Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott gave his yearly “state of the conference” address during day one of football media days in Hollywood, Calif. The big news coming from Scott on Wednesday was an agreement with Levi’s Stadium to host the Pac-12 Championship through at least the 2019 season, with an option on 2020.
“I’m very pleased with the experience we’ve created for our fans, universities, and student-athletes over the last three years,” said Scott. “I look forward to working with our great partners at Levi’s Stadium and the San Francisco 49ers to continue to grow this marquee event in the Bay Area.”
PAC-12 commish Larry Scott hammering home that "Conference of Champions" motto this morning. pic.twitter.com/Y4A1cwszz6— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) July 26, 2017
Among other points of discussion by Commissioner Scott was the evolution of media platforms, scheduling of games and a student-athlete health and well-being initiative.
On shortening the length of games
“This is also not just anecdotal observation, we study a lot of research, we talk to a lot of our partners at ESPN, Fox, and the Pac-12 Networks about it. Over the last year I've learned through research ESPN and the Pac- 12 Networks has done that you could lose as much as 30 percent of a TV audience at halftime; that there are examples where it depends on the game and what's going on, but you're at a risk of people tuning out with a long halftime. As I talk to our athletics directors, even in terms of the in-game experience, it's a break, it's a long break.”
On hitting all media platforms
“We spent a lot of time thinking about that. The media world is changing rapidly before our eyes. One of the great advantages of the Pac-12 is certainly our West Coast location, our relationship with all these tech companies. Notably, our networks are located in San Francisco, the heart of Silicon Valley. There is a lot of alumni from our schools that are leaders of a lot of these companies that are innovating ways to distribute content.”
On east coast bias with ‘Pac-12 after dark’
“I try to look at our West Coast advantages. We can't change the time zones in the country, so that's always been present, and we don't spend a lot of time worrying about that. What we've discovered with our media partners is our ability to play more night games has created value. It's created value for our media partners that's gone back to our schools in the form of exclusive and prominent national windows. And while it's absolutely true that when we play night games, and about a third of our Saturday games are at night -- I want to make that clear. There's a perception that all of our games are at night, two-thirds of them are what you would consider during day. But of the third of our games that are at night, while there is less East Coast viewership, we dominate it. We've got the most market share.”
USC Trojans picked to win 2017 Pac-12 Championship
The preseason media poll projects USC will meet Washington at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif on Friday, Dec 1. According to the Pac-12, the media has correctly selected the conference champion in 29 of 56 previous polls, but only twice in the last 10 polls.
The reigning conference champions and College Football Playoff runner-up was the first team to kickoff the day with head coach Chris Petersen being asked about maintaining the status of being an elite football team.
“I think it's harder to stay there because you've got to do those things over and over and over for a long period of time.” Peterson said.
“That's what I'm saying. Most people can't do these hard things over and over and over for a long period of time. It's probably easier that you can do the hard things over and over for a shorter period of time. Can we do it again next year?”
“That's hard. I think we all get that. So you've got your way of doing things. And a little luck along the way to stay relatively healthy for some key guys. All those type of things.”
A transition year for head coach Rich Rodriguez in Tuscon led to the Wildcats’ first losing season since 2011. There’s plenty of new talent down in the desert with fifty new players on the roster. Rodriguez talked about Arizona becoming a better program in the coming years. In particular, he discussed the quarterback situation with Brandon Dawkins and his ongoing development.
“Brandon is a talented guy that's still getting better,” Rodriguez said.
“I think Brandon is learning how to be a quarterback from learning leadership and all of that. But he's a good football player. Really good football player. But the best way to expedite his process is to have competition. When it comes to Khalil (Tate) who had no business playing last year as a 17-year-old freshman that we had playing because that's all we had, whether it's a couple guys we signed or from a guy that's a former pro baseball player that's bringing some maturity to the room, that dynamic in that quarterback room changed, and it's changed for the better.”
California Golden Bears
Offseason changes have come rapidly in Berkeley, Calif with new head coach Justin Wilcox taking over for Sonny Dykes. The Bears have a total of 19 wins in the past four seasons with only one bowl appearance in 2015. Wilcox’s first season leading theprogram will be an adjustment, but he’s optimistic Cal can improve next season.
“Everybody has tough parts about their jobs,” Wilcox said. “I don't feel any different. I now have a different role, and I take those responsibilities seriously. But we were able to hire a great group of assistant coaches and support staff. We've got a great administration that supported us and got them in there. And the players on our team, their attitude and the type of people they are, I really couldn't ask for more.”
Cal running back Tre Watson on Cal's postseason chances pic.twitter.com/yDlhsor21I— Jim McGill (@BearInsider_com) July 26, 2017
Will this be the year that UCLA makes a comeback? After his worst season in Southern California head coach Jim Mora hopes so. The Bruins look to revamp their defense with experienced talent and put 2016 in the past. After such a down year, Mora’s focus is improving and learning from the bad experience.
“You're not in this to do anything but try to have success,” Mora said.
“And every loss rips your guts out. The first thing you do is point your finger at yourself. You say: Where did I not do a good enough job and how are we going to learn from this? I think you make a huge mistake if you make excuses or scoop it under the rug. There are factors.”
“But you have to look deeper than that. You have to look at everything you do, the way you meet, the way you practice, to your schemes, to how you coach, to the words you use, the culture in the building, how you let them recover. And you just pull it all apart. You use your experience and the experience of your coaches and your colleagues. You try to put it back together in a way that will give you a chance to succeed in the future. That's what we've tried to do this off-season.”
Oregon State Beavers
The most interesting story line coming out of Corvallis, Oregon is all about the offense. Head coach Gary Andersen will have a series of tough decisions going into camp with the biggest being who will start at quarterback between Jake Luton, Marcus McMaryion or Darell Garretson.
“We have three young men getting reps in our first couple presses,” Anderson said.
“We've got to narrow that down to two very quickly as we move forward. We'll make a decision on the starting quarterback when the program will allow us to make that decision. I wish it was today. I wish I was sitting here now and telling you who I believe we'll have as the starting quarterback. But I can't say that right now. Players make plays, players win games, and players win positions. We'll put them against each other in camp, and we'll get to the point to where it all works its way out, hopefully sooner.”