*** The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season and twice-a-week in the summer. (Sign up here for a free subscription.) This edition, from Feb. 21, has been made available in archived form.
When Pac-12 presidents and chancellors talk, we listen — even if what they’re passing off as fact is only speculation.
We also listen, very carefully, when the Pac-12 athletic directors talk. They’re the conference sentinels: They manage the budgets, oversee the coaches, interact with the athletes, work with HQ and receive feedback from fans.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Athletic, Washington’s Jen Cohen addressed several topics that receive regular coverage on the Hotline and in conversations across the conference: the football schedule, the resource gap, the national media’s narrative and the Pac-12 talent pipeline.
For the most part, Cohen’s views mirror what we’ve reported and heard (from other ADs and the public).
• Football scheduling is difficult and not always equitable:
“It’s such a popularity contest in scheduling. And I don’t mean that just based on relationships. I mean based on location and geography, recruiting pool, based on alumni bases. There are just a lot of things that are actually out of your control in scheduling, and scheduling has a massive impact on your enterprise.”
• The resource gap is real:
“The most important resource we have is our people. And so is there a direct tie between the financials and our people? Yeah. So you have to be smart with your resources. When you have less, you have to be smart about how you’re going to distribute those. I think our biggest challenge—not just here, but as a conference — is how do we distribute the funds that we do have, and the revenues that we do have, in an appropriate fashion to make sure that we’re competing in football and men’s basketball?”
* The Pac-12 talent pipeline is at risk:
“I think what we need to really worry about and focus on in the Pac-12 is how do we keep those kids on the West Coast? The kids that we have here, how do we keep them here so that we don’t have the SEC poaching? The Big Ten has always scooped up kids along the way, out of California every once in a while. But we really need to do what we can here, and I know at least for Jimmy (Lake) and for football, keeping kids locally is their No. 1 priority, and keeping kids from the West Coast. We’ve just got to be competitive with that.”
Coincidentally, the interview was published Thursday — the same day the Hotline produced a column examining whether the Pac-12 can retain the best west coast players in the class of 2021.
That class, as we also addressed earlier this month, includes an unprecedented collection of prep talent in the state of Washington, thus creating an opportunity for Lake that will help shape his entire tenure in Seattle.
There’s loads more from Cohen in the interview with reporter Christian Caple, who covers the Huskies.
And for the full array of Hotline recruiting coverage, which includes a recent podcast on the economic component with Navigate Research CEO AJ Maestas, use this link. — Jon Wilner.
• We mentioned above the Thursday column on recruiting, which includes comments from 247sports analyst Greg Biggins and the current 247 forecasts for the top-10 players, both in California and the rest of the Pac-12 footprint.
• The Hotline has published several articles lately on UCLA, which is making news on two front: The Bruins have encountered serious budget issues while searching for a new athletic director. Our latest look, this morning, examines a broader topic in Westwood: Does chancellor Gene Block care one iota about athletics? The evidence suggests his interest is, at best, extremely limited — and that’s not good for the Bruins or the Pac-12.
• The Wednesday newsletter addressed the rapidly-unfolding development with the NCAA’s transfer working group, which has fast-tracked the idea of allowing players to switch schools without sitting out a year. The ACC and Big Ten support the change. Where does the Pac-12 stand? At this point, it’s “formulating” a position. Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form.
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Feb. 21: UCLA at Colorado (CBS, 1 p.m.)
Feb. 21: Oregon at Arizona (ESPN, 6 p.m.)
Feb. 27: NFL Combine on-field workouts begins
March 11-14: Pac-12 tournament (T-Mobile Arena)
March 15: Selection Sunday
Two quality pieces that take a broader look at the Pac-12 …
• The Oregonian’s John Canzano delivered a typically on-point column that addressed Arizona State president Michael Crow’s recent comments about the state of the conference: “But Crow’s comments about being “on track” and “doing well” raised alarm bells within the Pac-12 footprint. His glowing endorsement of Scott last week, though, ugh. Are the presidents and chancellors really that out of touch?”
• The Denver Post’s Sean Keeler uses Colorado’s coaching search and Paul Finebaum’s view of the Pac-12 as the vehicles for a look at salary pools for football coaches. His conclusion: “Get real, or get plucked.” The column includes this comment from Finebaum: “If you’re in the SEC and the Big Ten, and you’re taking in $45 million (per school) from the conference network, you can afford to do a lot of things. But you can’t afford to do it if you’re on a network that nobody has ever seen before.”
(Note: The Hotline newsletter includes links to sites that could require a subscription once the number of free views has been reached.)
• It now appears the search could extend into next week, but Steve Sarkisian is no longer involved. And former CU star Eric Bieniemy won’t be part of it (if he was even a serious candidate to begin with).
• USC cancelled its 2021 date with UC Davis in order to preserve its history of not playing FCS opponents. Fortunately for the Trojans, San Jose State was available.
• CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd spent time recently with USC coach Clay Helton, who believes the Trojans are “so much closer than people think.”
• Arizona State is starting spring practice next week, and it’s all about Jayden Daniels.
• Drawn: A line in the sand. Donte Williams, the ace recruiter hired away from Oregon by USC, believes it’s time the Trojans “restore order” to the Pac-12 recruiting hierarchy.
• Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft has Justin Herbert going to Miami with the No. 5 pick but wonders: “Is he instinctive enough as a quarterback and does he have that ‘it’ factor, to be that incredible, off-the-charts competitor?”
• Not specific to the Pac-12: No surprise, but coaches are concerned about the impact of the proposed change to the transfer rules.
• Messy situation at Arizona State, where a former football player (Bart Wear) has been accused of harassing spouses of athletic department employees and the university admitted its response time could have been quicker, according to a Yahoo report. Athletic director Ray Anderson is mentioned specifically, and Bobby Hurley’s wife is involved (as an object of the unwanted advances). The optics in the notice of claim are bad. We’ll see how this plays out.
• A team that lost at home to Saint Mary’s by 40 points two months ago is tied for first place in the Pac-12. How ASU got its you-know-what together, from the Arizona Republic’s Kent Somers.
• The Trojans missed an opportunity in Boulder and wasted a big game from Onyeka Okongwu.
• Nico Mannion “has been under scrutiny probably unmatched by any player in (Arizona) history, if that’s possible,” writes the Daily Star’s Greg Hansen in his look at the freshman point guard.
• Stanford’s four-game losing streak is history, thanks to a second-half run and its typically stout defense.
• Just when (perhaps) you thought nothing else could go wrong for Washington, Isaiah Stewart is struggling.
• Fair question raised by the Seattle Times’ Matt Calkins: Can Mike Hopkins build a program?
Content on Pac-12 women’s basketball …
• Oregon forward Satou Sabally, a junior, is headed to the WNBA after the season. She’s join Sabrina Ionescu as a first-round pick.
• UCLA needs the proper mindset for its final roadtrip of the season: “It’s not getting distracted by the wrong things.”
• Arizona forward Cate Reese, a finalist for a prestigious national award, is a key reason for the Wildcats’ success.
• Stanford junior guard Kiana Williams “is carrying our team right now,” coach Tara VanDerveer said in the latest column from the Pac-12’s Michelle Smith.
• Five players have won back-to-back Wade trophies, given to the best player in the sport. Ionescu is attempting to become the sixth.
• The latest ESPN roundtable: Can the SEC overtake the Pac-12 as the nation’s best conference?
Key women’s basketball games this weekend (all times Pacific)
Arizona at Utah (Pac-12 Mountain, 6 p.m.)
Oregon State at Stanford (Pac-12 Network, 8 p.m.)
Arizona State at Utah (Pac-12 Arizona, 11 a.m.)
Oregon at Stanford (ESPN2, 6 p.m.)
What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
• Saturday Night Five is slotted for its usual spot ’round midnight.
• Coming next week: Our projections for the 2020 division races and a look at the top 2021 recruiting targets for each team.
*** 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.