Who bears responsibility for the demise of the Pac-12 is a discussion for another day.
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.
As John 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.
Canzano followed that up by stating a source told him the Pac-12 demanded $50 million per school annually from ESPN, which was a non-starter. As you might expect, ESPN had no interest in negotiating any further.
University of Washington president Ana Mari Cauce told Jon Wilner of The San Jose Mercury News that the counteroffer would have been “stupid” and that she doubts it happened.
Now she’s walking back her comments, and seemingly confirming Canzano’s reporting in the process. She wrote a letter to Canzano this past Friday, clarifying her remarks, which he presented in the latest edition of his Bald Faced Truth newsletter.
“I do not believe many of us expected that we would obtain a basic media-rights offer of $50 million, regardless of what counteroffer was proposed,” Cauce wrote.
Many of them didn’t expect to get $50 million per school from ESPN, she says.
They instructed the commissioner to ask for it anyway, I’m told.
Cauce told Canzano that ESPN’s offer was no longer on the table and it can be second-guessed now given what transpired next with eight teams departing the conference. By the time Oregon and Washington announced their intentions to join the Big Ten, the Pac-12 was officially dead as we know it.
Cauce took responsibility for her part in the breakup of the Pac-12, writing that “All of us presidents, and especially those like myself who had been serving on the board, bear the responsibility for any and all decisions that resulted on the devaluation of the conference that led to eight teams leaving.”
At the end of the day, shooting for $50 million, knowing that the offer was unattainable, is why the Pac-12 is officially dead as we know it. $30 million annually per school is a relatively fine number, similar to that of the Big 12’s new deals with ESPN and Fox, paying an average of $31.7 million annually to each school.
However you slice it, Cauce and her fellow presidents completely flubbed the negotiating process. It’s nice that she’s now owning up to the absurdity of the counteroffer that was proposed, after initially denying it and calling it “stupid,” but it just goes to show how badly the Pac-12 and its presidents misplayed their hand.