The Pac-12 announced on Thursday that the conference will provide fans with behind-the-scenes access during football broadcasts. To deliver unprecedented access to its audience, Pac-12 football broadcasts on ESPN, Fox Sports and Pac-12 Networks will implement several initiatives, which include in-game head coach interviews and select student-athletes and coaches mic’d up on the field before games.
The phenomenon of coaches and athletes being wired for sound isn’t all that new, but in an effort to enhance broadcasts, it’s finally transcended into the world of college sports. The Pac-12 has made this announcement on the heels of the Big-12 suggesting earlier this month that it was ready to do what no other college football conference offers. The Big-12 and commissioner Brett Yormark suggested that those implementations to future broadcasts would be imminent.
In addition to the initiatives mentioned above, Pac-12 broadcasts will now also offer fans pregame and halftime locker room camera access, as well as cameras in the coaches’ booth without sound.
Those initiatives were developed by the Pac-12 board of directors, alongside ESPN and Fox Sports. They did so with the support of the conference’s head coaches, and approved these changes during the Pac-12’s recent Spring Council meetings.
“The Pac-12 is committed to delivering unprecedented access and entertainment to our fans throughout our football broadcasts, and to working with our media partners to be on the cutting edge of innovation,” said Pac-12 Executive Associate Commissioner of Football Operations Merton Hanks in a statement. “We look forward to delivering the best possible broadcasts that give fans the insights and access that makes watching Pac-12 football even more enjoyable.”
Heather Dinnich of ESPN has a piece on some of the Pac-12 plans going forward. She also spoke at length with Hanks, who suggested that when a conference has a personality like Deion Sanders, they’re going to do their best to highlight those aspects and deliver that type of content to fans.
Here’s more on that from that piece:
While the additional access will provide more entertainment, it won’t be as live as what XFL fans have seen, but it’s a step designed to bring college football closer to what other sports like Major League Baseball have long been doing. The Big 12 is also exploring the concept.
Hanks told ESPN there are additional opportunities for access the Pac-12 would like to pursue, but they aren’t currently approved under NCAA legislation. The conference didn’t elaborate on what more it is seeking to do.
“We’ll continue to work with the NCAA in that respect,” he said.
Hanks said the coaches have been supportive but recognizes it could be more difficult to grab some of them who also call plays during games.
“A guy like Chip Kelly, he’s seen this in part from his time in the NFL, he understands that it’s important to be able to do that,” Hanks said. “And he’s a playcaller, obviously, so we’re going to have to work with our playcallers. I think [USC head coach] Lincoln Riley’s another great example. We’ll work with those guys during the game. There may be certain aspects of availability that we will be able to pull off consistently, but the mere fact the coaches are supportive of the concept and are willing to work with us on that is a significant plus.”
This wasn’t entirely a difficult sell for coaches, as during the 2022 season, the Pac-12 Networks football broadcasts featured mic’d up content for non-live use from head coaches Dan Lanning, Jedd Fisch and Justin Wilcox. It remains to be seen how this will impact broadcasts going forward, but it’s clear that the Pac-12 is ready to dive head-first into bringing its audience a new at-home experience.