*** The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season and twice-a-week in the summer. (Sign up here for a free subscription.) This edition, from June 16, has been made available in archived form.
The societal push for racial equality has impacted college football, where athletes are empowered, the establishment is on notice and the bell tolls for past prejudice.
At Iowa, the longtime strength coach was fired after complaints of discrimination by former players.
At Clemson, Dabo Swinney has been criticized for his response to a racial slur uttered three years ago by an assistant coach.
At Virginia, the logo is being changed to remove references to the state’s history of slavery.
At Texas, players are pushing for the removal of the spirit song, ‘The Eyes of Texas,’ because of its connections to racism.
At Oklahoma State, coach Mike Gundy continues to embarrass the school while supporting the One America Network, which called Black Lives Matter “a farce.”
All those developments have one thing in common:
They aren’t taking place on the west coast.
Could this be a moment in time for the Pac-12 … a chance to capitalize on the culture of social justice that courses through so many of its universities?
Could this be an opportunity for the conference to rise above its peers, to establish itself as the destination for recruits seeking campuses where the ethos most closely matches their own?
The Hotline hasn’t hammered out the specifics. We’ll leave that to the conference and the schools.
But clearly, there is an opportunity here, today — in the moment of a movement that shows no signs of abating — for the Pac-12 to define itself as the conference of tolerance and equality, to carve its turf on the right side of history.
The schools and the states within the footprint are not perfect in that regard. But relative to its Power Five peers, the conference seemingly has a message worth blasting.
It shouldn’t be difficult:
* Not with a history of striving for racial equality that stands on Jackie Robinson and Arthur Ashe.
* Not with the reality of its coaching diversity: The Pac-12 has more black football coaches (five) than any other conference. (And on a percentage basis — five out of 12 — it’s not even close.)
* Not with former Colorado All-American John Wooten serving as the influential (former) chair of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving coaching diversity in the NFL.
* And not with the blue wall of west coast states.
Yes, we’re mixing sports with politics. And in that regard, the Hotline is simply following the lead of the athletes themselves: They’re making their voices heard, demanding equality and providing the rocket fuel for lasting change in college sports.
And yes, the Pac-12 has experienced an unseemly incident of its own in recent weeks:
Utah defensive coordinator and apparent coach-in-waiting Morgan Scalley was suspended for using a racial slur in a 2013 text message. (The school is investigating.)
But broadly, Utah politics are not west coast politics, and no recruit will confuse the two.
Nor will recruits confuse the cultural history of other Power Five conferences with that of the Pac-12.
Those recruits could live in Texas or Georgia or Ohio. But especially with regard to the west coast players considering schools in other regions, there is opportunity.
The Pac-12 faces numerous challenges compared to its peers, some of its own making and some beyond its control.
But Black Lives Matter and the push for justice and equality that it embodies — that’s wheelhouse material for the Pac-12.
Here’s a chance for the conference to define itself as different, in the best of ways. — Jon Wilner
• USC players would face no pushback from Clay Helton if they wanted to kneel during the National Anthem. “These are hard times for black student athletes. They are hurting. They see it as a time for justice, a time for equality, a time for peace. And they want to be part of the change.”
• Despite rising case counts and worries about a second wave of the virus, Pac-12 schools on Monday welcomed players back to campus for workouts. Good. The athletes are far safer in the facilities than they are anywhere else.
• The University of California’s Board of Regents recently voted to remove the SAT and ACT as a requirement for admission. Over time, that should benefit Cal and UCLA. “Anytime you remove a barrier to admission, it’s a recruiting advantage.”
• ICYMI: The most-recent newsletter focused on the #AllVoteNoPlay movement designed to make Election Day a mandatory day off for college athletes in all sports. (The NCAA is “encouraging” the plan but not mandating it.) Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form.
Support the Hotline: Several Hotline articles will remain free each month (as will the newsletter), but for access to all content, you’ll need to subscribe. I’ve secured a rate of $1 per week for a full year or just 99 cents for the first month, with the option to cancel anytime. Click here. And thanks for your loyalty.
• “I don’t think that the current short-term issues, whether it’s pandemic-related or recession-related, are going to be substantive contributing factors. These (sports rights) are all long-term deals. They’re all very valuable rights — especially college football.” That’s consultant Chris Bevilacqua discussing upcoming media rights negotiations in this highly informative deep dive by The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel. The column, breezy but detailed, includes revenue projections by Navigate Research, which expects fees to increase 45-65 percent when the new Tier One deals are signed. (Note: Navigate’s CEO, AJ Maestas, is a special contributor to the Hotline.)
(Note: The Hotline newsletter includes links to sites that could require a subscription once the number of free views has been reached.)
• The NCAA’s framework for an extended preseason, which includes an enhanced phase of training, is expected to be approved today by the Division I Council.
• Some specifics of Washington’s plan to bring athletes back for voluntary workouts. “We move some of our weight-room equipment up onto the concourse level, which allows us to provide physical distancing.”
• More than 100 athletes returned to Oregon State on Monday.
• In Tempe, two dozen football players began the workout process.
• In Tucson, 19 players are being split into pods to begin re-entry.
• As of late last week, Washington State had no positive tests for Covid-19.
• Colorado also began its restart on Monday. Like Washington and WSU, the Buffaloes have a new head but had no spring practice.
• Within the dumpster fire that Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy created, don’t forget: The Cowboys open the season against Oregon State.
• USC has a hole at one spot but is otherwise well-stocked on the defensive line.
• Meanwhile, Trojans receiver Kyle Ford has torn his ACL for the second time and is out indefinitely.
• Quality reporting by the Salt Lake Tribune’s Josh Newman, who explains that the language in Morgan Scalley’s contract “would appear to support termination with cause.”
• Good for UCLA: The Bruins have launched a voter registration drive for student athletes.
• Cal and USC can stake claim to being QBU within the conference, according to this 247sports assessment.
• Stanford’s David Shaw joined Tim Kawakami of The Athletic/Bay Area for a podcast to discuss racism and justice in college football and society.
• Lastly, Herm Edwards has ASU in contention in the South and athletic director Ray Anderson is playing the I-told-you-so game, reports CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd. “I’m glad we were able to say we were right,” Anderson said. “And you, frankly, were very wrong. You prejudged us vociferously.”
• We’ll start this section with a detailed breakdown of Pac-12 recruiting by 247sports analyst Brandon Huffman, who looks at multiple categories for each team. Of note: Cal currently has the No. 3 class in the conference.
• Oregon landed a major commitment Friday when receiver Troy Franklin, one of the top prospects on the west coast pledged to the Ducks.
• On that note: Two Rivals recruiting analysts believe Oregon is the best option for skill position players from California.
• One of the top running back transfers, Duke’s Brittain Brown, has a chance to make an immediate impact for UCLA.
What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
• A new stock report, because the flow of news is relentless.
• September looks busy, with the NBA joining the sporting fray. What’s a network to do?
• Pac-12 reruiting: How goes it? (For the collective, I mean.)
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.