Pac-12 Takes Another Hit; Positive MLB Rule Changes

The folks who run the Pacific-12 Conference fail to understand one basic fundamental fact: the amount of money that the conference distributes to its member schools has a direct relationship to how those member schools perform on the football field and the basketball court.

To put it simply, the primary reason for the Pac-12’s recent failures on the field and on the court is a lack of sufficient money and resources to compete with the other Power Five Conferences.

When schools in the Big Ten and SEC have $20 million more each year to work with, that translates into better head coaches, better assistant coaches, better facilities, better strength and conditioning programs, and much bigger recruiting budgets—which results in better players.

This fact was brought home yesterday when Colorado head coach Mel Tucker bolted for Michigan State of the Big Ten, where he will more than double his salary. Last month Mike Leach left Washington State for greener pastures at the SEC’s Mississippi State.

Neither Michigan State nor Mississippi State represents a plum job in those conferences. Not by a long shot. But the difference in pay and resources was too much for Leach and Tucker to ignore.

(Personally, there is no amount of money that could get me to move from Boulder to East Lansing or from Pullman to Starkville, but to each his own).

The blame for the departure of these high quality coaches can be laid squarely on the desk of Commissioner Larry Scott and the Pac-12's ridiculous television situation. Both in terms of money and exposure, Pac-12 TV is the laughingstock of college athletics.

No need to rehash everything—we've done it many times—but the Pac-12 network is an abject failure, reaching about 18 million homes and generating test-pattern revenues, while the BIG, SEC and ACC have networks that print money and reach more than three times as many viewers.

To make matters worse, the Pac is locked into a primary TV deal for three more years, a deal that pays far less than the SEC and BIG. Scott has been telling everyone to be patient, that when the conference negotiates its new deal starting in 2024, it will make up the gap.

Nonsense.

The SEC, in fact, just signed a new TV deal with ESPN that plays $350 million per year for its football "Game of the Week." Consider that...$350 million per year for one game a week for 14 weeks. Meanwhile the Pac-12 gets $250M a year for about three games a week on ESPN and FOX.

During the next three years, the revenue gaps will become as wide as the Grand Canyon. And so may the gaps in performance.

The Pac-12 has had only two teams reach the College Football Playoff in six years, and it has struggled mightily in recent years just to get teams into the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Prized West Coast high school recruits are now rejecting the Pac-12 for teams in the SEC, Big Ten and ACC on a regular basis.

The bottom line: the Pac-12's future is very tenuous, because if ESPN chooses to go "all-in" with its partner conferences (SEC and ACC), as well as the Big 12 (because it owns the Longhorn Network), it may choose not to bid for the declining Pac-12. Or it may choose to make a bargain basement offer.

And FOX is in bed with the Big Ten, so it may also choose to walk away from the Pac-12 or offer reduced rights fees to a conference that hasn't had a football national champion since 2004 or a basketball national champion since 1997.

It's quite possible that in the next five years, the Power Five will become the Power Four. We’re almost at that point now.

Speeding Up the Game: Those who dread four-hour baseball games with 10 relief pitchers got some good news yesterday. Major League Baseball adopted new rules that require a relief pitcher to face at least three batters or complete a half-inning before they can be removed from the game.

So no more endless parades of relief pitchers facing one batter each.

Bad news for those left-handed specialists. Good news for baseball fans everywhere.

In two other changes, teams were limited to 13 pitchers (some actually carried 14 last year) and rosters were expanded from 25 to 26 players (28 in September). This means managers will have at least one more position player on the bench, perhaps opening up a spot for another pinch hitter or a base-running specialist who can be inserted as a pinch runner late in the game.

All good.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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