Priority For Next Pac-10 Commissioner - Changing Culture

Earlier this month Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen announced his intention to retire at the end of 2008-09 season. I think it's safe to say the news was received as a good one not by just members of the Bruin Nation, but fan across up and down the Pacific Coast (See Addicted to Quack's (ADQ) reaction). Now  we may not identify with every one of ADQ's complaints with Hansen, there are couple of issues we can agree on: tv contracts & bowl arrangements. Again here is rye's post on BN following Hansen's announcement:

Hansen is a notorious traditionalist who has nixed a number of changes during his tenure. A number of complaints about Hansen include the lack of exposure for football and basketball (very few games on ESPN and an illogical allegiance to FSN), terrible bowl game arrangements for the conference, packaging the minor sport TV deals with football and not requiring FSN to show games, an allegiance to the Rose Bowl (and resistance to a playoff) and more. Keep in mind that Hansen reports to the university presidents so not everything is in his power.

I've met Hansen a number of times and even sat next to him at last year’s Pac 10 tournament. He’s an extremely nice guy and it’s clear that he cares more about academics than athletics, however his actions as commissioner have also made it clear that he is not very good at his job. There’s a laundry list of issues with the conference and Hansen has done little to fix them. It will be good to see a new person in charge.

The first thing that needs to be done is to stop this allegiance to FSN. I know for a fact that ESPN was preparing an amazing offer to cover Pac 10 football and basketball, but the conference agreed to their deal with FSN without even talking to ESPN. Along those lines, the conference needs to treat their minor sports better. FSN is required to show the Pac 10 Championships for a number of sports, but isn’t required to show a game or two a week. The conference has given FSn the rights to games, but the network is under no obligation to show games.

I’d also like to see the conference develop something similar to ACC Select. ACC select has webcasts of football and basketball games not on national TV and webcasts of minor sports available for a price ($10 per month, $50 for the entire spring). It’d be great if the Pac 10 also had this so our Bruins in exile could watch non-national games online and everyone can watch baseball, softball, soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, etc.

And here was the reaction from Dave at ADQ:

1. Our TV contract sucks. Will a new commissioner finally see the necessity of getting us on ESPN regularly? FSN is okay for a secondary home (see Big XII football or ACC basketball), but ESPN is where the real exposure is at. No more of this "but FSN will show volleyball" crap.

2. Our bowl arrangements suck. I realize that there are only so many bowl games in a reasonable area (no, Pac-10 tie-ins for Florida bowl games will not logistically work). But there are still things that can be done. Why do we always play down to other conferences (eg, Holiday Bowl is our #2 vs. Big XII #3)? Plus, we really need another New Year’s game. I would think that getting a spot in the Cotton Bowl back could be a possibility, although the Alamo Bowl may be more realistic.

3. The "exclusivity" clause, which prevents teams from showing games in their local markets during the "national" Pac-10 broadcast needs to go. This is why the WSU and Stanford games weren’t broadcast regionally next year. If the university wants to show it, they should be able to, instead of forcing USC down our throats again and again.

Dave also has serious concern about Pac-10 basketball tournament being in LA every year. I don't care about that concern all that much because I don't really even care about the tournament. I think a tournament doesn't do much for a program like us, which will usually take care of business in terms of tournament appearance, seeding by playing well in the regular season. But we can talk about that some other time.

What's important here we agree here on couple of important items, which is to update the culture of this conference in terms of it's TV contracts and bowl arrangements, so that they fit the current landscape of college football. Stewart Mandel also expressed those concerns (essentially channeling ryebreadaz) in last weeks' SI.com's college football mailbag

Hansen is a very nice man who's dedicated nearly half a century to college athletics, so I'm reluctant to flat-out bash the guy on the occasion of his retirement. That said -- I've done it plenty of times in the past. The Pac-10, more than any other conference, would benefit immeasurably from the leadership of a more modern and visionary commissioner. The league perennially lags behind its peers in terms of television contracts, bowl partnerships and national perception despite stacking up favorably with any of them when it comes to actual competition.

Some of that can't be helped. A new commissioner can't change the time-zone factor. And a new commissioner can't change the fact that in general, Pac-10 fans simply aren't as rabid as those in other parts of the country; they do not fill 80,000-seat stadiums for spring games or send monstrous hordes to bowl games. It's simply not good business for a New Year's game in Florida to align itself with schools 3,000 miles away.

But what's always bugged me about the Pac-10 under Hansen (and note that it's not just him, but the presidents and other officials he works with) is how out of touch they seem with their constituents. As long as the old-timers have the Rose Bowl and convenient kickoff times, they're happy. Their fans, however, understandably want more. They see the SEC getting the coveted prime-time ESPN slots every week, they see a star like Dennis Dixon fail to get the same massive publicity as a Tim Tebow, and, understandably, they get ticked off. (Note that for the most part, USC and UCLA don't suffer as much as the others.)

The Pac-10 can do better than syndicated Fox Sports Net games, the Pac-10 can do better than sending its No. 3 team to the Sun Bowl and the Pac-10 can do far more to promote its product. (As an example, all the other major conferences have two-to-three day preseason media events with their coaches and star players; the Pac-10's version is a two-hour event at an airport hotel.) Hopefully Hansen's replacement will be someone who recognizes this and will take the appropriate steps to change the culture.

It will be very interesting to see who the conference turns to in the coming months to replace TH. I sure hope the conference is not afraid to consider someone who comes from outside the Pac-10 bureaucracies or someone who is not afraid to challenge the current mindset wrt to our tv and bowl Ks.

GO BRUINS.

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