Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Plenty to hash out at Pac-12 meetings
By Ted Miller
PHOENIX -- As has been typical in recent years, there's a lot going on in college football, even in May. So there will be plenty to talk about when Pac-12 coaches and athletic directors get together with commissioner Larry Scott over the next two days at the posh Arizona Biltmore Hotel.
While there will be plenty of housecleaning issues -- such as reviews of officiating and the reduction of contact in practices -- Scott acknowledged there were two areas for which he expects the most curiosity and discussion: NCAA governance reform and the new College Football Playoff.
"We'll obviously spend a good amount of time on that," he said.
The simple answer before the meetings begin is that the Pac-12 is in favor of both, even if some conference coaches believe the SEC didn't act in good faith when it opted to give itself an annual advantage by continuing to play only eight conference games. The Pac-12 and Big 12 play nine, and the Big Ten will play nine in the future.
"The way the system works is every conference can make their own decision," Scott said.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott expects a lot of discussion about the future of the NCAA and the College Football Playoff at the league meetings this week.
Scott said he believes, however, that the emphasis on strength of schedule by the selection committee will end up favoring the Pac-12.
"What we've done, along with my other conference colleagues, is really significant -- we have stipulated that strength of schedule is going to be a critical component in sorting teams at the end of the season," he said. "No conference has stronger strength of schedule than we have."
Last year, the Pac-12 played the four toughest schedules in the country and eight of the top 13. Every conference team's schedule ranked among the nation's 42 toughest schedules. By way of comparison, Alabama's strength of schedule was ranked 47th and national champion Florida State's schedule was ranked 62nd.
The Pac-12 also figures to show a united front in favor of significant NCAA governance reform as it applies to the five major conferences and against the idea of athletes unionizing and being termed employees.
"We're absolutely supportive of having more flexibility with the five conferences to do more for student-athletes," Scott said. "At the same time, we think unionization is the wrong answer. We don't see student-athletes as employees. We think that would be a misguided take."
That position won't have to be sold to many athletic directors or coaches, but a few are curious about how the logistics will work out.
"I'm interested to find out where this meal thing is going and what it might mean and where we are with the stipend," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "I'm in that viewpoint that we need to really examine ways we can help these kids -- any way we can without getting into that world of paying salaries for players."
After these two major topics, the conference will review the Pac-12 title game, which will be played on Dec. 5 this year, another Friday night contest after the game was played on Saturday this past season in front of an (almost) packed house at Arizona State. Playing on Friday night is popular with no one -- other than Fox, which chose the date -- so that might inspire some grumbling. Two years ago at Stanford, the Friday night kickoff was an unmitigated disaster in terms of attendance.
While Scott said most are happy with the No. 1 seed hosting the game, there will be some give and take over potentially different formats.
"We feel good about our model, but we'll always look at options," he said. "We've got a lot of great NFL venues in the footprint. That's something we'll definitely look at as well."
One thing that won't get talked about, at least not in terms of advancing any positive agenda, is DirecTV, which continues to not broadcast the Pac-12 Network. Scott said there has been no advancement in the often contentious negotiations.
Meanwhile, more than a few athletic directors will be watching DirecTV's negotiations with the fledgling SEC Network.