PHOENIX — When the Pac-12 finishes up its annual spring meetings Friday, its television network still won’t be shown on DirecTV.
Nighttime football kickoffs will continue to annoy some fans. Several cable operators will show the Pac-12 Network’s national feed on a secondary tier, or not at all.
And the roughly $1.5 million paycheck that schools get from the Pac-12 Networks — in addition to roughly $18 million from ESPN and Fox — will continue to lag far behind what Big Ten and SEC schools get from their conference networks.
“You want the revenue and the exposure,” Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez said. “Everybody wants that.”
So Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott waded through all of that tension during meetings and addressed it afterward late Thursday afternoon during a media briefing.
“It’s a very challenging environment for our schools and our athletic directors. I get that,” Scott said. “They’re facing a lot of financial pressure, competitive pressure and there’s a lot of fan frustration, too, things like night games and if they’re DirecTV customers. Schools are always hearing from fans. I get that.”
“We spent a lot of time talking through the issues and where we are.”
At the same time, Scott also spoke of a bigger picture, a positive picture about exposure and on-field accomplishments, and Arizona’s contingent was on board with that, too.
Things like how the Pac-12 Networks, now with a full load of 850 events per year, are covering many previously uncovered non-revenue sports.
“It was a very good day,” Arizona AD Greg Byrne said after Thursday’s meetings. “We were pleased. We just think there are many positives about the Pac-12 Networks and our Pac-12 model, and we focused on a lot of those things today.”
For example, while Rodriguez said he’s hoping the Pac-12 Networks can make more money and be picked up in more places, he said it has been putting out a “great product.”
But, still, not everyone can see it. According to Sports Business Daily, the Pac-12 Networks are in about 12 million households, compared with more than 60 million for the Big Ten and SEC networks.
Getting DirecTV would be a huge boost in both distribution and revenue. But Scott’s latest negotiations with the satellite behemoth reportedly fell apart last September over demands from new DirecTV owner AT&T.
Scott said he is “still knocking” and hoping to restart talks with DirecTV, noting that the Pac-12 is short of its hopes to have full distribution by now.
At the same time, primary TV rights-holders ESPN and Fox aren’t likely to ask for any fewer night games, having paid for Pac-12 flexibility in a $3 billion, 12-year deal that was struck in 2011. Scott said there would only be a small reduction in night games in exchange for other trade-offs with the media partners.
On the field and on the court, at least, the Pac-12 has less to worry about. Scott talked about successes in several sports, saying he didn’t think Stanford’s exclusion from the College Football Playoff was controversial because of the Cardinal’s two losses last season.
Stanford coach “David Shaw would be the first one to say it — he said in our meeting — that he wished we had a five-team playoff,” Scott said. “I also think there is kind of a calm confidence that our conference has with a nine-game schedule, a championship game and the kind of strength of schedule we have that if there are comparable records, then … more often than not we will be” invited to the CFP.
In basketball, the Pac-12 has had plenty to brag about. The conference put five women’s teams in the NCAA tournament, with two reaching the Final Four, while seven teams received bids to the men’s tournament.
The men didn’t have nearly as much success in the tournament, with only Oregon advancing to the second weekend and Arizona was among those suffering an early upset, losing to Wichita State in the first round.
“I’ll use us as an example,” UA coach Sean Miller said, when asked if Pac-12 coaches discussed the tournament results. “The situation was tough — you didn’t know who we would play, and they were probably better than an 11 seed, and, you know what? We didn’t play well. Sometimes it’s just that simple. It’s not like a seven-game series. You have to be ready.
“But the point everyone makes is if you keep getting six or seven teams in the tournament, one year more than seven, good things are bound to happen and I think it could happen this coming year.”
Overall, Miller said the coaches’ meetings went well this week.
“I think in my time in the Pac-12 and Pac-10, this is the most cooperation I’ve ever experienced between our coaches and the conference in general,” Miller said. “The support is at a very high level. The understanding of the collective goal of trying to get the most teams in the NCAA tournament and crafting ways that that could happen. Through giving great feedback on nonconference scheduling.”
Even during a week with plenty of tension, that was the kind of mood Scott ultimately spoke of, too.
“Everyone left today confident that we’re working toward the same goals,” Scott said. “We’re proud of the gains we made. It was a very positive discussion.”