Unrivaled: Pac-12 Must Go To Eight Conference Games In Next TV Deal

Feb 22, 2021, 3:39 PM
Wide receiver Samson Nacua #45 of the Utah Utes catches a touchdown pass over safety Jevon Holland ...
Wide receiver Samson Nacua #45 of the Utah Utes catches a touchdown pass over safety Jevon Holland #8 of the Oregon Ducks during the second half of the Pac-12 Championship Game at Levi's Stadium on December 06, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It is obvious to many that Pac-12 football hasn’t been keeping up with its Power 5 counterparts during the College Football Playoff era. Only Washington and Oregon have made the four-team field since its inception in 2014, and the next closest is the Big 12 with four.

There are plenty of things that the league can not control that create the problem like the time zone in which kickoffs at 7 or 8 p.m. local out West are starting when people are getting ready for bed on the East Coast. It is a complicated issue that the league began to remedy with more Noon kickoffs last season.

Having big brands play better is hard to manage as the conference can’t wave a magic wand and bring back the early 2000 era USC Trojans who were winning national titles.

The conference’s television deal is very important and that can and will play a role in exposure and how the league is perceived nationally and for the College Football Playoff. The current deal expires in the spring of 2024 and while that seems a far way off it is not.

The new media rights deal will likely be in place a year prior to that in 2023 with negotiations being done in 2022. Meaning, the 2021 college football season that is going to be played in six months will have a major ramification toward the Pac-12’s financial and on the field future.

Having a team in the College Football Playoff discussion well into November would be a good start because if the league is falling behind even more in the revenue gap there will be some unhappy programs who just might look elsewhere to see if the grass is greener.

USC AD Mike Bohn said a year ago that “everything is on the table,” and that included going independent. Bohn did later clarify that the Trojans are committed to the Pac-12, but the conference needs USC more than the other way around.

One Fix Is To Have Fewer League Games

The saying “winning cures all” is a slogan the Pac-12 should live by in the upcoming years. One area where winning is not as common is within conference play. The league decided that nine conference games within a 12-game league was a good idea.

In theory, it makes sense with one more Power 5 team on the schedule to boost the strength of the schedule, but the drawbacks are worse and the top one is an extra loss to start. With nine league games, there is a built-in loss no matter what and that hurts the conference to have a better record overall. Also, having nine league games means one less home game every other year.

Going to eight league games is the very simple idea that KSL Sports’ Tom Hackett presents as a way for the Pac-12 to be more competitive on the national scene.

“If you have a nine-game conference schedule, you obviously you’re putting yourself in danger for losing against a conference opponent, that that will probably hurt more so than it would a nonconference team, although there’s this debate there,” Hackett said. “If you play eight games, you don’t have as much to offer from a television deal standpoint. So you may not make as much money as you would if you were to offer a nine-game schedule.

“Think with what’s happened, what’s transpired over the last couple of years in the Pac-12, you have to go back to eight games. You have to because we haven’t the Pac-12 has not come close to having a playoff contender.”

Utah was the last Pac-12 team to really have a shot at the playoff in 2019, but the Utes fell to Oregon in the conference title game and fell all the way down out of a New Year’s Six game to the Alamo Bowl.

Having one fewer league game would bolster the non-conference schedule with games that are more high-profile or just winnable games for the conference.

This would help Utah be able to play BYU each year and also teams like Florida, LSU, and Arkansas to be on the schedule and by playing those type of teams it would help the Utes play a tougher schedule. By playing this type of schedule it could help them get to a big-time bowl game, or even make the College Football Playoff if things break the right way.

Tune into KSL Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or subscribe to the podcast. Also, download the all-new KSL Sports app on iOS or Android.

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