21 May 19
Santa Cruz Sentinel
* The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season (and twice-a-week in the summer). This edition, from May 21, has been made available in archived form.
Smart policy out of HQ
The Pac-12 is on a roll, folks — the good kind of roll, the shrewd kind of roll, the boost-your-competitive-level and benefit-the-athletes kind of roll.
So let’s credit the conference for getting it right on one-two-three-four-FIVE counts here in the first half of 2019:
Sibson Consulting: Without credibility in football officiating, you might as well shut everything down.
Hiring an outside consultant to assess the scandal-marred process was an essential step toward restoring integrity before the 2019 openers.
(Sure, the athletic directors pushed for it. At least the conference office listened.)
Changing the basketball schedule: Moving to a 20-game conference rotation will improve each team’s strength-of-schedule, which creates a ripple effect.
And placing the two additional games in November and early December should increase interest in the sport (ticket sales, media interest, etc.) when it’s usually on the back-burner.
Non-conference schedule standards: Too many teams were playing too many low-level opponents, and it was undermining the collective effort to maximize NCAA bids.
That the head coaches were on board with the decision speaks to an encouraging level of alignment for the conference.
Continuing the SAHWBI: That’s the Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative, and it’s arguably the conference’s most commendable endeavor.
The funding for future research projects has been approved (at $3.6 million per year), with an emphasis on mental health.
Intra-conference transfer policy: The Pac-12 has loosened restrictions, ensuring that athletes won’t lose the year of eligibility for moving within the conference: They’ll transfer, sit out one year, then get that year back.
Makes so much sense. (Watch for other conferences to adopt similar rules.)
Now, a reminder: Smart policy and sound execution at the conference level don’t ensure competitive success. Winning starts on campus.
And yes, we’re looking at you, Los Angeles. — Jon Wilner.
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Hot off the Hotline
• The conference released its financial data on Monday, with a twist: In addition to the federal tax filings, it made public revenue/expense breakdowns for conference operations and the Pac-12 Networks, thereby illuminating to a greater degree its complicated business model. The Hotline has a full analysis, which includes an explanation of the methodology behind commissioner Larry Scott’s controversial travel style, his salary (over $5 million), the school payouts and much more.
• As referenced in the introduction above, the presidents and chancellors approved a loosening of the transfer rule, schedule standards for basketball and extended funding for the SAHWBI.
Why we need your support: Like so many other providers of local journalism across the country, the Hotline’s parent website, mercurynews.com, recently moved to a subscription model. A few Hotline stories will remain free each month (as will this newsletter), but for access to all content, you’ll need to subscribe at a rate of just 12 cents per day for 12 months. And thanks for your loyalty.
The Hotline was hardly the only media outlet to cover the Pac-12’s financial reveal on Monday:
• USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz, who covers financial and legal affairs across college sports, examined the numbers and concluded: “The Pac-12’s financial position among the Power Five conferences has been slipping in recent years as newer television agreements have taken hold and the Pac-12 Networks have fallen short of revenue expectations amid distribution challenges. The conference did not help itself during its 2018 fiscal year …”
• Commissioner Larry Scott received a $500,000 raise in total compensation, prompting the Oregonian’s John Canzano to weigh in: “The Pac-12 is looking for a private-equity bailout. Among the inventory in the debate warehouse: Flat revenue. Higher expenses. Smaller footprint. Less success in the revenue-generating sports. The guy in charge of it all got a raise. I’m not anti-raise, mind you. I’d be in favor of a bump to $10 million annually if Scott could fix the conference’s problems, boost revenue, get the network larger distribution and help the programs win more games. You know, merit based stuff. Maybe put the commish on commission.”
In the News
• From late last week but must-reading if you missed it: Former Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe made national headlines for the very best of reasons: He disarmed a student who brought a shotgun into Parkrose High School. Lowe is the school’s football and track coach and, fortunately, also works as a security guard. He was honored by the Blazers on Monday during Game 4. And here’s Warriors coach Steve Kerr, an outspoken proponent of tighter gun control, on Lowe and the state of gun violence.
• USC is one of three programs, along with UCLA and Notre Dame, that has not played an FCS opponent, ever. That could change, according to associate athletic director Steve Lopes, who oversees the Trojans’ scheduling. “What’s the best way to get to the CFP?” he asks. (The reality: Probably not with two A-level non-conference games.)
• Colorado’s most experience cornerback, Dante Wigley, won’t return to the program, per Buffzone. He’s the fifth scholarship player to move on (for various reasons) since the conclusion of spring practice.
• Meanwhile, the Buffaloes have secured what they’re calling the largest endowment in the football program’s history, a seven-figure commitment from non-alum Kelli Brooks. The estate gift will go to scholarships.
• Isaac Slade-Matautia is projected to start at inside linebacker for Oregon, alongside Troy Dye.
• Athlon’s unveiled its preseason all-Pac-12 team and went four-deep at each position (impressive).
• The Pac-12 coaches, ranked. (I’m not sure how Mel Tucker can be included in any fashion, but every outlet does it differently.)
• The current state of the transfer portal, which includes a load of Pac-12 players who have yet to make decisions.
Content on the college basketball scandal …
• CBS Sports columnist Matt Norlander addresses a question many have asked: How are head coaches implicated in the FBI scandal still recruiting at a high level. LSU’s Will Wade is the focus of this column, but Sean Miller makes an appearance: “Within the coaching fraternity, many behind the scenes have questioned just how guys like Wade and Arizona’s Sean Miller have gotten along this far without losing their jobs.”
• Speaking of the Wildcats: Could former assistant Book Richardson, who entered a guilty plea on charges of federal bribery, get a probation-only sentence? His attorney has made the request.
On the Hardwood
• Had the new basketball schedule standards been in place last season, four teams would have failed to meet the bar, according to this examination into the data by the Oregonian’s James Crepea. And if you followed the schedules closely, it wouldn’t be difficult to guess which four: Oregon State, Washington State, Colorado and Utah.
• Oregon big man Kenny Wooten, one of the conference’s dominant defensive players, won’t return for next season: He’s all in with the NBA Draft.
• Good perspective on new UCLA coach Mick Cronin, courtesy of the Daily News’ Mark Whicker: Difficult as the situation might be in Westwood (on and off the court), Cronin has dealt with worse.
• Washington State has signed small forward D.J. Rodman, the son of Dennis, for next season’s roster. (Any chance we could get his old man and Mike Leach together, talking about anything?)
• Luguentz Dort: NBA point guard? The former Arizona State wing believes that’s his future position.
• Cal continues to reshape its roster for next season. The latest addition is Dimitrios Klonaras, a wing from Greece. The Bears wouldn’t mind if his 2-star rating proves a bit low.
• Lastly: Washington is headed to Firenze for a four-game exhibition tour. Not sure about the competition, but the Hotline can vouch for the food.
Content on Pac-12 Olympic sports …
• Arizona’s softball team is peaking at the right time, with the super regionals about to start.
• Ranking the 16 teams still standing. (The group includes UCLA, Washington, plus the Wildcats.)
• Stanford is the NCAA women’s tennis champion for the second year in a row and 20th time overall.
• Washington’s crew teams are pretty good, it seems.
What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
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• The Pac-12 spent several years establishing the foundation for the non-conference schedule standards. We’ll take a deep dive into its deep dive on Wednesday.
• Expenditures by the conference office have been a source of controversy for several years. How does the Pac-12 compare to its peers on that front? The Hotline’s crack research staff is on the case.
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