal before several schools were willing to make the commitment.
The Big Ten’s news release from July 13, 2012, supports that conclusion:
The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced Friday that they were scrapping plans to schedule games against each other in all sports, with Pac-12 officials saying there were too many complications with football schedules to pull it off.
The leagues had agreed to the partnership in December, well before a four-team football playoff set to begin in 2014 was approved by a committee of university presidents last month.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said the league recently learned from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott that coordinating a non-conference football schedule for 24 teams across two leagues by 2017 proved to be too difficult. Delany said those complications included the Pac-12’s nine-game conference schedule and previous non-conference commitments.
“A great effort was made by both conference staffs to create football schedules that would address the variety of complexities, but in the end, we were just not able to do so,” Delany said. “While everyone at the Big Ten is disappointed by the news, we look forward to continuing the historic partnership that we have with the Pac-12 and to working together on other matters in the future.”
(At the time, we were told Delany was furious the Pac-12 reneged.)
So here were are, nine years later, and a football scheduling alliance still makes loads of sense for the Pac-12 — but not with the Big Ten.
It should partner with the Big 12.
The conferences are close enough geographically (except West Virginia) to make it work logistically for the teams and the TV networks.
With the Big 12 occupying the Central Time Zone, the conferences could play quadruple-headers and cover all the Saturday broadcast windows, from 12 p.m. Eastern (11 a.m. on Big 12 campuses) to 10:30 p.m. Eastern (7:30 p.m. on Pac-12 campuses).
(If you’re interested in more, we wrote about the issue two years ago.)
Whether the Pac-12 media negotiations produce an alliance or not, it’s clear the conference must get creative with football inventory in order to maximize its media rights value.
Creative with opponents, with time/day of games, or with the broadcast partner … or all three.
As we have addressed previously, the Pac-12’s options could be less than ideal.
In contrast to the last media-rights contract cycle, it won’t be the first Power Five conference to the table: The SEC just doubled down with ESPN, and the Big Ten’s rights expire in 2023, one year before the Pac-12.
If the Big Ten forges a partnership with Fox similar to the SEC’s deal with ESPN, both cash and broadcast slots will be limited for the Pac-12.
Why was Utah able to back out of the basketball game they had previously agreed to play against ASU last Tuesday? And why did the league not step in to prevent this from happening? @brdpj
It certainly was an interesting process, with no specifics given by either school or the conference for the Feb. 2 postponement, which itself was a makeup game from a previous disruption.
Were COVID (cases or quarantines) the cause, that would have been made clear. Our educated guess is that Utah felt the schedule was unrealistic, even after giving prior approval.
The Utes played in Boulder on Jan. 30, a Saturday, and had a home date with Arizona on Feb. 4, a Thursday. Both were part of their original schedule.
To squeeze in a game in Tempe on Feb. 2, it seems, was a step they ultimately weren’t willing to take.
The conference is attempting to play as many games as possible as safely as possible, while accounting for the physical demand on the teams during the rescheduling process.
The players and coaches are being flexible, too.
Without that game, Utah is still scheduled to play 10 games in 30 days.
Meanwhile, ASU was supposed to play 11 in 30, until the latest spate of COVID-related postponements surfaced.
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Dan Carter was a reporter for nomad Labs, before becoming the lead editor. Dan has over forty bylines and has reported on countless stories concerning all things related to tech and science. Dan studied at CSUF.