*** The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season (and twice-a-week in the summer). This edition, from Dec. 16, has been made available in archived form.
A thorough grasp of the internal dynamics that set the Pac-12’s external course is impossible without a reasonable understanding of the mindset of the presidents and chancellors in charge of the conference.
They pick, and extend, the commissioner.
They approve, or reject, the business strategies and equity sales.
They sign off on changes to the schedule models and transfer rules and all the other topics that set the conference’s direction.
The Hotline, which aims to serve, tracks the comings and goings at the CEO level so you don’t have to.
And the latest coming is absolutely worth passing along:
Late last week, Oregon State announced the appointment of a new president, F. King Alexander.
Two things to know immediately:
1) Alexander replaces longtime OSU boss Ed Ray, who has been one of commissioner Larry Scott’s staunchest supporters (along with Arizona State’s Michael Crow).
2) Alexander has spent the past six years as the president of LSU.
That’s LSU as in Joe Borrow, Ed Orgeron and Death Valley.
This strikes the Hotline as a positive development for Pac-12 fans who care about Pac-12 football, which by our estimates is, well, just about all of them.
The more votes cast in CEO meetings by presidents and chancellors who understand the impact successfull football can have on a university, the better.
Alexander was asked recently about rumors of his departure. His reponse, per WBRZ in Baton Rouge: “No, no, everything is great here. I mean look, Joe Burrow’s gonna win the Heisman. We’re on a good roll right now!”
To be fair, the sentiment in the Pac-12 boardroom appears to be shifting, as we have addressed recently.
The ascent of Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano to chair of the CEO board and the arrival of Robert Robbins at Arizona and Kirk Schultz at Washington State — both have experience in other Power Five conferences — have combined to help shift the conversation at the highest level.
“As new people come into the league that have been elsewhere,” Schulz told the Hotline, “they say this (football) is something we need to be talking about.”
Being the so-called Conference of Champions is fine and dandy, but it matters little if you’re viewed as second rate on the field and the court.
Even commissioner Larry Scott, who delights in the conference’s success in the Olympic sports, has pivoted to a greater focus on football.
“There has been a real awareness of the impact success in football and basketball can have on the overall reputation and feeling in the communities we serve,” Scott said.
More than any president in the room, Alexander will understand the impact successful football can have on the community. — Jon Wilner.
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• Saturday Night Five addressed developments in both major sports with Oregon’s big win at Michigan, Bobby Hurley’s frustration with the Pac-12 Networks, our proposed changes to the all-conference football team, and my Heisman ballot.
• Stanford leads the conference in one category: Number of players in the transfer portal. What’s going on? We examined the potential player movement on The Farm and the impact ot could have on the 2020 depth chart.
• ICYMI II: The Friday newsletter broke down the TV ratings for the top Pac-12 games of the season and found a familiar name dominated the broadcasts. Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form
Support the Hotline: Several Hotline articles will remain free each month (as will the newsletter), but for access to all content, you’ll need to subscribe. I’ve secured a rate of $1 per week for a full year or — introductory offer alert! — just 99 cents for the first month, with the option to cancel anytime. Click here. And thanks for your loyalty.
(Trivia question answer below.)
Selected men’s basketball games included. (All times Pacific.)
Dec. 18: Football early-signing window opens
Dec. 18: Saint Mary’s vs. Arizona State in Phoenix (Pac-12 Networks, 6 p.m.)
Dec. 18: No. 6 Kentucky vs. Utah in Las Vegas (ESPN2, 8 p.m., in Las Vegas)
Dec. 21: North Carolina vs. UCLA in Las Vegas (CBS, 12 p.m.)
Dec. 21: No. 13 Dayton vs. Colorado in Chicago (CBSSN, 3:30 p.m.)
Dec. 21: No. 20 San Diego State vs. Utah in Los Angeles (Pac-12 Networks, 3:30 p.m.)
Dec. 21: Las Vegas Bowl: Washington vs. Boise State (ABC, 4:30 p.m.)
Jan. 20: NFL Draft early-entry deadline
(Note: The Hotline newsletter includes links to sites that could require a subscription once the number of free views has been reached.)
• Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk is skipping the Sun Bowl to preserve his health in advance of the NFL Draft. That leaves the Devils without their top-two playmakers: tailback Eno Benjamin is headed to the draft and skipping the game, as well.
• Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson: also headed to the draft, also is skipping the Alamo Bowl. But at least Zack Moss is scheduled to play. (Good for Moss.)
• Here’s an elite Pac-12 talent staying put: Stanford All-American left tackle Walker Little announced Monday that he is returning for 2020.
• Cal safety Ashtyn Davis will miss the Redbox Bowl because of surgery.
• Washington State kicker Blake Mazza’s field goal percentage went up when his social media use went down. (Imagine that.)
• Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell for the Heisman in 2020? Why not, writes the Oregonian’s John Canzano.
• Canzano wasn’t the only voter to put Sewell on his ’19 ballot. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman did so, as well.
• Seattle Times columnist Matt Calkins makes his case for an expanded playoff, and the ways it would benefit the Pac-12.
• The final CBS Sports power ratings of the regular season feature three teams from the Pac-12, including the soaring Ducks.
• Could Oregon land the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker prospect? Justin Flowe’s recruitment has been trending in a green and yellow direction lately … Rivals analyst Mike Farrell believes Flowe is headed to Oregon or USC now that Clemson is apparenly out of the picture. (Could Flowe join Bryce Young at USC? Now that would be something.)
• One of the top cornerbacks in the west committed to Washington … or re-committed, in the case of Jacobe Covington.
• Kevin Sumlin’s recruiting success after another tough season — his “moment of truth,” according to columnist Greg Hansen — will be framed by one legacy prospect: Jason Harris, the son of one of the best players in school history.
• Arizona State defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales is a strong candidate for the New Mexico job, according to FootballScoop. Makes sense: He’s an alum.
• Meanwhile, the Sun Devils have found their new offensive coordinator: Zak Smith, the Boise State playcaller for the past four years, is joining Herm Edwards’ staff.
• “All signs continue to point to” Graham Harrell remaining as USC’s playcaller despite an offer from Texas, according to the L.A. Times’ Ryan Kartje.
• As expected, USC has received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, the school announced Friday evening. The specifics haven’t been disclosed.
• The NCAA released its first NET rankings of the season, and one look at the order of Pac-12 teams shows why the NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) is a work in progress: Stanford is ninth and Arizona 15th while Oregon, which has the best resume (by far) in the conference, is 17th.
• A sizzling performance by Anthony Mathis fueled Oregon’s victory at Michigan.
• Arizona State thumped Georgia behind Romello White’s double-double. Now the Sun Devils need the Bulldogs to perform well in the SEC.
• UCLA has a slew of problems, but production tops the list: “Right now, we don’t have that one guy that can just get us 20,” Mick Cronin explained after the loss to Notre Dame.
• Arizona feasted on cupcakes early in the season, but the loss to Gonzaga showed the Wildcats aren’t quite ready to beat the heavy hitters, even at home.
A section devoted to content on Pac-12 Olympic sports …
• The Stanford volleyball team is headed to the Final Four. Next up for the Cardinal: Minnesota.
• UCLA’s gymnastics team enters the post-Valorie Kondos Field era with those ‘iconic’ floor routines in the hands of BJ Das. Her plan: “Make sure that the artistry is always first on floor.”
What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
• The Hotline examined the recruiting classes at the heart of the 2019 playoff teams and determined … USC is just killin’ the Pac-12.
• What should we expect from the early signing period? We’ll preview the hottest topics across the conference.
• Trivia answer: The inaugural Hotline trivia question (posed in Friday’s newsletter) asked readers to name the Pac-12’s eight winners of the Outland Trophy. They are USC’s Ron Yary, Washington’s Steve Emtman, Arizona’s Rob Waldrop, UCLA’s Jonathan Ogden and Kris Farris, Washington State’s Rien Long, Stanford’s Joshua Garnett and Oregon’s Penei Sewell.
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.