Mailbag: The ‘Pac-2’ and the Big 12 and ACC, an alternative outcome for the Pac-12, the role of the UC regents and more

There are plenty of realignment rumors about WSU and OSU; don’t believe them

Every Friday, the Hotline mailbag is published. Send questions to with the subject line’mailbag’. Or follow me on Twitter at @WilnerHotline.

Please keep in mind that some of the questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Is there any truth to the rumors that other conferences are using remaining ‘Pac-2’ assets as an excuse to invite Oregon State and Washington State? — @CelestialMosh

Let’s divide this question into two parts: one for the legal weeds and one for the realignment landscape.

According to a conference source, the outgoing schools are concerned about this very issue. It’s one of the reasons the ‘Pac-10’ is opposed to giving Washington State and Oregon State complete control of the Pac-12 board.

Worries are that WSU and OSU will keep all of the assets once the 10 leave next summer and simply join another conference, as the outgoing schools are doing.

In other words, they’d be just like everyone else, except for the delayed timing of their announced move… and the millions they’d pocket.

We believe the Cougars and Beavers are serious about using conference assets to rebuild the Pac-12, to the extent that such assets exist, but we cannot claim to know every detail of their plans.

(The Hotline reported last week that the Pac-12’s emergency reserves have been effectively wiped out.)

Above all, the two schools want to be in charge of their own fate, wherever that may lead.

To be clear, Washington State and Oregon State will not be joining the ACC, and anyone who spends a single second reading, writing, pondering, or believing that outcome is wasting their time. Ignore any “reports” that suggest this scenario.

In no way do the schools fit into the ACC. The geographical barriers that accompanied Stanford and Cal were offset by the schools’ academic reputations and broad-based athletic success, as well as ESPN’s appeal in the Bay Area media market (for ACC Network subscribers).

The Cougars and Beavers simply do not possess those characteristics.

Except in this case, you never say never in realignment.

The same is true, to a lesser extent, for the Big 12, which is perfectly content with its 16-school configuration.

WSU and OSU are better fits for the Big 12, but they don’t bring enough of any particular realignment component to make the conference and its network partners, ESPN and Fox, interested.

In other words, WSU and OSU have no chance of joining the ACC and only a 0.1 percent chance of joining the Big 12.

Which brings us to the unavoidable pairing of Mountain West and ‘Pac-2’ schools.

At this point, the only unknowns are the start date of their collaboration, the name of the conference, and the scope of the membership. (Will it be the top football programs from all 12 MW schools?

The Pac-12’s assets could be useful in making the marriage work by offsetting exit fees and transition costs for MW schools.

However, in our humble opinion, that is the only endgame for WSU and OSU in terms of whatever money remains in the Pac-12 coffers. The ACC and Big 12 are not viable options.

Has there been any progress on Washington State and Oregon State bringing in Mountain West schools to form the Pac-12 (or Pac-14)? Will they try to entice other schools to join them? — @MarcSheehan006

Yes, other schools are an option — anything is an option. WSU and OSU are careful to consider all options.

They could 1) join the Mountain West, 2) reverse merge with all MW schools, or 3) combine with only the top-tier MW football programs to form an eight- or 10-team league.

While the Cougars and Beavers are exchanging ideas and evaluating scheduling models, final decisions are on hold as the Pac-12 legal process plays out.

The ‘Pac-2’ and ‘Pac-10’ are in mediation, and we believe the parties will reach an agreement before the preliminary injunction hearing on November 14.

How will people watch games if the ‘Pac-2’ schools decide to go their own way for a couple of years? — @TWamsgans

We doubt WSU and OSU will land any type of deal with a national media company, whether streaming, linear, or otherwise.

The best bet: They strike deals with local TV stations to broadcast games statewide or regionally, similar to the Pac-12’s media contracts in the 1990s, when games not carried by Fox were broadcast on a local over-the-air TV station.

There is one caveat: We don’t know what will happen to the Pac-12 Networks after 10 schools leave and the distribution contracts expire next summer.

If the Cougars and Beavers rebuild the conference, they may be able to use the networks’ infrastructure to stream their games.

Could the Pac-12 have pulled a Rod Tidwell (from the film “Jerry Maguire”) and bet on itself by waiting until after the football season to negotiate a TV deal after seeing the Apple contract? Was that a possibility? — @brycetacoma

Yes, it was an option, and we discussed it recently

The Pac-12 would have a slew of motivated buyers right now if it had bet on itself and pushed media rights negotiations into the fall.

Of course, that strategy would have necessitated greater trust in Commissioner George Kliavkoff, greater unity among the presidents, and a greater appetite for risk by institutions of higher learning that are inherently risk-averse.

If the talks were still going on, the conference could have used Apple’s bid to raise the price for ESPN, Fox, and any other interested networks — not to Big Ten or SEC levels, of course, but into the mid-$30 million range per school.

All ten schools’ signatures would have been required for the grant-of-rights.

Which of the following unequal revenue distribution systems is most likely to be adopted: Equal grant-of-rights distribution, with all postseason football and basketball revenues split 50/50 between the winning school and conference? Or does the winning school receive all postseason football and basketball revenue? —James Skinner

Revenue-sharing is unavoidable in any power conference, though it may take longer in some leagues than others. Ohio State, for example, will only share revenue with Rutgers for a limited time.

However, as you mentioned, there are various forms.

More athletic directors, in our opinion, see sharing from the center (regular-season broadcast revenue) as a recipe for internal conflict.

Instead, they prefer to split postseason revenue: if you make it, you keep it.

The ACC is working to put that system in place. Others will follow suit.

Would the Pac-12 have been saved if the University of California Board of Regents had ordered UCLA to stay in the conference? I can understand the regents’ decision if UCLA’s financial situation could not be salvaged without Big Ten funding. — nelangland

We’re not going to argue about whether the regents should have forced the Bruins to stay in the Pac-12. That is an entirely different issue.

But, if they had told UCLA to stay, the Pac-12 would be alive and well right now, with a media deal that exceeded expectations in terms of annual revenue and media exposure.

Our best guess is that the conference would have partnered with ESPN as the primary rights holder, with smaller packages sold to Fox and Amazon.

The total cost (per school per year) would have been in the $35 million to $40 million range.

Why does the Pac-12 still show football promotional ads during games? It’s not like the conference will still have ten teams. It appears that they could keep the money and use it for something else.Milkbear79

I can’t give you an exact answer, but I believe the ads were cut before Black Friday, Aug. 4, the day the conference collapsed.

And there was no reason to keep the ads off the air once they were cut. The Pac-12 Networks must continue to promote the conference and the schools — they are, after all, a marketing tool.

Will you rename the Pac-12 Hotline to the Pac2/ACC/Big12/BigTen Hotline next year? ** @kmasterman

I haven’t finalized the details, which will be influenced by what happens to Washington State and Oregon State.

But one thing is certain: regardless of conference affiliation, the Hotline will continue to cover the schools and the issues that matter to them, both on and off the field.

We have no plans to leave.

One of the Hotline’s ongoing goals is to assist fans in navigating the shifting, perplexing world of major college sports (imagine Virgil guiding Dante through the Inferno and Purgatorio).

That role remains unchanged. In fact, it becomes more critical.

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