Things have grown so dire for the Pac-12 that they’re one cycle away from returning to tape delay airings. The Left Coast’s elite has always found themselves at a disadvantage in cuing up interest for its football campaign. Cue the beat of Deion Sanders drum.
The high-stepping, high-falutin, headline machine has been a polarizing figure, but he’s also lifted one of the conference’s bottomfeeders back out of the doldrums. Hate him or love him, Neon Deion in front of a microphone is no-holds-barred entertainment even if it backfires at times.
Negative dispatches travel further than good vibes in the modern news climate and the Pac-12 needs something to counter its mounting crisis. Only one problem. The conference’s one-man publicity machine won’t be around to distract from the torrential downpour of bad news.
In the latest grim news to hit the Pac-12, Coach Prime will miss media day to undergo additional surgeries to remove blood clots in his right leg and straighten two of his toes to reduce pain when he wears shoes, less than two months after he underwent surgery in June on his left leg.
Without Sanders in attendance, what is the point of a Pac-12 Media Day? They need to get their affairs in order first. The list of topics Pac-12 coaches can discuss that will generate positive headlines for Pac-12 football in 2023 are slim. Chip Kelly’s turnaround of UCLA only draws more attention to the fact that one of the conference’s flagship schools is bouncing for more financially prosperous lands. Oregon staring at the exits complicates their media rights negotiations even further..
Instead, we’ll get Chip Kelly answering questions as droll as possible and incoming Oregon coach Kenny Dillingham telling everyone he likes their leadership groups and insisting that he likes the Ducks quarterback situation this fall. Zzzzz…..
Washington’s Michael Penix is a potential Heisman sleeper, but doesn’t move the needle, and Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei didn’t inspire much confidence at Clemson. David Shaw stepping away from Stanford’s sidelines robbed them of whatever prestige they had left. The Stanford aura is gone. Kyle Whittingham is an outstanding X’s and O’s coach and can make fresh paint peel when he speaks.
Finding positive Pac-12 storylines is akin to drilling for oil on the dark side of the moon. USC contending for the first Pac-12 national title in football (or basketball) since 2004 and Caleb Williams’ ascension would be a victory for the conference if USC and UCLA weren’t leaving their Broke Phi Broke conference for the Big 12 stacks.
ESPN’s possible exit as the primary media rights holder of the conference has hovered over the Pac-12’s fiscal house of cards all summer. Given that their deal with Fox also expires in 2024, they face the possibility of losing the biggest media markets in California thanks to the Big 12’s poaching of their most profitable programs, and the ignominious existence of being the only Power Five conference without a long-term media deal.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Heather Dinich reported that the Pac-12 expects to release the details of its next media rights deal in the “near future.” CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported in May that the main bidder was NBC Universal, which could stick those late-night Pac-12 games on the USA Network which hasn’t aired football since 1986.
Media days in general are an antiquated concept. In an era of 24/7 coverage they tend to get lost in a vast media landscape. The only thing you should be paying attention to at any media day is the prop bet over/under on how many times coaches say “good football team.”
The only things that bubble to the zeitgeist’s surface are negativity and barbs thrown between coaches. Deion throwing verbal heat back at the Big 12 and Brent Venables may have been the boost they needed. He’ll presumably be back for 2024’s Media Day, but by then, he could be shilling for Colorado’s new conference if the realignment rumors swirling around the Buffs pans out.
Wherever you turn, there’s a phalanx of black clouds descending on the Pac-12. Why give it a larger platform? Ultimately, it may not matter anyways. The Pac-12’s best games rarely get seen across the country because of their late start times so it stands to reason that their severely emaciated media day is destined to get lost in the Friday news dumpster.
Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex
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