SALT LAKE CITY, UT - JUNE 17: PAC-10 Commissioner Larry Scott talks to the press after admitting the University of Utah into the PAC-10 June 17, 2010 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The University of Utah was invited to join the PAC-10 for the 2011-12 athletic year. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
The Pac-12 Network cannot come soon enough.
On Saturday when Arizona is playing its spring football game at Kino Stadium, Notre Dame will go through its seasonal scrimmage before a national television audience via NBC Sports.
UA? The Wildcats lack the following to justify a broadcast on cable like the Irish’s on NBC Sports, or ESPNU like Florida State, Texas and various SEC programs. Yet, unless you are in Tucson and plan to take advantage of the free admission, you will not see the spring game.
In 2012, a cable network isn’t necessary for coast-to-coast accessibility. The FOX Sports umbrella includes dozens of regional channels, including two dedicated to the Grand Canyon: FSN Arizona and FSN Arizona Plus. Airing on those two networks while the Wildcats scrimmage: Conference USA softball and SEC baseball.
There are certain contractual obligations networks must meet that can conflict – though FOX has aired basketball’s Red-Blue Game in years past. Online broadcast would seem an option, but the ArizonaWildcats.com All-Access schedule does not include the spring game. There are expenses to be incurred from the athletic department going this route, however.
The new network is the solution.
Larry Scott’s brainchild Pac-12 Network will alleviate some of these concerns. The nearly $3 billion deal brokered last May gives every athletic program more money, which includes funds for media endeavors. The need for exclusive content will facilitate broadcasting of previously untilled earth – ergo, a spring game.
The Big Ten is seeing the benefit of its own network. BTN is showing spring games from around the conference. BTN is also smaller in scope than the Pac-12 Network, which will showcase regional channels. Limits on how deep into the program a viewing audience can go won’t be determined by broadcast hours, but rather how far into the program Rodriguez wants us to go.
From a personal perspective, the lack of accessibility to the spring game is a relatively petty gripe. Rich Rodriguez’s transparency to media predates his arrival at UA. His opening Michigan to author John U. Bacon produced the book Three and Out. He has continued that philosophy early into his stay on the Old Pueblo.
Rodriguez opened the initial days of practice to ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Maisel, and the public has been welcomed to observe workouts. UA even took the show on the road to Glendale, in an effort to increase exposure and interest statewide.
That’s a lot more than other programs in the Pac allow. Since its NCAA troubles, USC has relegated media to bleachers and off the sidelines, while narrowing the definition of working media. Oregon closed off spring practices altogether, save its workout-ending scrimmage.
Now, a reality is that USC and Oregon are programs with clout. The two have combined for each of the conference’s Rose Bowl appearances since 2003. Such success affords leverage with fans and recruits.
A program such as Arizona’s needs exposure. Selling the philosophy of a new coaching regime is vital to winning over fans. From a recruiting perspective, prospects can keep a finger on a program’s pulse. Both are vital to a team’s success, since fans mean money, money means facility upgrades, and facilities help attract talent that wins game. And of course, wins translate to more fans. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.