Mailbag: The problem with promotion and relegation, options for WSU and OSU, Kliavkoff’s duties, the Pac-12 Networks’ future and more

The ‘Pac-2’ schools are considering the European soccer model

What are your thoughts about the promotion/relegation idea that leaked? Is it a unique approach that could help draw more attention to the conference(s)? Are there blockers that will prevent it from getting done? — @BennyL1986

Before we get into the specifics of the proposal, let’s talk about two things:

A promotion-and-relegation system in college football, where teams would move up or down in divisions each year based on how well they do, has been talked about for years and is seen by many as inevitable.

— People who make decisions about college sports, especially university presidents, don’t like taking risks. And not knowing your division/conference and revenue base from year to year is the most dangerous thing you can do.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that Washington State and Oregon State are thinking about a lot of different possible outcomes as they plan their future together.

They could join the Mountain West, do a reverse merger with the Mountain West (where all the MW schools would join the Pac-12), change the Pac-12 to include the best football schools from the Mountain West and maybe other leagues, or play as the “Pac-2” for two years and then join with the Mountain West.

Yes, a system of promotion and relegation like the one used in European soccer is also being thought about.

As the schools wait for the outcome of their lawsuit against the Pac-12 ( and learn more about the conference’s assets and liabilities, they won’t be able to make a decision for weeks.

According to Front Office Sports (, the idea for the proposal came from a Boise State administrator and was shared with Mountain West executives. The talks were also covered by Yahoo (

It calls for a large group of schools, maybe 24 of them, from the Mountain West, the American Athletic Conference, and Conference USA, as well as WSU and OSU.

No plans have been ruled out yet. But it’s hard to picture this one. The American’s media deal with ESPN pays a good amount (about $7 million a year) and lasts until the early 2030s.

In order to join the coast-to-coast consortium, AAC schools would have to break their deal with ESPN and deal with the financial and other consequences that come with it.

In this case, a regional setup makes more sense. The Mountain West’s media deal with Fox and CBS ends in the spring of 2026, so it would be easy, clean, and cheap to pull out the content in just two years.

But the legal part might be hard to handle.

Major decisions in the Mountain West, which has 12 teams, need supermajorities, or nine votes. Would the schools at the bottom of the conference food chain (San Jose State, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah State) agree to a system that put them in the second division and meant they would likely get less money than they would in a normal conference?

To put it another way, a promotion-and-relegation system that gives the top schools more money, better TV exposure, and more competitive games (think: ticket sales) might not work for enough Mountain West members to get enough votes.

Could they make the system more appealing to get the votes they need? Could be.

Regardless of the specifics, the promotion and relegation system requires risk, which is something that most higher education administrators don’t want to do, even when things are very bad.

If a “Pac-2” was to exist for a season or two, would any potential TV suitors be the usual suspects (Fox/ESPN), or something rather different (Apple, etc)? — @AmbitiousCoug

We don’t think Apple or a linear network would be interested, but they might be.

The inventory in the game is one of many problems.

For the 2024–25 seasons, if the Cougars and Beavers stay in the Pac-12 before joining the Mountain West, they would need full 12-game schedules.

Not a single major media company would want to show a few games between FCS teams. Could they find enough good FBS opponents to make their home schedule look appealing? (The road games would be for the broadcast partners of the other team.) We’re not sure.

Maybe Apple would be interested for very little money, just to try its hand at college football and test the technology and production parts in case they work well for a bigger move in the future.

Another option is for OSU and WSU to sell their home games to regional or local media companies. This was done by the Pac-12 before the deal with ESPN and Fox in 2012.

It’s likely that the schools would keep going as the Pac-2, with enough money saved up to keep the loss of huge media rights revenue to a minimum.

What does Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff do all day? — @MattRexroad

Why does Kliavkoff still have a job? — @InsideTheBig12

There is a job for him because the conference needs to be run every day through the 2023–24 race season.

and because he is still owed at least two more years of about $3.5 million a year, and maybe three or four more.

And because the schools don’t have any reason to fire him.

He still represents the Pac-12 on the College Football Playoff management committee, for example. His daily tasks are the same as any other commissioner’s, except that he is in charge of any important strategic projects.

Should “Cal-imony” be enforced and the amount is on the high side, say $10 million per year, any chance UCLA sues to prevent it? After all, Cal’s money woes are almost all due to bad management. — @Douglas79390104

For those who don’t know, the University of California regents are likely to use money from the Big Ten’s media deal to demand that UCLA give money to Cal.

The regents say that the largest “contribution” that can be made is $10 million per year.

We don’t watch Law and Order, Boston Legal, The Practice, Matlock, or Perry Mason, so it’s true that the Hotline didn’t go to law school as well. To be honest, we can’t think of a way UCLA could sue the regents because they are the same thing. The regents are in charge of running the UC system, which has 10 campuses, including Westwood.

They don’t compete with each other or exist on their own. Like a finger on a hand, they’re linked together.

It will be the Bruins’ case against the subsidy, and if it is put in place, it will be for a small amount, like $2 million. It will do what it’s told, though.

Any chance Washington would owe money to Washington State, like UCLA does to Cal? If so, how much are we talking? — @CelestialMosh

The Bruins and the Bears both play for the same university. Huskies and Cougars are two different types of dogs.

We don’t think a similar agreement will happen unless state politicians get involved.

That also goes for Oregon and Oregon State.

Given early buzz around the conference, and the realities of the costs (financial, physical and mental) from longer travel, is there any chance, however remote, that the recent realignment of Pac-12 schools could be unwound through agreements with the Big Ten, Big 12, media partners, etc.? — @astolli

Could they go back to the time when it existed in the middle of July, before Colorado left the Pac-12 for the Big 12, and the others did the same?

We never say never on the Hotline. But we’re not going to do that again, at least not for another ten years.

When the Big Ten’s media deal ends in 2030, the sport could go through another round of major changes in which an upper tier forms and regionality is restored.

The plan for next summer should work until then, though.

When Cal and Stanford joined the ACC, did they lock themselves into the full term of the conference’s grant-of-rights agreement, which expires in 2036? If not, are they free to leave the ACC at any time? — @TerryTerry79

They are definitely locked in.

The ACC would never have agreed to let the schools leave early. That’s how long they’ll be a member.

The Bay Area schools could now go their separate ways if enough schools vote to end the conference. This would mean that the deal with ESPN would no longer apply.

But while the ACC is being built, there aren’t enough eyes that are wandering. On the contrary, almost all members love how stable the grant-of-rights agreement is.

Assuming the Pac-12 exists in some form next season, are TV carriers like Comcast currently obligated to continue carrying the Pac-12 Network beyond this year? Does the mass exodus give the carriers a window to renegotiate carriage fees down or drop the channel entirely? — @mgechert

Not at all. The contracts for distribution that started in 2012–13 will end next spring. The exact date escapes us. There will be no more distribution deals for the Pac-12 Networks after the end of the fiscal year, though. They will no longer be a media company.

These guys have made some great movies, and their presence has had a big positive effect on Pac-12 Olympic sports, especially women’s basketball.

But their lasting legacy will always be as a huge mistake in strategy and a complete failure in business that significantly contributed to the end of the Pac-12.

Infrastructure and people needed to put on an event could be used to support a streaming service if the conference is rebuilt and a media deal is made for 2024 or later.

Or the people and technology will just fly off into the sky.

Has the Pac-12 Network quietly cut back on the number of live broadcasts of fall Olympic sports to save money? There doesn’t seem to be as many volleyball and soccer matches as in the past. — @bogeycat85

The Pac-12 Networks are legally required to produce 850 live events each school year for their distribution partners, such as Comcast, Dish, and others. I can’t give you a firm answer about those sports, but I would like to remind readers of this.

As we already said, that promise ends next summer.

Have they changed how many times a certain sport is shown? Could be. There will be at least 850 events shown on TV by the end of the 2023–24 competition season.

How lame is rebranding Cal to UC Berkeley? — @Wondertaker1

We would rate “Cal Berkeley” a 17 on a scale from 1 to 10 for how lame it is.

Why do so many smart people choose such a stupid choice? (Do not answer.)

If the Hotline were giving advice and the school insisted on changing the name, “California” would be the only choice worth thinking about.

What conference will you follow next year? — @TheMattHolt

All of the conferences that have members in the Pac-12 right now.

We talk about the schools and issues that matter to them, no matter if they are in the Pac-12, the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Mountain West, the Pac-2, the Pac-14, the PacWest, the MountainPac, or something else.

There will be no more Hotline calls.

As always, thank you for being loyal and helpful.

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