Who bears responsibility for the demise of the Pac-12 is a separate discussion meant for another day. Well, it appears that day has come, at least to some degree.
Now, we aren’t going to point fingers at any particular university president, but it’s pretty clear based on Utah president Taylor Randall’s recent statement, just how badly they misfired their negotiations with ESPN.
Here’s Randall’s statement via John Canzano’s Bald Faced Truth newsletter:
“The Pac-12 Presidents and Chancellors worked collectively in pursuit of a new media rights agreement. Though an offer was made by one of our media partners, we elected to take the rights to market to get the best deal. Throughout the process, many of the CEOs — including myself — pushed to ensure that the conference was aggressive to secure the very best agreement we could. Several conference schools retained their own consultants to value the league, which resulted in a range of estimations. It is my understanding that any mention of $50 million, which was higher than any valuation, was only as a potential starting point in negotiations to help get us to the estimated true value.”
According to Randall, the presidents and chancellors wanted to “take the rights to market.”
That appears to have been a mistake.
If you want to point the finger in ESPN’s direction, that’s your prerogative. The conference’s leadership, including the presidents, deserve some heat as well. And some of them are finally starting to own up to it, including Randall.
As Canzano originally reported in his Bald Faced Truth newsletter, ESPN made an offer of $30 million per school annually last fall for the Pac-12’s entire media rights package and the Pac-12 Network. The Pac-12’s board reportedly turned the offer down and demanded more money. $50 million per school to be exact.
University of Washington president Ana Mari Cauce recently told Canzano that she bore some responsibility, but also wrote that she did not “believe many of us expected that we would obtain a basic media-rights offer of $50 million, regardless of what counteroffer was proposed.”
Canzano writes that one Pac-12 president told him that commissioner George Kliavkoff and Sports Media Advisors completely misplayed the $50 million counteroffer: “The instructions were to negotiate. This wasn’t supposed to be a ‘take your ball and go home’ scenario.”
And yet it was.
The Pac-12 and its presidents badly misplayed their hand. And Randall’s comments just go to show how naive they were about this being the end of their conference as they knew it.