Pac-12 and Big Ten Strategic Collaboration: What Does It Mean For Hoops Heads?

Posted by AMurawa on December 31st, 2011

In the excitement over the start of the Pac-12 basketball season, we’ve neglected thus far to mention the announcement Wednesday of a new “strategic collaboration” between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten. Included in this agreement are plans for more games between teams in the two conferences, beginning as early as next season for most sports, with a 12-game inter-conference schedule in football planned for 2017. For hoops, we should begin to see more games between the two conferences beginning next year, with possible special events, such as a college football kickoff event at a pro stadium, or basketball events played at NBA stadiums, to be announced at a later date. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany also look forward to being able to expand without expanding, to grow the reaches of their respective conferences into new regions and use the two cable networks – the already excelling Big Ten network and the Pac-12 network to come next year – to expand the branding of each conference.

larry scott

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott And His Big Ten Counterpart Jim Delany Have Come Up With A Creative Plan To Increase The Visibility Of Both Leagues (photo credit: Kirby Lee, U.S. Presswire)

Focusing just on the hoops side of things, knowing that the Big Ten already has the Big Ten/ACC Challenge that isn’t going anywhere, we likely shouldn’t expect to see a similar Big Ten/Pac-12 event, but there are plenty of ideas that would be appealing. Aside from the mere prospects of home-and-home series’ between teams like Washington and Wisconsin or Arizona and Michigan State, fans in out of the way places like Pullman or Lincoln can now hope to be able to wind up with elite programs making a visit to their campus – imagine UCLA at Nebraska or Ohio State at Washington State, the types of road trips that likely wouldn’t have happened prior to this agreement. Aside from that, perhaps we get some of these early season special events, things like a couple Pac-12 teams traveling to Indianapolis for a double-header with Indiana and Purdue or the opposite, perhaps, where the Big 12 sends a couple teams to Portland for a double header with Oregon and Oregon State. Delany even mentioned that such games could be used to help college basketball come up with a more definitive season-opening event, akin to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 12.13.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on December 13th, 2011

  1. There was a time when the Pac-10 conference was right there with the Big Ten in a race for the most conservative conference in college sports. But since Larry Scott took over as the conference commissioner in the summer of 2009, much of that has changed. Aside from expanding to 12 teams and twice almost jumping to 16 members, Scott has helped the conference ink a huge new television deal and has been working tirelessly to expand the conference’s brand. To that end, on Sunday Scott boarded a jet to work on expanding the Pac-12’s reach, this time to China. While Scott’s exact plans remain to be seen, there is talk of eventually playing regular season games on the other side of the Pacific, although that prospect seems quite far away. Literally.
  2. This past weekend had the sports world buzzing about college basketball with the Indiana/Kentucky finish leading the way, but the unfortunate events in Cincinnati created a stir as well. As the former coach of one of the teams involved in that brawl in the Queen City, Arizona head coach Sean Miller was asked to comment on his former team and he said (among other things), “if Cincinnati tries to do what they did, they’re going to get a fight, so I’m proud of those guys. They have a chance to win it all. It’s just such a great story. I’m really proud of those guys and I watch them any time that I can. No one’s going to bully those guys.” After taking plenty of flak for those comments, Miller tried to clarify their tone, noting that he was responding “to a question as to whether I have been following” Xavier and that he was in no way condoning a fight, merely mentioning his “belief in several players that I once coached and a head coach, Chris Mack, that I have great respect for.”
  3. Up in Seattle, Washington fans are trying to wrap their minds around a 4-4 start, and with freshman guard Tony Wroten’s recent success, one commenter makes the argument that Wroten needs to be the starting point guard in lieu of Abdul Gaddy. Despite Wroten’s struggles shooting and his carelessness with the ball, Husky fans see all that talent and want to plug him in right away. Nevertheless, despite his obvious physical skills, he is still creating more opportunities for himself than for his teammates, turns the ball over more than he dishes out assists, and even his ability to get to the line on cue is diminished by an inability to hit free throws when he gets there. Until Wroten can patch up some of the obvious holes in his game, expect the quieter but more effective Gaddy to continue to lead this team.
  4. Aziz N’Diaye’s sprained right knee, suffered early in the second half of Washington’s loss to Duke on Saturday, is the other big story around the Husky program, and the news on Monday was as good as could have been hoped for. While N’Diaye is expected to miss the team’s next three games, he is hoping to be able to return in time for the conference opener against Oregon State on December 29. N’Diaye missed the entire 2009-10 season with a torn ACL, so it was a great relief when the results of the MRI on Monday showed no tears or serious structural damage to the joint.
  5. Lastly, we here have tried to be pretty fair when it comes to this year’s Utah team. Yes, that’s a bad basketball team, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak came into a bad situation with little returning talent and no time to bring in players who could make a serious impact. Throw in a few untimely injuries and the Utes are well on their way to being a historically bad team. At a school like Utah with a proud basketball tradition, that’s just not going to fly, as Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune goes out of his way to show. Monson lays the blame for the current Ute struggles squarely at the feet of athletic director Chris Hill for botching consecutive hires – Ray Giacoletti and Jim Boylen – but gives Hill credit for taking accountability for the mess that Utah basketball is in.
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Morning Five: 05.04.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 4th, 2011

  1. Chalk this one up as weird, but one of Gonzaga’s returning players, Demetri “Meech” Goodson, is giving up his senior season in Spokane to transfer back home to play… football?  You read that correctly.  The junior guard from Spring, Texas, and younger brother of Carolina Panther running back Mike Goodson, will have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining upon his arrival on an undetermined campus (likely Texas A&M) next season.  Goodson started all of Gonzaga’s 35 games last year, but he’s consistently struggled with shooting the ball and his departure will represent the seventh Zag transferring out of Mark Few’s program in the last two years.  Everyone of course remembers Greg Paulus’ one-year stint as the quarterback at Syracuse after a four-year basketball career at Duke, but it’s not often that you see a player transfer to play a different sport midstream through their career (it helps that GU doesn’t have a football team).
  2. As everyone is well aware, the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline is next Sunday, so decisions from players on the fence will be trickling out all week.  Two players Tuesday announced that they would be staying in the June draft despite currently facing a second round (if any) projection.  Louisville forward Terrence Jennings and Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert must have coaches at both schools shaking their heads, as neither appears to be a first round lock even in a weak draft.  Shumpert was second team all-ACC last year, going for 17/6/4 APG in a dreadful Yellow Jackets season, but Jennings in particular is an interesting case. His collegiate numbers of 10/5 last season were not exactly dominant in the Big East, but he says that he’s getting good feedback from scouts and thinks that the NBA will have a place for him.  This has been a tough week all around for Rick Pitino, as he not only learned that Jennings was officially leaving school, but elite 2012 recruit Rodney Purvis rescinded his verbal commitment to the Cards on Monday.
  3. New Pac-10, er, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott must know how to turn water to wine in light of news breaking on Tuesday that his conference has inked the most lucrative television deal in college sports history with Fox and ESPN for twelve years beginning in 2012-13.  The twelve western schools (now including Colorado and Utah) will average approximately a quarter-billion dollar payout every year over the life of the deal, out-distancing the recent Big Ten ($220M), SEC ($205M), ACC ($155M) and Big 12 ($130M) mega-deals.  The league will also go the Big Ten route with its own Pac-12 Network, and the rest of the games will be split between the two other national networks — now that ESPN will be showing Pac-12 basketball four days a week in addition to all of its other commitments, we wonder if there are plans for a few more ESPN channels.  There simply isn’t enough space on the existing family of networks to cover everything they have in the stable.  You might be wondering how Scott pulled this off given that many national viewers never see a Pac-10/12 football or basketball game all season long — the answer is in the numbers.  Eight of the top twenty-seven US media markets are within the Pac-12 regional footprint, the best such aggregate total in the nation (we shudder to imagine if Scott had pulled off getting Texas too!).
  4. Taking a page from the “pro day” that some major football programs have held in the past for their professional prospects, Kentucky held a similarly-styled event for its three early entries Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins, in addition to graduating senior Josh Harrellson.  All thirty NBA teams were invited to the event to have an opportunity to observe the UK players going through workouts at least once prior to the deadline on Sunday, and a good number of those showed up for at least one of the two sessions this week.  Knight told a reporter that he was still at “50/50″ on a final decision, but he is expected to leave; Liggins, on the other hand, is expected back next season, while Jones’ decision will no doubt be predictably unpredictable (see: his recruitment).
  5. Tennessee forward/impresario Renaldo Woolridge was feeling particularly patriotic on Sunday night after the news about Osama bin Laden’s capture was released, so the junior who only scored 13 points in eight games last year did what he does best — he wrote and produced a new rap video.  “Thank You (USA Troops)” was released Monday afternoon, and as Mike DeCourcy points out, the line packing a punch comes at the 2:20 mark: Almost 10 years/feeling kinda alone/But the fact is/Osama is gone.  Full video below.

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Conference Tournament Daily Diary: Thursday

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 11th, 2011

RTC is pleased to announce that we’ll be covering all of the major conference tournaments this year — the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and SEC — in addition to the strongest two high-middies, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West.  Each day for the rest of this week, we’re asking our correspondents to provide us with a Daily Diary of the sights and sounds from the arena at each site.  Equal parts game analysis and opinion, the hope is that this will go beyond the tiresome game recaps you can find elsewhere and give you an insightful look into Championship Week.  Today’s coverage:  ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West & Pac-10.

ACC Tournament – by Kellen Carpenter

  • Miami-Virginia.  This was a truly bizarre game that I’m still not sure makes any sense.  Greensboro Coliseum was surprisingly packed for a 12 pm game between the 8 and 9 seed. Both teams boasted sizable and vocal fanbases who were each treated to a game of runs. Miami jumped out ahead, leading by six at the half, and then one of the weirdest second halves I have ever seen happened. Miami only scored eight points over the first 18 minutes of the second half. Virginia, rallying strongly, jumped out to a 50-39 lead with 2:15 left on the clock. Then Miami went nuts.  No, really. I’m still not sure what happened. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy by a series of weird, truly improbably events. Miami cut the eleven point deficit and forced an overtime which the Hurricanes suddenly dominated and walked away with a truly unexpected win. For a the first game of the ACC Tournament, it was not just a dinger, but a hum-dinger. Whenever you can get a crowd of Floridians and Virginians to scream their heads off in the early afternoon in North Carolina, you’ve put on quite a show. Beyond that, nothing about this game mattered.
  • Wake-BC.  After the drama of the Miami and Virginia game, any game with a team that had only managed to win one ACC game over the course of the season was bound to be a letdown. What was surprising to me, was the letdown in crowd energy. Winston-Salem, home of Wake’s campus, is a mere 20 minutes away, yet it seemed like the Demon Deacons had fewer fans present than Miami. Boston College had a very small and quiet contingent who seemed happy to quietly watch as the Eagles just took apart Wake. It really wasn’t much of a game, with the hyper-efficient Boston College offense firing on all cylinders (well, excepting the Raji cylinder). Reggie Jackson scored 27 points on 13 shots. Joe Trapani scored 22 points on 12 shots.  Nicholas Biko scored 21 points on 12 shots. Wake Forest’s porous defense could do little to stop them, and their impotence on the offensive end doomed them. Freshman Travis McKie was a bright spot, going 6-8 in the first half while the rest of his team struggled. But, for some stupefying reason, McKie only got two shots in the second half, one of these being a put-back dunk of his own manufacture. If there is a silver lining to that second half, it’s the fact that Wake actually managed to outscore BC, 36-34. Sadly, this was clearly not enough to make up for the 16 point deficit incurred in the first half. My favorite part of this game, was clearly the few, loud Wake Forest fans sitting directly behind me. One woman seemed particularly keen on trying to coach Travis McKie’s admittedly poor free throw shooting (2-5). Every time he got to the line she would yell “Bend your knees! Follow through!” If only he had listened? The season is mercifully over for Wake, and BC will get it’s chance at tougher competition tomorrow when they take on Clemson.
  • NC State-Maryland.  There were, as you might expect, an alarming number of loud, red-wearing people at this game. Maryland jumped out to an early lead which energized/enraged these loud, red-wearing fans. In response, the N.C. State band played Cee-Lo’s “Eff You,” which, when you think about it, is a perfect pep band song: catchy and insulting to the other team, while the lack of singing effectively makes it family friendly. Well-played, Wolf Pack band. That said, the pep band arrangement of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song was pretty excellent as well. And if the bands played with flair, the teams did too. There was more speed, athleticism, and acrobatic drives on display in this game than in the first two games combined. Cross-overs, spin moves, and behind the back dribbles on the fast break had the crowd frequently on its collective feet. Does Tracy Smith have the MVB (Most Valuable Beard) of this tournament? It’s hard to see anyone overtaking him. Maryland looked in command the whole game, but since Miami’s Miracle, there was a palpable nervousness in the crowd until the buzzer finally went off.
  • Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech. Virginia Tech controlled this game from the start and once it became clear that Georgia Tech could never catch up, the crowd that had gathered for the previous game started to vanish. Virginia Tech’s fans were consistently loud and even when the Hokies’ lead exceeded twenty, the fans took every call against them as if the game depended on it. Meanwhile, the Georgia Tech fans seemed resigned to his fate. Georgia Tech never managed to score more than a point per minute in the first half. It was one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen in a tournament setting, and remember, I watched the Wake Forest game earlier today. Virginia Tech played well enough, but I couldn’t help but be concerned about the minutes that the starters were playing. Malcolm Delaney played 39 minutes despite the massive lead VT held throughout. He only sat for the final minute of the game and that was after he had taken a needless hard foul. You have to wonder how such long minutes on consecutive days are going to affect the Hokies hopes of going deep into this tournament. Well, you don’t have to worry, but I would.

Big East Tournament – by Rob Dauster

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Morning Five: 11.01.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 1st, 2010

  1. Now that Halloween is over and done with (best costume we saw this weekend? definitely the couple who dressed up as the scene in American Gothic; well, that, or the random yet very sexy squirrel we saw walking around), we can officially say that we’ve moved into the college basketball season.  November 1 is a sort-of de facto calendar line where many slightly-more-casual fans around the country wake up and realize, “shoot, we have a game next week.”  We’ve been coming strong throughout the month of October with our season preview materials, and we still have a few more up our sleeves this week, but man we’re definitely ready for some game action.  Next Monday night cannot come quickly enough.
  2. Is the most hated man in professional basketball actually helping the South Florida schools, particularly Miami (FL), with their recruiting?  This article by Fanhouse suggests that LeBron James may be, although there’s been no direct evidence of it yet.  There was considerable buzz when King James went over to Coral Gables to play pickup ball on campus back in August, and the revered superstar (among South Floridians at least) showed up in no fewer than four photos in the team’s 2010-11 media guide this year.  Whether it will work for Frank Haith’s program remains to be seen, but there’s no question that the Hurricanes, looking for any possible advantage in a league full of heavyweights, are trying to leverage it.
  3. In a move we’re having trouble figuring out, the Pac-10 announced that it would be combining its men’s and women’s postseason tournaments in coming years, beginning in 2011 at the Staples Center.  Although our initial thought drifted toward some absurd hybrid of the three-ball competition at NBA All-Star Weekend, we immediately wondered how merging the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament into a single venue would actually increase fan interest?  Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott has done a solid job at marketing his oft-staid league in his six months on the job, but we’re not sure he realizes that putting a gimmicky thing together like this could actually disincentivize fans who are only interested in one sport (men’s), not the other (women’s).  In other news, the World Series, facing flagging television ratings as result of the Yankees or Red Sox not being involved this year, is looking into tagging along its Game Five tonight with Monday Night Football’s matchup between the Colts and Texans.
  4. There have been some open doubting Thomases around here with respect to the AP/Coaches poll rankings that UNC has received in the past week (#8/#9).  And with good reason — the Heels simply weren’t very good last year, and they lost their top three returning scorers.  Does the addition of super-frosh Harrison Barnes mean that suddenly Roy Williams’ team is not just better, but top 10 good?  Seth Davis spent some time in Chapel Hill last week watching practice and he came away from the experience believing that the Heels will indeed be as good as Barnes makes them.  Honestly, we’re thinking a fair comparison might be the Kevin Durant Texas team of 2006-07 — Durant was amazing, but that team was simply way too young and inexperienced to do much in March (they lost to USC in the Second Round).
  5. Some exhibition nonsense for your consideration over the weekend: #9 Florida 92, Florida Tech 58 (Kenny Boynton had 24 pts on 10-15 FG); #17 Butler 90, Florida Southern 70 (Matt Howard had 19/7); Louisville 83, Northern Kentucky 66 (UL opened its new KFC/Yum Center with newly-eligible Gorgui Dieng’s 14/11); Pittsburgh 104, Northwood 62 (Ashton Gibbs had 25 pts).  It seems like every year some ranked team ends up losing one of these games — wonder who it will be this year?
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Morning Five: Columbus Day Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 11th, 2010

  1. As you know from last week’s news, Baylor guard LaceDarius Dunn was arrested for felony assault charges against his girlfriend, Lacharlesla Edwards, even though she later came out to say that she would not cooperate with authorities if they move forward with prosecuting him.  The university then made the next logical move to suspend Dunn from classes, as they typically do with any student charged with a felony.  As Gary Parrish wrote on Friday, no matter what blunt force Edwards (and her dad) say made impact with her jaw, it may not be enough to shield Dunn from legal redress and Baylor from losing out on what could have been another tremendous season.  One Texas columnist, however, doesn’t believe that Baylor will have the stones to make the correct decision here — pointing out that UNLV’s Tre’Von Willis  faces a mere three-game suspension for allegedly choking a woman last summer.  An interesting wrinkle in the Dunn situation is that ultimately the school president will have to make the call on whether he ever sees time in a green/gold uniform again… and who is the new Baylor president?  None other than Ken Starr, the former independent counsel/investigator of President Bill Clinton who uncovered the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and someone certainly no stranger to controversy or afraid of making unpopular decisions.
  2. You may have missed the news on Friday afternoon, but UConn announced its self-imposed sanctions relating to the Josh Nochimson/Nate Miles scandal from a couple of years ago, and the general consensus around the web is that a two-year probation involving a loss of one scholarship each year will not satisfy the NCAA.  UConn choosing to stand behind its two-time national championship coach is unsurprising given the stakes, but ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil gets to the heart of the matter in her scathing characterization of Calhoun as simply another modern-day Sgt. Schulz (that’s a Hogan’s Heroes reference for our younger readers).
  3. Pac-10 Commish Larry Scott says that a decision about how the league plans to divide into two divisions should be forthcoming very soon (perhaps by the end of this month).  The question of whether to divide the four California schools up (Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC) or keep them together has created considerable wrangling as both the top traditional basketball and football draws reside in Los Angeles.  There’s also the issue as to whether a division format would work in basketball as the SEC has utilized for the last two decades; or whether a model like the ACC where basketball comprises a single twelve-team league would work better.
  4. That didn’t take long.  Kentucky head coach John Calipari is already making attempts to temper expectations about the 2010-11 version of his Wildcats.  He’d better, as even if UK manages to get lottery pick Enes Kanter eligible, the losses of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and the guy everyone forgets, Patrick Patterson, will be more than the additions of Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and company can make up for.
  5. The common adage is that Times Square in Manhattan is the crossroads of the world, and that very well may be true; but the people who started that phrase certainly weren’t talking about the Manhattan (Kansas) that Frank Martin currently resides in.  Thanks to some new direct flights out of the small Kansas airport that connects central Kansas to Dallas and Chicago, the K-State coaches can finally overcome the perception that their Manhattan is just short of impossible to get to.  In the past, coaches typically had to drive two hours east to get to the Kansas City airport, but now they can fly their recruits directly into Manhattan, which makes for a huge recruiting advantage especially when you don’t have to endure the ignominy of driving them right past Lawrence (home of KU) on the way there.
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Morning Five: 09.13.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 13th, 2010

  1. We can’t prove it statistically, but anecdotally it seems like every year at the start of the fall semester players just can’t help themselves from getting into all kinds of trouble.  Wake Forest’s Tony Woods is the latest knucklehead, as the 6’11, 250-lb. center was arrested late last week on charges of assault inflicting serious injury, assault on a female and assault with a minor present (his 1-year old child).  According to the official statement from his girlfriend/victim, he allegedly pushed and kicked her on Labor Day, resulting in a fractured spine and a probable loss of his freedom if these claims are substantiated.  Woods was once a highly-regarded (top 25) recruit of whom great things were expected, but he’s been relatively slow on the uptake, averaging only 5/3 in thirteen minutes per game last (sophomore) season.  If these allegations are true, he’s slow in more ways than one, and we hope he doesn’t see a junior or senior campaign at Wake or anywhere else.
  2. St. Mary’s is set to add a key transfer piece to its backcourt, as sources tell us that SMU transfer Paul McCoy is enrolled and already taking classes at the tiny school in Moraga, California.  The 5’11 guard from Portland was an all-CUSA freshman two seasons ago, averaging 13/4/3 APG as a full-time starter, but tore his ACL in February last season and missed the remainder of his sophomore year.  McCoy will be eligible to play in 2011-12, conveniently exactly when SMC will need a seasoned point guard to take over for the departing starter, Mickey McConnell.
  3. According to Commissioner Larry Scott, the Pac-10 does not expect Colorado to join Utah in its new twelve-team configuration for the 2011-12 academic year due to financial considerations.  He gave the possibility a less than 50/50 chance, but said that if the league has eleven teams next year, they will retain the name Pac-10 until the twelfth team, CU, shows up in 2012-13.  One other interesting note from this article: much like the Big Ten, the league does not anticipate a split into two divisions in sports other than football.
  4. As we wrote about on Friday night when the news hit, Tennessee announced self-imposed sanctions on its basketball program, including specific restrictions on Bruce Pearl and his top assistants leaving campus to recruit and sizable givebacks (~$2M) from their salaries.  The issue, of course, wasn’t as much the illegality of numerous phone calls to recruits as much as the fact that Pearl  lied to NCAA investigators about something during the investigation.  As Michael Rosenberg discusses in his article, that’s a serious transgression that could have gotten many less successful coaches fired.  Pearl appears that he will survive, and two players in his 2011 recruiting class — Chris Jones and Kevin Ware — have already re-affirmed their commitments. This is understandable given they’re already sold on the program; the concern for UT fans will be what impact having Pearl out-of-sight/out-of-mind on the recruiting trail during the next year might bring.  And then there’s the question of whether these sanctions could satisfy the NCAA — according to Gary Parrish, it could actually get worse.
  5. For what it’s worth, at least one head coach (and undoubtedly many others) has no sympathy for Pearl’s current plight, especially given that he dropped dime on Illinois twenty years ago over the recruitment of hotshot high schooler Deon Thomas.  In the late 1980s, recently retired Illinois-Chicago head coach Jimmy Collins was an assistant for Lou Henson’s Illini, and it was he who bore the brunt of Pearl’s allegations with the NCAA.  Even though Collins was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, he remained stigmatized by the incident, and he felt that Pearl’s holier-than-thou attitude was irresponsible and baseless.  We’re certain that Collins watched Pearl’s mea culpa (below) with a certain amount of satisfaction.

<a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/video?vid=e71e3e3c-fce5-40e8-985a-ea8c8be4ec01" target="_new" title="">Fire alarm doesn&#8217;t faze Pearl</a>

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Pac-10 Officially Rebrands Itself – A Nation Yawns

Posted by rtmsf on July 27th, 2010

The Pac-10 today formally announced several wholesale changes to its league at its annual football media days held in New York City this year.  You read that right — New York City – a mere 2,400 miles from its nearest current institution.  Attempting to rebrand itself after its June power grab of two additional schools who will begin conference play in 2011 (Colorado and Utah), Commissioner Larry Scott (a New Yorker himself) brought the league to the east coast in an outreach effort not seen in those parts since Oregon’s unsuccessful effort to market QB Joey Harrington as Joey Heisman on a 100-foot NYC billboard in 2001

It Takes More than Marketing

Does marketing a west coast league with predominantly west coast players who cater to west coast fans in the media capital of the world have any effect on the national conversation about the Pac-10?  Maybe if we were talking about the Lakers, but otherwise, probably not.  We submit that this is a largely symbolic move by Scott to signal to his constituents that he’s willing to try somewhat unconventional methods to further market the league and reach new fans.  He said as much in his comments today:

It seemed to be a bit of an excuse and that the Pac-10 in my estimation was very laid back and passive in terms of how it went about telling its story and promoting itself.  To me the disconnect was people worried about that but they were not really doing much about it.

The league has been solid if not spectacular in football over the past five years, and a couple of tremendous basketball seasons in 2008 and 2009 was followed up with an epic stinker last year.  Given the three-hour time difference, the league will always have an inherent disadvantage against early-to-bed types in the east, but there are fans of both sports everywhere who will tune in if there is a product on the field or court worth watching.  The Pac-10’s television contract is set to expire next year, and one of the major hurdles for Scott and his crew will be to figure out how to handle the Fox Sports Net problem.  FSN is the primary television broadcaster for Pac-10 sports, yet in many localities, the NBA or MLB or NHL will pre-empt Pac-10 out of area broadcasts.  A big weeknight game between Arizona and UCLA may only be visible to half of the country, with the result being that even if people wanted to watch it in New York, they might not be able to do so.

New Logo Featuring Mountains and Sea

Unless your name is King James, however, focused marketing usually helps, and Scott seems intent on maximizing the league brand prior to those television contract negotiations next year.  Some of the re-branding changes:

  • Starting next year, with Colorado and Utah on board, the league will be “mathematically correct” in calling itself the Pac-12.  It doesn’t roll off the tongue, but we do appreciate the attention to the laws of arithmetic in taking shots at the soon-to-be twelve-team Big Ten and ten-team Big 12.  We’re crossing our fingers that they’ve thought through the natural consequence that everyone is going to start calling the league the “12-Pac” now, though.  
  • The conference has a new, modern logo (see above) that features the natural beauty and outdoorsy lifestyle that the region is known for.  The old one seemed like something out of the 60s, and what was that thing behind the Pac?  The sun? 
  • A re-designed website that will feature streaming video called the Pac-10 Digital Network, including this marketing video that sorta scared us with its intensity

Of course, without a quality product and the ability to get it aired nationally from coast to coast, all of this is mere window dressing.  Props to Larry Scott for recognizing that the viability of his league will require some creative thinking and a proactive approach, but next year’s television deal is where the water will hit the sand.   Otherwise, those east coasters and midwesterners who already don’t care will continue to not care, and even with the West Coast adding people hand over fist, it alone still only represents about one-fifth of Americans. 

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Morning Five: 06.14.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 14th, 2010

  1. Tom Izzo update — shockingly, the Michigan State coach is still considering the Cleveland Cavaliers job, but a report that surfaced late Sunday night stated that LeBron James would be behind the Izzo hiring.  What’s less clear is whether that means James would support the hire as a member of the Cavs or as a member of some other team, a key distinction surely not lost on Izzo in trying to make his decision.  Honestly, the only way that this move makes sense for Izzo is if he can rest assured that he’ll have the opportunity to coach LeBron; otherwise, he’ll be in much the same position that his collegiate forebears such as Pitino, Calipari and Floyd found at the next level — in possession of a swollen bank account but an emaciated roster.
  2. You typically don’t see this happen often, but Ralph Willard did it last year when he left Holy Cross to become an assistant at Louisville and now Indiana State head coach Kevin McKenna is leaving his post to become an assistant under Dana Altman at Oregon.  McKenna was only 43-52 in his three seasons at ISU but he did get the Sycamores to the CBI last year, so you wonder what might have been the underlying reason for this move.
  3. Was the Pac-10 taking another look at Kansas in light of rumors that Texas A&M is more interested in moving to the SEC (leaving the rest of the Big 12 South to the west coast)?  Pac-10 Commish Larry Scott was scheduled to stop over in Kansas City on Sunday night, but apparently the plane never showed up.  Does this mean that A&M is back on board with the move west?  And what of Missouri, who was so gung-ho about joining the Big Ten a month ago, but who is now scrambling around to try to save itself and the rest of the Big 12 (good luck with that).  Sensing an opportunity to improve its profile, the Mountain West is already looking at both schools as possible expansion candidates.
  4. D-day for the Big 12 will be Tuesday, as the regents for the University of Texas will meet to decide what, if anything, to do about the reported offers to join the Pac-10 or the SEC versus staying put.  If the Horns decide to move, the Big 12 will probably be kaput as a major conference, a doomsday situation that had its commissioner spending the weekend trying to convince UT brass that a 10-team conference could still remain viable and that the school would be free to pursue its own television deal (presumably something the new Pac-16 would not allow).  Stay tuned — much more will undoubtedly happen this week.
  5. FedEx CEO Fred Smith has his own ideas about conference realignment — if any BCS league agrees to take his beloved Memphis Tigers into its fold, that league could earn up to $10M yearly for the invitation.  The most likely beneficiary?  The Big East, especially if the Big Ten as expected raids some of the conference’s football-playing schools.
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Colorado Starts The Chain Reaction

Posted by jstevrtc on June 11th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

Following yesterday’s whirlwind of activity surrounding the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big 12, today was a relatively mild day. All that happened, was, you know, the first actual confirmed move of a school from a conference to another, as Colorado and the Pac-10 announced their agreement to have the Buffaloes begin play in the Pac-10 conference beginning in the 2012 academic calendar. While rumors continue to fly that five additional Big 12 teams will be invited to join the Pac-10 (at least that’s still the name of the conference right now) and that Nebraska and the Big Ten will formally announce their union tomorrow, the Colorado move is still the only move that is signed, sealed, delivered and announced.

Seen here in their heyday, the Bigtwelveosaur and Bigeastosaurus were blown into extinction by the conference realignment asteroid of 2010.

Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott also mentioned on Thursday that his conference will not necessarily add any more teams after Colorado, a comment that is seen as little more than a smokescreen before further announcements come.

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Boise State-us Quo, Baylor, And The Ultimatum: The Expansion Latest

Posted by jstevrtc on June 7th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

On the heels of recent rumors regarding the Pac-10’s plans to invite six Big 12 schools to leave their current home for a new superconference, the Big 12 is looking for assurances that all of its current members are committed to the conference. At the Big 12 meetings in Kansas City this week, nine of the 12 schools gave their commitment to the Big 12, but the three schools with the likeliest chances of invites elsewhere – Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska – declined to do so. As a result, the remaining Big 12 schools have issued an ultimatum to all three schools, mostly focused on Nebraska, to either commit fully to continued membership in the Big 12 or else be ready to watch it dissolve. While there is no reason that any commitment these schools give to the Big 12 would be in any way binding and there is no “or else” necessarily specified, reading between the lines it looks like if the six schools tied to the Pac-10 rumors do not get assurances from Nebraska that they will remain Big 12 members, those six schools will pursue their opportunities with the new Pac-10 superconference.  So, while the Big 12 feels that can withstand the loss of Missouri and that Colorado isn’t going anywhere without other members of the conference, if Nebraska is not ready to commit to the rest of the conference and foreswear possible Big Ten membership, the invited six are ready to join up with the Pac-10.

In a related story, there is also news that the Texas state legislature is at it again, mixing it up in inter-collegiate sports in an attempt to save Baylor from being left behind. Orangebloods.com is reporting that there is a group of Texas lawmakers trying to make a push to force the Big 12 to take Baylor instead of Colorado, by doing something like not allowing Texas to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-10 if Baylor is not invited as well.  Also, it seems that rather than deal with a big legal and political hassle, the Pac-10 would be willing to substitute Baylor for Colorado, despite the desire for the lucrative Denver television market. This, of course, has happened before with Baylor. When the Southwest Conference broke up in the mid 90s, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor were offered invitations to join the Big 8 schools, creating the Big 12. It was then-Texas-governor Ann Richards, a Baylor alum, who insisted that Baylor be included in any plan with Texas state universities joining the Big 8 schools. This time around, it may be new Baylor president Ken Starr (yes, THAT Ken Starr) who is leading the charge to keep Baylor tied to the hips of the other Big 12 Texas schools.

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Realignment Rumors: On Today’s Pac-10/Big 12 Rumblings

Posted by jstevrtc on June 3rd, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West Conferences and an occasional contributor.

That sound you just heard may have been the proverbial first domino creaking a little. Today, Orangebloods.com columnist Chip Brown reported that, in advance of the Pac-10 meetings which begin this weekend in San Francisco, the Pac-10 is set to invite six Big 12 schools to join in the creation of the first superconference of the new era of college sports. Brown reports that Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech will be the schools invited, leaving Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Nebraska behind. All this comes on the heels of the Big 12 meetings, wrapping up on Friday, which opened with a plea by commissioner Dan Beebe for a united front among member institutions and a commitment to the conference. Obviously, this rumor has huge ramifications for the Big 12 and the Pac-10, but the ripple effect of such a move would be felt across the college sports landscape. We’ll take a look here at the specifics of this rumor and how this rumor could affect other conferences around the country.

Why is this man smiling? Beebe has his work cut out for him. (AP/Mike Fuentes)

The Pac-16. Or Big 16. Or the Great New Superconference

According to the Brown article, which cites multiple unnamed sources, the new conference would be divided into two eight-team divisions with the six Big 12 schools joining Arizona and Arizona State in an Eastern or Inland Division and Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State forming the Western or Coastal Division. Then, with the aid of Fox Sports Net, already an operating partner with the Big Ten Network and television partner with both the Pac-10 and Big 12 conferences, the league would create its own cable network akin to the BTN. Perhaps coupled with new television contracts with ABC/ESPN, Fox, CBS, Turner or any other bidders, the projected revenues of the new conference (which would encompass seven of the top 20 television markets in the country) could rival those of the SEC or even the Big Ten.

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