In what can only be described as a banner day for the Pac-12 Conference, commissioner Larry Scott continued taking bold steps to heighten the national status of the conference with two announcements Wednesday in Phoenix.
The first, that the Pac-12 brought longtime sports TV progamming competitors ESPN and FOX together for a broadcasting rights deal that extends and expands the conference's partnerships with two giants of the industry. The second, that a new media company, Pac-12 Media Enterprises, will be comprised of a Pac-12 TV network, the Pac-12 Digital Network and Pac-12 Properties.
In other words, more outlets and ways to see a ton of Pac-12 games (including Olympic sports) and other conference-related programming. While Scott didn't confirm the reported 12-year, $2.7 billion deal with ESPN and FOX to carry the best football and basketball games of those networks' choice, he was only too happy to trumpet the soon-to-be exposure/saturation of the Pac-12 nationwide.
The meaning of this for Joe Fan from Eugene, Phoenix, L.A., Seattle, Denver and Salt Lake City (and many more places in between)? "Every football game and every men's basketball game in the conference, and certainly most women's basketball games will be broadcast on one of the platforms that we will have going forward," Scott said. "There's going to be a significant increase in the national exposure for football and for men's basketball, which will be very important for showcasing the premier programs that we have."
That means more Barry Tompkins and Petros Papadakis, more Brent Musburger and the sounds of the Autzen Stadium touchdown horn, the Husky Stadium siren and the Cal Victory Cannon from coast to coast.
"It's important for us because we were able to enhance what we were doing previously," said Burke Magnus, ESPN Senior Vice President of College Sports Programming. "Perhaps most significantly, we really had no previous direct relationship with the men's college basketball programs in this league, that to me is a very important and very significant part of this deal."
FOX was best known in college football for broadcasting the Cotton Bowl Classic in recent years. Now it has added the 2011 Big Ten Championship Game and the Pac-12 Football Championship in 2011 and 2012, and will alternate the Pac-12 game with ESPN on an annual basis after 2012.
Fox will enter the realm of regular-season college football broadcasts, as well. Starting in 2012, there will be 44 regular-season Pac-12 football games televised annually via the networks of ESPN and FOX, which include ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, FOX and FX. Ten of those games will be national telecasts in prime time, either on ABC or FOX.
"There are times when it makes sense to get together," FOX Sports Networks president Randy Freer said of working with ESPN. "We were able to come together and realize that this could be a relationship where everyone truly won and the sum of the parts was bigger than the whole in this case."
Another 36 games will be seen on the Pac-12 Network.
"We have a schedule organized and we refer to it as our own version of the draft," Scott said of how the football games will be selected by each entity.
In basketball, 68 regular-season men's games will be shown on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and FOX Sports Net. The other 120-plus games can be seen on the Pac-12 Network or Pac-12 Digital Network. The conference tournament will be on ESPN/ESPN2 or FOX Sports/FX. ESPN gets it first in 2013 and then will rotate with FOX every year afterward.
Five women's basketball games including the Pac-12 tournament championship game, plus 10 more Olympic sports events, will appear on the ESPN networks. The Pac-12 Network will show another 200 live Olympic sports telecasts annually.
Scott hopes that over time, the deal will help allow the "adding back" of sports that have been cut in recent years within the conference. He said there were three goals from the broadcasting rights process; one, to increases revenues for Pac-12 schools; two, to significantly improve the national exposure for the conference and third, to launch a Pac-12 Network.
"It's fair to say 18 months ago, even in our wildest dreams we didn't envision the position that we are in today," Arizona State vice president of athletics Lisa Love said. "Going coast to coast in the presentation of this school and our beautiful sunshine and all the positive things... to be able to export that message all over the country via our sport programs and our partnership with FOX and ESPN, you can just use your imagination and consider the impact."
Love said the issue of time zone and conference exposure to the more densely-populated East Coast is eliminated. She said Scott has been proactive.
"Clearly he's not shy," Love said. "And it's well thought out and extremely strategic."