A dozen discoveries from the Pac-12 media days:
1. Commissioner Larry Scott’s sterile preamble, a 20-minute address whose key words were “innovation,” “Silicon Valley” and “DNA,” is what you’d expect from a Harvard guy.
No blocking and tackling.
Scott boasted that the Pac-12 has the “toughest schedules” of any conference in the country. It was also announced that the Pac-12 Networks now reach 60 million people.
And yet the first five games on the Pac-12 Networks this year are:
Idaho State at Utah.
Weber State at ASU.
Portland State at Oregon State.
UC-Davis at Stanford.
South Dakota at Oregon.
That sound you’ll hear the final week of August will be the clicking of 60 million TV sets to another channel.
2. The Larry Scott Era of Pac-12 sports is such that the coveted “media hotel rate” was $209. This from a commissioner who was paid $3.3 million last year and, according to the San Jose Mercury News, required a $101 million cut from the league’s 2013 media rights package for league-related expenses.
The media stayed in Burbank. The Pac-12 staff bunked at the Loews Hollywood. Rates this week are from $289 to $479. No, this isn’t the Big Sky Conference.
But that’s college football in 2014. My most prized purchase of every football season is Phil Steele’s College Football Preview. This year’s newsstand price: $12.99 for 352 pages of small-print statistics.
3. UA athletic director Greg Byrne dispatches a weekly message to 165,000 email addresses and most of it is good stuff about his department’s successes.
On Thursday he took it a step further: Byrne emailed a video to former football season ticket holders who did not renew for the 2014 season. Title: We Want You Back. “You and your family can make a difference,” he said.
Byrne has been as good as anyone in the Pac-12, or anywhere, at fan engagement. He was the league’s first to strengthen Wi-Fi coverage at the stadium. He was the first to offer a bounty ($500 per drawing) to students who stayed until the fourth quarter.
The $6 million he spent on the giant video screen has been the best of its kind in the West.
Alas, Tucsonans are fans of winning first and Arizona football next. If Jerrard Randall, or anyone, becomes a star quarterback in 2014, Byrne won’t need to send a video asking people to come back.
4. Pac-12 media days are now held at Paramount Studios in the Hollywood district. Can you imagine what the league must pay to rent that place? A million dollars? More?
It’s a sterile presentation that seems rehearsed.
At the 1987 Pac-10 Skywriters Tour, the Oregon Ducks hosted a cookout in the backyard of ex-Ducks coach Rich Brooks, who lived on a fairway at the Eugene Country Club. Just as it was getting dark, a golfer carrying a near-empty six-pack wandered into Brooks’ backyard.
“What time is dinner?” he asked.
It was Oregon basketball coach Don Monson. Good. Old. Days.
5. Scott again tried to whip up support for the league’s championship game, Dec. 5 (a Friday night) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Basically, nobody cares. Unless your team is in it, and favored, it’s just another game in a long season. Move it to a new stadium in Las Vegas and you’ll have a sellout.
6. Hiring Rick Neuheisel as the face of the Pac-12 Networks is the league’s best administrative move since Scott arrived in 2009. Sooner or later, one of the big networks — CBS, NBC, ESPN — will offer Neuheisel a deal he can’t refuse. His insight into game strategy is superb.
7. When the Pac-12 and DirecTV declared war three years ago, I cut my losses and subscribed to Dish Network. No matter what Scott accomplishes in his years as Pac-12 commissioner – including more than tripling each school’s media rights revenue — the DirecTV fiasco will be what follows him out the door.
I have no complaints about Dish. I noticed the other day that the BYU channel is No. 9403, which makes the Nov. 22 BYU vs. Savannah State game available to me. There will be more people at that BYU game than at the Nov. 29 Utah vs. Colorado “rivalry game” in the Pac-12.
This is the fourth year Utah and CU have been in the Pac-12. I’m still struggling to learn what exactly they did to merit inclusion to the league and what, if anything, they’ve added.
8. When Pac-12 media day was held at an airport hotel in Los Angeles, Dick Tomey rarely took Arizona’s marquee player. In 1995, when Tedy Bruschi was a consensus All-American and the face of UA football, Tomey took senior QB Dan White with him to L.A.
Here’s how the league has changed: Only two QBs attended the ’95 media day (White and ASU’s Jake Plummer). Oregon took a cornerback, Alex Molden, and OSU’s lone representative was Reggie Tongue, a safety.
This year, eight QBs were in Hollywood. The next time Rich Rodriguez takes a QB with him to media day, you will be able to say the Wildcats have arrived.
9. Before Arizona opens training camp next week, RichRod and his coaching staff will fly to Atlanta and spend three or four days at a private retreat. Why Georgia? RichRod recently bought a home near the Plantation, a golf paradise just down the road from Augusta National.
10. The singular memory from more than 25 Pac-12 football media days: In 1992, Mike Waldner of the South Bay Daily Breeze took a few writers to Dodger Stadium to meet Vin Scully. In his inning off, Scully sat with the football writers and told stories of Jackie Robinson. Priceless.
11. Larry Scott’s moment of triumph at media day: “Almost all of the 7,000 Pac-12 student-athletes are never going to play pro sports, or certainly not long enough to make a living at it. My focus is on the 98 percent for whom this experience of being a student-athlete in the Pac-12 will be transformative We’ve got to do right by them and not design a system around the 2 percent.”
12. Let’s hear football-centric SEC commissioner Mike Slive say that.