Welcome back to the Weekly Six Pac. After two weeks away, there is lots of interesting news to cover from around the conference.
1. The story with the most far-reaching implications is likely the WSU memo about athletic revenue. As Coug Center lays out, WSU’s President announced a hiring freeze within its athletic department due to an anticipated revenue reduction. This story is the other shoe dropping to a previous report by Jon Wilner about Comcast withholding payments to Pac-12 schools due to past overpayment. The WSU memo seems to indicate that the schools know about this overpayment and accept that the withholding will become a reality. It’s important to keep this issue separate from the ongoing media rights negotiations. The payments from Comcast do not mean that the Pac-12 is in a worse position than it was a week ago in its negotiations for a new TV deal. Ultimately, a $4 million shortfall will be felt by every athletic department, but it will be relatively more damaging to the smaller schools like WSU and OSU that rely on equitable TV revenue distribution to keep a more level playing field.
2. Speaking of the Beavers, their baseball team has turned a corner and surged into contention at just the right time. After an uneven start to the season, Building the Dam shows how OSU has improved as the season has progressed and now could earn a chance to host a Super-Regional. They have taken series from Utah, Arizona, and UCLA in the last month, including a 21-5 drubbing of the Bruins. They still have work to do heading into the Pac-12 Tournament, but winning it would likely get them high enough in the rankings to host all the way to the College World Series.
3. Despite being the class of the Pac-12 and a national contender for most of the year, UCLA will not be playing in the Softball College World Series. The Bruins sat at #2 nationally for much of the season and looked like the team best equipped to challenge mega-power Oklahoma. Instead, the Bruins lost to Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament, then dropped games to Grand Canyon and Liberty in their regional to finish the year on a horrible skid.
4. The team who started UCLA’s implosion, Utah, remained scorching hot in their own regional. The Utes beat Southern Illinois and then took two in a row from Ole Miss to advance to their own Super Regional. In fact, due to UCLA’s flop, the 15th-seeded Utes will host their Super Regional against San Diego State. Utah has won nine in a row, including three in the tournament, the aforementioned win over UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament, a win over UW earlier in that tournament, and a sweep of fellow Super Regionalist Oregon. The last time Utah lost was last month when they were swept by- you guessed it- UCLA.
5. Cal Football badly needed an infusion of talent and it looks like they got just that in the transfer portal. The Bears have brought in the 15th best transfer class in the country. But Write for California pumps the breaks based on the composition of that class. They point out that the incoming players are disproportionately tilted toward skill positions, including 11 combined QBs, RBs, and WRs. Cal’s biggest weakness last year was in the trenches on both sides of the ball and they brought in a combined total of two linemen, both on the offensive side, one of whom is a JuCo transfer who might not be ready to play right away.
6. The NCAA Golf Championships will take place in Scottsdale over the next week. ASU went all the way to the finals last year at the course in their backyard and will have another shot at it this year as one of the hottest teams in the tournament, according to House of Sparky. The format for the tournament is frankly beyond my comprehension, but somehow involves three days of stroke play, two days and three rounds of match play, and some other individual play. Whatever the format, good luck to the Pac-12 contingent of ASU, Stanford, and Colorado.