Pac-12 mailbag: Football schedule options, the Amazon factor, Dickert’s success, Shaw’s status and more

The Hotline mailbag is published every Friday. Send questions to or hit me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline.

Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.

If Amazon jumps into streaming Pac-12 football, what are the chances of seeing more weekday evening games? Why not give opposing teams a bye, then a Wednesday night game — or even go against ‘Monday Night Football’? — @cubsfan7331

First, the Pac-12 should, and probably will, get creative with scheduling. It’s the best way to leverage its unique ability to play at 7:30 p.m. Pacific.

At minimum, the creativity is likely to take the form of regular games on Friday night, when there is no competition from the NFL and little, if any, from the other Power Five leagues.

The perfect pairing for Amazon would be to air Pac-12 games immediately following ‘Thursday Night Football,’ but the NFL broadcasts end too late. Pac-12 kickoffs would be approximately 8:30 p.m., and we’re skeptical any campus would agree to that.

The head-to-head approach with the NFL on Monday night seems unwise.

The conference could play on Wednesdays, but that carries multiple logistical issues: Any game that requires a bye the previous weekend screws with the master schedule. (The MAC can do it because mid-week games are fundamental to its schedule, not one-offs for teams that must be jammed into a Saturday rotation.)

That said, we have suggested in the past — and continue to believe — that one obvious Wednesday window exists for the Pac-12 and should be taken advantage of: Thanksgiving eve.

By 5 p.m., the holiday weekend is underway, and the viewing audience for football would be significant. Whichever network had the broadcast rights could use those three hours to promote upcoming games. And if that’s Amazon, it could advertise Black Friday sales.

Generally speaking, this topic underscores our primary point about Pac-12 expansion. There are no schools available to significantly increase valuation, but expansion means more games, and more games mean more inventory, and more inventory could mean satisfied network partners.

If the Pac-12 stands at 10, it won’t have as much flexibility.

Do you think the Pac-12’s delay in signing a media deal ends up costing them with the tech recession? With all the layoffs, could streamers like Amazon and Apple back off? — @mangz

We cannot claim any insight into the financial situation for either company, but our hunch is a downturn wouldn’t impact media deals.

Apple and Amazon view sports broadcasting as a long-haul investment, with football as a vehicle to sell toilet paper and watches, and they have undoubtedly budgeted for rights fees.

Plus, the amount of cash required for a package of Pac-12 football games — let’s say it’s $200 million per year — is essentially a rounding error for their budgets.

Amazon’s annual operating expenses are in the $300 billion range.

Do you think certain Big 12 teams have not signed their new grant-of-rights deal because they are waiting to see the Pac-12’s next move? Or are all Big 12 schools officially locked up until the next contract cycle? — Jeff J.

When the $31.7 million per-school (per year) deal was announced a few weeks ago, it had not been signed. We don’t know if the schools have formalized the agreement since then, but it’s possible.

There is no question — none, zero, zip — that the decision to renew early with ESPN and Fox, and not go to the open market in 2024, was a defensive play first and foremost. Otherwise, why take a below-market price?

Within that decision, we believe, was a desire to give the continuing eight schools a sense of security and to keep two newcomers, Houston and Brigham Young, off the market.

At this point, the likelihood of the Pac-12 adding schools from the Big 12 is roughly 0.1 percent.

And if we knew they had signed the grant-of-rights deal, it would be absolute zero.

To save money, are we going to start seeing major conferences featuring fewer sports by creating smaller, regional leagues for some of the Olympic sports (i.e., water polo in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)? — @Mike_BX

There could be some form of realignment at the Olympic sports level based on geography.

After all, the economic model underpinning college sports, in which two profitable subsidiaries support 14-to-20 money-losing enterprises at each school, is under unprecedented stress.

That isn’t sustainable, especially when the top football schools enter a revenue-sharing agreement with the athletes. (Coming sooner than later, in our opinion.)

More likely: Major college football becomes untethered from the current structure and is given a largely autonomous existence.

This could take a decade, or more, but it makes the most sense given that football is unlike any other sport in the portfolio of college athletics.

Does the Pac-12 have any leverage with ESPN to force it into 3.5-hour TV windows? Too many games have to start on other ESPN channels because college games are not three hours long. — @BryanTippetts3

The windows are no different for the Pac-12 than other conferences — that’s how ESPN programs its Saturday lineup.

Using Eastern time, the ESPN broadcast slots are 12 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Plenty of games in all conferences have to start on overflow channels (like ESPN News).

Is there any hope that after 2025, these dopey College Football Playoff ranking shows on ESPN will disappear? — Jon Joseph

The weekly rankings show exists because it generates viewership for ESPN and buzz for the CFP more than a month before the semifinal pairings are set.

Also, the show makes for better programming than just about any available option on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern.

The 12-team playoff, whenever it starts, might serve to generate more interest in the rankings. My guess is they won’t disappear. If anything, they will do what the CFP does — and expand.

Is there any thought about adding Gonzaga for basketball and baseball and Boise State for football and softball? A 12th member, but based upon the schools we have here? — @A222999111

The Pac-12 is considering Gonzaga as a member — any suggestion that it snoozed while the Big 12 grabs the Zags is incorrect. The difference is the Pac-12 hasn’t publicized its discussions.

We’ll know more on the expansion front in the next month or two, after the media rights deal is signed.

I haven’t heard anything concrete about Boise State and believe the Broncos are down the list of expansion candidates.

Could we see teams join the conference in some sports but not others? Yes, sure. But that would most likely take the form of membership in football only.

Can you explain the difference in the California government bodies that run the state schools vs. the ones that run UCLA and Cal and how that affects expansion and other things? — @brycetacoma

The University of California system includes Cal and UCLA. The California State University system includes San Jose State, Fresno State and San Diego State. They are separate entities, although both receive funding from the state.

In the past, Cal and UCLA have been loath to consider any of the CSU campuses for Pac-12 membership.

The Bruins no longer have a voice. And if Cal remains in opposition to San Diego State, the remaining schools should simply ignore Berkeley’s wishes and extend an invitation.

(Cal is not in position to make demands or squash moves that benefit the collective.)

SDSU rates higher than several Pac-12 schools in the ‘US News and World Report’ rankings and can now offer doctorates. Its academic profile has improved substantially, and the campus creates an access point to Southern California that the conference desperately needs.

Along with SMU, it’s a top candidate to join the Pac-12.

Are the top four teams in the Pac-12 really so strong, or could it be that the bottom is historically weak?  — Matt Kreuter

A valid question, for sure. And because of losses by Oregon (to Georgia) and Utah (to Florida), there is substance behind the premise.

But let’s flip the perspective and look at results produced by the other eight teams:

— Washington beat Michigan State.

— Washington State beat Wisconsin (on the road).

— Oregon State beat Fresno State and Boise State.

— Stanford won at Notre Dame.

There are enough solid victories in that collection to suggest the second- and third-tier teams aren’t historically weak but, rather, the victims of a legitimately stout top.

How well do you think the Jake Dickert tenure has gone so far for Washington State? We’ve lost a couple games this year, but the record feels right for the talent. — @c_rog6

WSU should have no complaints about the Dickert era thus far, although I’m sure the collapse against Oregon still stings. The Cougars have no bad losses and collected a headline-making win at Wisconsin (that signaled the resurgence of Pac-12 football).

And their greatest weakness — poor recruiting on the offensive line in prior years — can’t be pinned on Dickert.

Anytime the Cougars are bowl-eligible, it’s a successful season. And they should clear that bar in 2022, perhaps this weekend (against Arizona State).

If there’s a school that makes better use of its resources on an annual basis, especially with regard to football and men’s basketball success, we haven’t seen it.

Can you give any update on the Colorado coaching search? I haven’t heard names for a while. — @beal_zach

It has been fairly quiet in Boulder, which is to be expected. Recall that last year, USC officials fired Clay Helton in mid-September and then went underground for two-and-a-half months.

The Buffaloes are undoubtedly researching and interviewing candidates, and we expect them to have a coach in place by early December in order to preserve what stands as a solid recruiting class.

There has been frequent scuttlebutt about CU hiring an experienced former head coach with Texas recruiting ties (Tom Herman or Gary Patterson, for example).

In our view, the Buffs need someone who’s young, hungry and energized. Maybe it’s Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham or USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch or perhaps San Jose State coach Brent Brennan.

Those are the type of candidates CU should consider.

Are you ready to start talking about the warmth of David Shaw’s seat yet? Surely athletic director Bernard Muir recognizes this, right? — @BSTEVENS_1984

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Stanford recognizes the problem, but that doesn’t mean the school is prepared to move on from its most successful coach, ever.

After all, Muir gave a vote of support last spring to basketball coach Jerod Haase, who was hired in March 2016 and has yet to make the NCAA Tournament.

That suggests Stanford is taking a vastly longer view of its revenue sports than other Pac-12 schools. You can’t compare Shaw’s seat heat to a typical situation, because the Cardinal uses a different thermometer.

Granted, the optics on game day are abysmal, and institutionally, Stanford cares about optics almost as much as it cares about money.

Also, recruiting has been substandard in recent years — that is indisputable. The talent on the lines of scrimmage is a fraction of what it was a decade ago. But unlike his peers, Shaw doesn’t have the ability to correct mistakes through the transfer portal.

We cannot see Stanford firing Shaw. Instead, any change in command would have to be voluntary on his part.

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