HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – The Southeastern Conference could be expanding sooner rather than later with news breaking Tuesday morning that Big 12 Conference powers Texas and Oklahoma have requested invitations to join a league that’s been the sport’s strongest for well over a decade.
What kind of implications would that have for the Pac-12, the only conference that hasn’t sent a team to the College Football Playoff the past four years?
“If the media reports turn out to be true, we believe the move by Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12 to the SEC strengthens our unique position as the only Power 5 conference with teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones,” first-year Pacific-12 Conference Commissioner George Kliavkoff said Tuesday morning at the league’s football media day. “We have a stable, highly successful and well-positioned membership with a high bar to entry. Given our investments in football and men’s basketball, our historic domination of other sports, we do not think expansion is required to continue to compete and thrive.”
Realignment or expansion may not be necessary, but they’re also things the conference will monitor now that SEC expansion seems imminent. Without going into details, Kliavkoff indicated the Pac-12 has drawn interest from more than one school inquiring about potential membership.
“That said, the fallout from Texas and Oklahoma gives us an opportunity to once again consider expansion,” Kliavkoff said. “We have already had significant inbound interest from many schools. We will work with our presidents and chancellors to evaluate these opportunities.”
Later in his media availability, Kliavkoff, the former MGM Resorts executive who replaced Larry Scott as the Pac-12 commissioner earlier this year, assured the conference wouldn’t be leaving itself in a vulnerable position by staying at 12 schools.
“We don’t think there’s any risk at staying at 12 teams,” Kliavkoff said.
If the Pac-12 did consider expansion, its commissioner said “athletics, academics and cultural fit” would be three items taken into account, but prerequisites or level accreditation – such as AAU – wouldn’t be required.
Asked about a recent report indicating Texas Tech had reached out to the Pac-12 about expansion, Kliavkoff refused to acknowledge the rumor, responding “as I mentioned, we’re not going to talk about any individual school.”
Kliavkoff was also asked what the Pac-12 can do to deter its biggest brands from looking to join conferences, such as the Big Ten, as a way to improve their chances of a CFP berth.
“All of the press reports where someone writes an article completely unfounded about schools going here, schools going there, everyone picks it up, that becomes a news cycle,” Kliavkoff said. “It’s interesting, curious, fun for the fans, fun for the media. It’s not based in reality if you’re sitting in the rooms that I’m sitting in. We feel very comfortable with our current membership.”
Rolovich endorses NIL
Although the vast majority of Nick Rolovich’s 25-minute media availability centered around other topics, the Washington State coach had an opportunity to weigh in on the name, image, likeness movement and new policies that allow college athletes to profit from sponsorship deals and endorsements.
“I have no problem with them making money. I told them that,” Rolovich said. “I told them that the only thing I want them all to be careful of is if what they do or what they say, there has to be some respect for the locker room. There’s medical stuff I think that they want to be careful about. I don’t have a problem with the rule.”
A few of Rolovich’s players are already profiting from NIL. Running back Max Borghi recently partnered with the video messaging platform Cameo and is charging fans $70 for personalized videos. Rolovich anticipates those opportunities will continue to flood in for WSU players, especially the higher-profile ones, and athletes across the country will find unique, innovative ways to monetize their image and brand.
Fisch, Lloyd become fast friends
Former Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd didn’t have to go far to find someone in a similar position as him at the University of Arizona. Lloyd and new Wildcats football coach Jedd Fisch have developed an instant friendship during their time in Tucson – Lloyd was hired less than three months after Fisch – and UA’s newest coaches have already spent ample time together outside of the Wildcats’ athletic buildings.
“I’m much more of a veteran than he is,” Fisch joked during Pac-12 media day. “It’s been four weeks longer than I had the job than he did.”
Well, give or take a few months.
Fisch said he and Lloyd have already “gone out for dinner numerous times” and share more than a few mutual acquaintances. While Fisch was at Lloyd’s house recently, he urged the longtime Zag assistant to phone up P.J. Carlesimo, who was the head coach of Seton Hall Prep in 1989 when Fisch was a 13-year-old boy in New Jersey.
“I said, ‘He was my favorite coach,’” Fisch said. “He said, ‘Let’s call him right now.’ It was pretty awesome talking to Coach Carlesimo. It’s pretty awesome to have Tommy Lloyd in the building. We’re going to do everything together as much as we can.”
‘A lot of weapons still’
Renard Bell won’t be in the slot for WSU’s football team this fall, but the veteran wide receiver who recently announced he tore his ACL will still be vital for the Cougars on the sideline and in the locker room, Rolovich said.
“We’re going to miss him,” he said. “He’s still a valuable part of this program. He’s got an incredible mentality as far as attacking the rehab process already. I already know that he’s dialing in for a comeback when he gets healthy.”
Rolovich added later, “it’s definitely not something we wanted to see happen, but I think we’ll have some guys step up. And combine that with the running game and the offensive line, I think there’s a lot of weapons still.”
Asked specifically who’d be expected to step into larger roles this season, Rolovich first singled out Calvin Jackson Jr., who was kept off the field with injuries in 2020 and dealt with the tragic loss of his father, a former NFL player, during the offseason.
“I see Calvin the healthiest he’s been since we’ve been here,” Rolovich said. “Also had a tough year in multiple ways, but is focused and I think dialed in for a real successful senior campaign.”
Rolovich also said “we got to get something out of CJ Moore” while also mentioning Brandon Gray, De’Zhaun Stribling, Lincoln Victor and Joey Hobert as players who could contend for starting spots.
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