Pac-12 football: 6 ideas (some of them radical) to overhaul the schedule and maximize media value

03 Jun 2022 | 08:52

The Pac-12 took an important step in completely restructuring its football model last month when it changed the process that determines which teams play for the championship.

And there are more changes to come.

Later this year, commissioner George Kliavkoff will begin negotiating a new media rights agreement for a contract cycle beginning in 2024.

The Pac-12 had to get creative with the football schedule to maximize revenue for campuses and product visibility.

The hotline has six ideas, some of which have been published here before:

1. Play early

We first suggested kickoffs at 9am 3 years ago. Since then, only one Pac-12 home game has filled the FOX’ Big Noon: USC-Arizona State season opener on November 20, during the COVID year hiatus.

Unfortunately starting 30 minutes after the presidential election was called by the major networks but nonetheless generated 1.3 viewer ratings and 2.3 million viewers – more than double the audience for Best match of the night Pac-12.

That suggests the 9 a.m. kick-off would draw 3 million viewers on a typical Saturday. Few precious Pac-12 games hit that mark during the season.

In our view, the conference should schedule a handful of home games at 9 a.m. each season on any broadcast network partner with the Pac-12 in the next contract cycle. If you kick that early, it has to be over the air, not over cable or streaming.

The window will work especially well for Mountain Time games (10 a.m. local time) and non-conference matches against Power Five opponents. Either way, many Pac-12 teams practice in the mornings, and opponents from the eastern half of the country would probably prefer the 9 a.m. kicks to get home earlier.

The main reason to play at 9am is because of too many games in the middle of the day. With Disney taking over the entire SEC football inventory starting in 2024, broadcast windows will be scarce at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific on both ABC and ESPN.

Early play offers an additional benefit:

It ensures college football shows on ESPN and Fox will discuss the Pac-12 game – and show highlights – throughout the day.

Appearances on studio shows don’t count towards the TV ratings for the game, but it does matter.

2. Play late

For the exact reason the Pac-12 should kick off at 9 a.m. – a time when many Power Five games are in the middle of the day – so it should commit to playing night games or not.

That’s right: The night game is worth it when done right.

In fact, we recommend two stores:

– Regardless of other media partnerships forged on the table, Kliavkoff should block the 7/7:30 p.m. broadcast window on ESPN – a valuable time period for the conference and the network. .

At the time, the media scene was clearly filled with competition from other Power Five leagues, but a lot of college football fans around the country were awake and in need of a sleeping cap.

Many Pac-12 supporters despise night-time matches, and the FS1 and Pac-12 Networks games have limited value. But ESPN broadcasts have considerable reach and should be a mainstay of the conference’s media rights package.

– Additionally, the Pac-12 should aim for frequent, and possibly weekly, sorties at 7pm (Pacific) over a wireless network.

That broadcast window debuted last season with Stanford-USC on FOX, and we’ll see it again in Week Three of the 2022 season when USC hosts State of Fresno on FOX at 7:30 p.m.

Pac-12 could agree to play in ‘Saturday Night Football’ main games simultaneously – one on ESPN and one on broadcast TV – or it could create an exclusive bundle with a single top game weekly rotation between networks.

Either way, 7pm starts on ESPN and FOX/ABC/CBS should be part of the next media rights deal.

3. Play non-conference games in November

This change is not possible under current media rights agreements with Fox and ESPN but could be written into subsequent contracts.

We do not suggest that the conference take an SEC-style approach and schedule an attack on creampuff opponents for the first or second Saturday of November.

Also, there will be a limit to the available opponents as a lot of FBS teams are locked into league games at that time of year. (This includes Brigham Young, which will join the Big 12 in 2023.)

But the Pac-12 will give teams the contract option to step out of the conference game in November.

If done strategically, it can create competitive benefits and create flexibility for other parts of the schedule – flexibility that will bring not only the group in question but the entire team. conference.

After all, the master schedule is essentially a jigsaw puzzle.

4. Adopt pod system.

The hotline endorsed the benefit of the group schedule a few weeks ago, when the Pac-12 announced that divisional winners would no longer have automatic landings in the championship game.

We expect the current schedule rotation, based on departmental adjustments, to be phased out over the next 24 months.

When a new model is created, the conference should use groups as a foundation:

Group A: Washington and Oregon Schools

Group B: Schools in California

Pod C: Mountain/Desert School (or Four Corners)

The team system generates three yearly opponents for each team. This is the only model that allows California schools to play against each other every year, keeping the Oregon-Washington game going and ensuring natural competition.

5. Play the day before Labor Day

The hotline has long believed that the Pac-12 will take over the football world on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.

There is no competitive NFL and very little on the college front. For example, this year, only one match is scheduled: Florida State vs. LSU at 4:30 p.m. (Pacific on ABC).

Our recommendation: Play duel at 12:30pm and 4pm… or 3:30pm and 7pm

The first could be a non-conference game, possibly in a neutral venue (Las Vegas or Los Angeles) against a willing Power Five partner. Those people may be few and far between because Sunday evenings go back to school and cut down on prep time for a Week Two game.

Or the Pac-12 could simply schedule conference games for both ends of the doubles, with second-matching teams from nearby facilities.

(You don’t want Washington schools flying home from Arizona on Sunday night, or vice versa.)

Luckily, we could see the potential for a Labor Day rollout.

USC and LSU will collide in the 2024 season opener in Las Vegas over the holiday weekend, but a date hasn’t been set yet – it could be included in the Sunday window.

Our conjecture: The Pac-12 ultimately claims that value foundation on a perpetual basis.

6. Play the day before Thanksgiving

As far as we know, there has never been a Power Five game on Thanksgiving Wednesday – certainly not in this current age of media copyright.

Heck, even MAC is down on Turkish New Year’s Eve.

And yet, the audience still craves football. By 5 p.m. Pacific, many people are off work and back, counting the time until the NFL and college games hit Thanksgiving.

How will Wednesday’s love story unfold? In a tactful way.

Like the Pac-12 games on Thursdays, those entering the Wednesday game must have been inactive the previous weekend.

It’s a tricky situation for the conference, because the mid-November holiday weekend will force teams to play 11 weeks in a row, unless…

Those teams have two bye: One in the middle of the season, one on the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The second goodbye will be the result of opening the season on Week Zero – the Saturday before the traditional start of the schedule.