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Rodney Peete Is Done Over-Preparing

“TV has so many sound bites. You’ve got to get in and out in 30 seconds and things like that whereas radio if you have a point that you want to make, you can elaborate on it. People get to know you more on radio.”

Brian Noe




We hear about the value of versatility each year during the NFL draft. Former Clemson defensive stud Isaiah Simmons has the athleticism to play safety, linebacker, and slot corner. Versatility isn’t confined to skill set alone. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is versatile with his game plans. One week he might run the ball down your throat. The following week’s approach might be completely different. It’s all about adapting and finding a formula that leads to winning.

The same concept applies to sports radio. Rodney Peete is a former quarterback that is now a sports radio host at AM 570 in Los Angeles. During his standout years at USC and 16 years in the NFL, Peete was most comfortable being overprepared for games. He has found that a different approach works better for him in sports radio. Peete still prepares hard, but ad-libbing and being less scripted is his preferred approach.

Rodney Peete - Public Speaking & Appearances - Speakerpedia ...

Versatility, my friends.

It’s interesting to see how successful people find ways of remaining successful. Peete has had success on the football field, in marriage, as a father of four kids, and even with a reality show Meet The Peetes on the Hallmark Channel for crying out loud. He is now successful in sports radio from noon-3pm each weekday.

Peete details how co-host Fred Roggin and SVP of Sports Don Martin have helped contribute to his on-air success. Make no mistake, Peete isn’t perfect as we find out about his pandemic-induced Oreo sweet tooth, but perfection isn’t necessary when you possess charisma and versatility. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: I have to start off with an apology, Rodney, because I am literally from South Bend, Indiana. I feel like I just need to apologize for that up front.

Rodney Peete: [Laughs] Oh yeah, yeah, you should apologize.

BN: [Laughs] Going back to your playing days — biggest rival seems too simplistic — who was the team that you wanted to beat the most?

RP: Oh, it was Notre Dame. We didn’t during my time there. We lost to them. It was during that 10-year run that Notre Dame had on us. I was a part of that. UCLA was a big rivalry because you had to live and hear about it if you lost all year long. You interacted with those guys and you interacted with people from UCLA. It was big, but I think just from more of a national standpoint and just more of a nasty type of rivalry was with Notre Dame. UCLA felt more like a competitive, brotherly rivalry, whereas Notre Dame was an enemy rivalry.

BN: Based on the pandemic whether it’s professionally or personally what has been the toughest part of it for you?

RP: The toughest part about it for me to be honest with you is staying out of the kitchen. [Laughs] That’s been the toughest part. Every break, every time you look up I’m running to the kitchen thinking about things to put in my mouth to eat or drink when normally I’m out, I’m busy, I’m active. I’m not thinking about it when I’m on a regular schedule. Now it’s just like you’re walking around the house and you can only watch so much TV or read so many articles. It’s 25, 30 times a day walking in the kitchen and grabbing something. That has been the toughest thing to stay away from that.

BN: That’s funny, man. What’s the unhealthiest thing you’ve grabbed the most?

RP: Oh man, the Oreo cookies are killing me. They really are. I wasn’t really a big Oreo cookie guy before but for whatever reason I just gravitated toward those. My youngest son loves Oreo cookies so I started kind of chilling with him and eating some. Then it just got to be a thing.

I’m the guy in the household making all of the runs. All of my four kids are here, my wife’s here, and we’ve got two dogs. I make all the runs to the grocery store or to the drug store to get dog food or whatever. I’m the guy going out so I’ll always get stuff for the kids but I sneak my Oreos for me.

BN: What have you enjoyed the most about doing sports radio?

RP: I didn’t know I would enjoy it. I really didn’t. I had a couple of stints doing some TV gigs. I did some work for FOX and then landed a gig on Best Damn Sports Show. I was with them for four years. I did some other local stuff for FOX, so I was more in tuned to the TV thing.

I always thought of radio as a long gig because you’ve got to continuously find things to talk about. My first few months into it, it was a struggle just to keep the conversation going. Thank God I had Fred Roggin to work with me because he’s such a pro. He started in radio. Radio is where he has the most fun even though he’s been on TV for 30 years. He enjoys radio more.

WATCH: "Lunchtime" with Roggin and Rodney opens show talking ...

What I found is that the more I did it, you’re able to have more of a voice. You’re able to have your opinions and really dive into a topic more so than you are on TV. TV has so many sound bites. You’ve got to get in and out in 30 seconds and things like that whereas radio if you have a point that you want to make, you can elaborate on it. People get to know you more on radio. Even though they may not see your face they get to know who you are more on radio. That part I started to really enjoy. I enjoy that I’m connecting with the audience and being able to hear what they have to say.

BN: What part of your athletic background — the preparation aspect, the way you competed — do you apply the most to sports radio?

RP: It’s funny because when I was playing I did love to prepare. I wanted to make sure I could tell how the game was going to go because I felt really comfortable about my preparation. If I was a little off or I didn’t watch certain aspects of the film and the defense enough, then I was always a little uncomfortable. The thing for me going into a game was to be overprepared.

It’s weird because now I’m prepared, but what I bring to the table in our show is more like a two-minute drill. It’s on the fly, ad-libbing during a situation. Fred keeps us on schedule, but there are things that — and we’ve found a really good groove to this — that Fred will throw out there that I’m able to react to and bring it into a realm and identify it from my sports background and relate it to what we’re talking about. That has worked well for us. 

I have the outline, but I don’t like to overthink something because during the conversation on radio your thought process might change in a second. Just by the way Fred answers a question or poses a question, my answer might change in that moment. If I have this ready-made answer for some of these topics that we want to do, then I don’t feel like I have the freedom to ad-lib it. I treat it like a two-minute drill when we’re doing the show.

BN: Were listeners ever standoffish because, ‘Hey man, you went to SC. You’re the rival.’ Did you have to win some people over who rooted against you back in the day?

RP: Oh yeah! I think the good part, whether it’s me, my family, whomever, I do call it like I see it. I think the people from UCLA or even Notre Dame respect that. If UCLA is doing well and they’re playing well and they’ve got good players, I give them credit. Also, we’re not the USC station; we’re the UCLA station. I’ve gotten called a homer, accused of having a USC bias, and all that kind of thing, but I go in on USC too.

I think that gives me a level of respect when I criticize USC and not just sugarcoat it when they’re struggling. I’ve been hard on Clay Helton during the last couple of years and what they’ve been doing and where USC stands right now in the football realm. I’ve been very difficult on them. I think the UCLA fans have kind of come over and understand that I’m not that biased even though I did go to USC; I call it as I see them.

BN: How did you get into sports radio at 570?  

RP: That’s a good question. I had been doing a little bit of TV work off an on. Me and my wife did a reality show, so I’ve been on TV. Then the Dodgers got heavily involved and had a big part of AM 570. The noon slot for the station hadn’t been doing well. They had run like 15 different hosts in and out of that timeslot from noon to 3. They were really building it up as they were building up the partnership with the Dodgers. My name got thrown out there by a friend of mine who said think about Rodney Peete. He turned to Don Martin.

Don and I developed a relationship. He called me in and said would you be interested in doing it. At first I was a little lukewarm. Then he told me Fred was going to come on board and do it as well. I went in and did a few trials. I actually was a little bit nervous, but again Fred made me feel comfortable. The more I did it, it was pretty cool to be able to sit there for three hours. Then I realized that the three hours went fast. But yeah, Don Martin and I had a mutual friend that suggested me. He brought me in. I went and did a little testing and audition process and it worked out. Here we are four years later.

BN: Don is well known in the business, as you’re aware of. How would you describe him?

RP: Don is a guy that knows — I mean you talk about someone who knows the business from every aspect — he knows the business. He’s someone that you can rely on.

I’m sure we’ve all been in places where the guy that you work for, you know more than the guy you work for. It’s not always a good situation. Don has been in every aspect of the business. He’s been on the mic. He’s worked as a disc jockey. He’s worked in sports. He’s done the sales part. Now he’s an executive, so he can speak to all different levels.


The thing about Don that we love is that he doesn’t micromanage. He lets us be us. He doesn’t try to interfere with the show. If there’s an issue or we start to cross the line he’ll chime in, but for the most part he lets us do our show. We poke fun at him all the time and he doesn’t take it seriously and allows us to do that. He gives us the freedom to show our personalities and express ourselves. That’s the best part about it.

BN: What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from Don so far?

RP: The biggest thing I think, and I had to learn this early on is, I don’t like to toot my own horn or pound my chest and talk about it. He had to really force me to let that out because that’s what listeners really want to hear. They want to hear from inside the locker room. They want to hear those stories that the average fan can’t normally get.

I always felt a little uncomfortable talking about personal relationships, my time playing and all that kind of stuff, but I had to step out of myself and think about it as a regular fan. Don really helped me do that by saying that’s what is unique about you and Fred, in LA sports talk radio no one else has the perspective of a quarterback in the NFL that played at SC like I do. You’ve got to use that as much as you can because that is what the listeners really want to hear.

Keyshawn’s on in the morning so he’s similar but he’s a receiver. I’m the quarterback so that is a different thing. But he said don’t be afraid to go back and take people into the locker room. Take them behind the scenes. That’s what they want to hear. That was a big thing for me. I had to get out of my comfort zone and be able to really share those types of stories.

BN: What’s it like to have a famous wife, a reality show, and to be in the public eye?

RP: I would say there are tiers. If I had my choice I’m glad I’m in this tier because if I’m in the LeBron James or Magic Johnson tier, it’s hard to go anywhere. It’s hard to go out to a restaurant and just chill and eat with the family. We can do that. There may be two or five people recognize you and come say hello, but the restaurant doesn’t stop as we walk in like it would for those guys.

REAL Love with Holly Robinson Peete & Rodney Peete |

We’re able to live a pretty casual, normal life and you get to take advantage of the perks — getting reservations, getting invited to certain things, and exposing your kids to certain things that are pretty cool. I don’t shy away from that. I enjoy it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I’m glad that I’m not too recognizable that I couldn’t just live my life because that would drive me crazy.

BN: What did you think about the virtual draft and how the NFL was able to pull it off?

RP: I thought it was fantastic. I really did. I thought they did a great job. It made the big 800-pound gorilla NFL seem more human to me. The way they set up the kids and the families and the homes and had multiple shots of that.

I think it made Rodger Goodell more personable. Seeing the coaches and the GM’s and their families at home with their kids and wives and the different setups they had, I thought that it went off great. I think they did a fantastic job and interesting enough I think some of those aspects they might keep going in the future because I think it went off very well.

BN: If the NFL has a shortened offseason due to the pandemic, what will that do to the development of rookie and second-year quarterbacks?

RP: It puts it to an immediate halt. You almost wish you could redshirt. Of all of the positions in sports, quarterback is the toughest position to play. It’s the most preparation that you need. The jump from college to pro is so dramatic at quarterback than it is in any other profession or any other position. The speed of the game is different. What you see — the infamous “I see ghosts” from Sam Darnold last year is true. It’s true. It’s more sophisticated.

Guys that you think are open are not open. The guys that are running wide open in college; you’ve got a small window to hit him in the NFL because everybody can play. I don’t care if you’re on the best team in the league or the worst team in the league they all have players that can play. For a quarterback it’s about accuracy and anticipation. You don’t get that unless you have the repetitions. These guys are not getting it.

You can almost go make a bet that if we do have football on time without minicamps and OTAs and the shortened training camp, guys like Joe Burrow are going to struggle, especially in Cincinnati. The teams that have veteran quarterbacks are the ones that have the advantage right now. If you’re relying on a young quarterback without that time to develop it’s going to be very, very difficult.

I know for me even playing in what was the Pac-10 back then, it was very good competition. Playing against UCLAs and Notre Dames and Oklahomas, many of the guys went to the NFL and were stars. The competition was good, but it’s nothing like making that jump from college to the NFL. It’s going to be difficult on the young quarterbacks especially the young rookies in general.

BN: When you think about your future whether it’s sports broadcasting or beyond, is there anything that you want to experience or accomplish before you retire?

RP: When I retire I’m going to go travel the world. I’m going to walk the earth like Caine in Kung Fu.


BN: [Laughs] You decided to be a bum, Rodney.

RP: [Laughs] Yes, I am. No, I have serious aspirations of being involved with a sports franchise. That is something I would like to do. A couple of years ago Ronnie Lott and I made a run to try to keep the Raiders in Oakland. We had a group that was going to help finance the stadium. We were in it. We were in the fight, but Las Vegas won out. It was an exciting time.

I have a good relationship with the NFL and Goodell and everybody over there in the executive staff. At some point I would love to be a part of a franchise. I don’t want to coach though. I spent enough time playing 16 years being away from family.

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Robert Griffin III Wants to Tell Your Story the Right Way

“Even if I do know you personally, I’m not going to bring that to the broadcast because that’s not my job.”

Derek Futterman




During last season’s VRBO Fiesta Bowl, Robert Griffin III was part of ESPN’s alternate telecast at field level alongside Pat McAfee. Suddenly, the Heisman Trophy winner took a phone call. Once he hung up the phone, Griffin divulged that his wife had gone into labor and proceeded to sprint off of the field to catch a flight. An ESPN cameraperson documented his run and jubilation as he returned home to welcome his daughter, Gia, into the world. It encapsulated just what motivates Griffin to appear on television and discuss football, and why he is one of ESPN’s budding talents with the chance to make an impact on sports media and his community for years to come.

“This was an opportunity for me to go out and be different in the way that the media covers the players and truly get to the bottom of telling the players’ stories the right way,” Griffin said. “I look at this as an opportunity to do that.”

Griffin was a three-sport athlete as a student at Copperas Cove High School, and ultimately broke Texas state records in track and field. In addition to that, he played basketball and was the starting quarterback for the school’s football team as a junior and senior, drawing attention from various schools around the country. He ended up graduating high school one semester early and quickly became a star at Baylor University in both football and track and field.

Robert Griffin III’s nascent talent was hardly inconspicuous, evidenced by being named the 2008 Big 12 Conference Offensive Freshman of the Year and then, three years later, the winner of the Heisman Trophy. In the end, he graduated having set or tied 54 school records and helped the program to its first bowl game win in 19 years.

Ultimately, he transitioned to the NFL in a career with many trials and tribulations, but through it all, he never lost his sense of persistence. Nearly a decade later, he returned to college, but this time as a member of the media covering the game from afar. Unlike a majority of former players though, Griffin did not formally retire from playing football when inking a broadcasting contract with ESPN.

“I haven’t retired yet at all,” he said. “I tell everyone that asks me the question that I train every day [and] I’m prepared to play if that call does come. I’ve had some talks with teams over the past two years; just nothing has come to fruition.”

While Griffin’s focus as a broadcaster is undeniable, he never thought about seriously pursuing sports media until his broadcast agent pushed him to do so. He was urged to take an audition at FOX Sports. Griffin broke down highlights and called a mock NFL game alongside lead play-by-play announcer Kevin Burkhardt. He was not prepared for that second part, but impressed executives and precipitously realized a career in the space may not be so outlandish after all. 

Griffin then moved to ESPN where he experienced a similar audition process, this time calling a game with play-by-play announcer Rece Davis. Once the audition concluded, it was determined that Griffin would not only begin working in the industry, but that he would be accelerated because of his ability to communicate in an informative and entertaining style.

As a player, he saw the way media members covered teams – sometimes bereft of objectivity – and therefore saw assimilating into the industry as a chance to change that. Now, he is focused on telling the stories of the players en masse while being prepared to pivot at a moment’s notice.

Courtesy ESPN Images

ESPN’s intention was to implement Griffin on its studio coverage, but once executives heard him in the broadcast booth, the company had a palpable shift in its thinking. He was told he was ready to go out into the field and start calling games immediately, something of a surprise to him. FOX Sports felt similarly. This led to a bidding war between the two entities, which ultimately concluded with Griffin inking a contract with ESPN. He appeared over its airwaves plenty of times as a player, and even participated on a variety of studio shows in 2018 where he was almost permanently placed on NFL Live. This time around though, Griffin was suddenly preparing to work with Mark Jones and Quint Kessenich on college football games. He did not have time to consider the implications of the decision, instead diving headfirst into the craft and remaining focused on what was to come with producer Kim Belton and director Anthony DeMarco at his side.

“These guys took me under their wing, and I’m beyond indebted to them for that,” Griffin said of his colleagues. “They taught me everything that I know about the industry. They taught me everything I know about how to present things to the masses to where it can be easily digestible. They’ve allowed me to allow my personality to shine through.”

Demonstrating his personality was a facet of his makeup Griffin felt was inhibited by playing professional football, but he knows it would have been considerably more difficult to attain a chance to cover the game had he not laced up his cleats. Calling college football games with Jones accentuated his comfort in the booth because of Jones’ adept skill to appeal to the viewers and penetrate beyond the sport.

“He has the way to connect different generations of listeners to hear what he’s saying and perceive it in the same way,” Griffin said. “To me, that’s what we all strive to do in this industry is to be able to find the connective tissue between the fan who is 60 or 70 years old, and the fan who’s in their late teens or early 20s.”

From the beginning, everyone told Griffin to be himself and not adopt an alternate persona in front of the camera. That advice has guided him as he approaches his third year working in the industry.

“It is so hard to maintain a character or try to be someone that you’re not, but if you are who you are every single day, then every time you show up on camera you will be that person,” Griffin said. “I’ve made sure that when I stepped foot in front of that camera, I was going to be myself.”

Griffin identifies his style as pedagogical to a degree, critiquing players as if he was coaching them on the sidelines. He will never look to penetrate beyond football with his criticism, as drawing conclusions and using unrelated parlance could be viewed as indecorous. In short, Griffin III knows what it means to represent ESPN.

“We’re not a gossip website. We’re supposed to be critically acclaimed, prestigious journalists, and at the end of the day, that’s how I try to approach the job that I do. That’s why I got into the business – because I felt like there was a little of that going on, especially during my career, so I would never do to somebody else what was done to me.”

Over the course of his NFL career, Griffin was subject to immense criticism that went significantly beyond the gridiron. For example, sports commentator Rob Parker suggested that Griffin was not fully representative of the Black community and proceeded to question if he was a “cornball brother.” The incident resulted in Parker receiving a 30-day suspension from ESPN, and after he defended his comments and blamed First Take producers in a subsequent interview, the network decided not to renew his contract.

“My goal as a member of the media is to tell players’ stories the right way, and if I don’t know you personally, I’m never going to make it personal,” Griffin said. “Even if I do know you personally, I’m not going to bring that to the broadcast because that’s not my job.”

In addition to broadcasting college football games with Jones on ESPN and ABC, he also appears on-site for Monday Night Countdown, the network’s pregame show leading up to Monday Night Football. Making the decision to add NFL coverage to his slate of responsibilities meant that Griffin would be able to tell more stories and utilize his knowledge of players during their collegiate careers to enhance the broadcast.

The energy that he felt attending tailgates and interacting with fans at the college level gave him a unique skill set to translate to the NFL side, leading him to present the production team with an unparalleled idea for Week 1. He wanted to race Taima the Hawk, the live game mascot for the Seattle Seahawks who flies around Lumen Field prior to the start of each home game. It was an outlandish idea, but one that made sense for television because of the visual appeal it can present.

“If you know anything about hawks, they can fly up to 120-140 miles per hour, so they’re like, ‘There’s no way he’s going to beat this hawk in a race, but we’ll do it,’” Griffin said. “To that crew’s credit, they never once balked at any of the creative ideas that I brought to the table because they want to try different things and be exciting and have fun on the show.”

Griffin ended up winning the race, commencing the new season of Monday Night Countdown with immediate excitement before the Seahawks’ matchup against the Denver Broncos. He thoroughly enjoyed his first year on the show and having the chance to work alongside Suzy Colber, Adam Schefter, Booger McFarland, Steve Young, Larry Fitzgerald and Alex Smith. 

“They always tell me, ‘Hey, anything you’re not comfortable with, you just let us know and we won’t do that thing,’” Griffin said of the show’s producers. “My answer always back to them is, ‘Well, I won’t know if I’m uncomfortable with it if I don’t try.’”

While Griffin had what looked like a seamless assimilation into the broadcasting world, he had a difficult moment when using a racial slur on live television in discussing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. The clip quickly gained traction across the internet, and Griffin issued an apology on his Twitter account for using the pejorative language and claimed that he misspoke.

“I was shocked that it came out in the way that it did, and I immediately jumped on it and apologized because there’s no need to deny,” he said. “You messed up. You move forward, and I think that’s the easiest way to get over those types of things and to get back on your feet.”

The football season at both the college and professional level is undoubtedly a grind, and it requires a combination of dedication, passion and persistence few people possess. Robert Griffin III has garnered the reputation of being an “overpreparer,” often partaking in considerably more information than necessary to execute a broadcast. The information he consumes and conclusions he draws combined with his experience at both levels has cultivated him into a knowledgeable analyst who makes cogent, intelligible points on the air.

“I over-prepare for everything, and 70% of the information that I soak in going into a game or going into a broadcast for Monday Night Countdown, I don’t use because there’s just not enough air time,” Griffin III said. “There’s not enough opportunities to talk on it all.” 

At the same time, he makes a concerted effort to make the most of his time with his family and separate himself from the field, engaging in activities including playing ping pong, going to the movies and supporting his children. He also embarks in charity work through his RG3 Foundation and strives to teach his daughters the importance of giving back. The mission of the nonprofit foundation is to discover and design programs for underprivileged youth, struggling military families and victims of domestic violence, and it has made a significant impact since it was launched in 2015.

“Trying to end food insecurity; making sure that our under-resourced youth have access to the things that they need just to survive – talking about food, clothes, books, the ability to learn [and] putting on these after-school programs,” Griffin elucidated in describing the organization’s mission. “We want to have an impact on our community. We mean that with everything in us and have shown that to be the true case of why we do this.”

Griffin’s wife, Grete, serves as the executive director of the foundation and also runs her own fitness business. Staying physically and mentally in shape is something they actively try to accomplish in their everyday lives, and lessons they are passing down to their daughters.

“I’m 33 years old right now, so if I want to continue to train every single day, I can do that for the next 10 years if I need to,” Griffin said. “Not taking hits and being physically fit is also a good thing for your own health, which is something me and my wife are extremely passionate about.”

Although his experience is in playing football and working in sports media, Robert Griffin III does not believe in limiting himself and would consider exploring opportunities outside of sports and entertainment. He wants to become the best broadcaster possible no matter where he is working in the industry and continue finding new ways to be distinctive en masse.

“We’re storytellers,” he said. “We’re here to break down things [and] to tell people a story the right way; things that people are interested in, and that expands across all media levels. We’re not closing the door on anything from that standpoint.”

Courtesy ESPN Images

While he was playing in the NFL, Griffin dealt with a variety of injuries that ultimately kept him off the football field and made it difficult to display his talents. Ranging from an ACL tear, shoulder scapula fracture and hairline fracture in his right thumb, staying healthy was a challenge for him over the time he played in the NFL. 

Through surgeries and rehabilitation, he learned how to face and overcome these challenges. It has shaped him into the broadcaster and person he is today as he looks to set a positive example to aspiring football players and broadcasters everywhere.

“The eight-year career that I was able to have thus far didn’t come without roadblocks in the way [and] didn’t come without adversity. Learn from the adversity that you go through and learn from all the things and the lessons that you have that sports teaches you, and then go be able to present that to the masses.”

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Pac-12 Pushing Enhanced Access, Deion Sanders Reeks of Desperation

What good is enhanced access for TV broadcasts or the star power of Coach Prime if those game telecasts aren’t seen?

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Getting experimental has drawn some attention to USFL and XFL broadcasts during each league’s seasons. The Pac-12 is apparently hoping the same approach will draw viewers to its football telecasts beginning this fall.

Last week, the conference announced that its broadcasts on ESPN, Fox Sports, and Pac-12 Networks would feature enhanced access for viewers. Head coaches will be interviewed during games. Players and coaches will be mic’d up during pregame warm-ups. Cameras will have pregame and halftime access to team locker rooms. And handheld camera operators will be allowed to film parts of the field and game experience which were previously prohibited.

Those familiar with USFL and XFL telecasts will likely see some similarities to the greater access that those leagues allow their TV partners. Coaches are mic’d up on the sidelines, giving viewers insight into play calls and strategy. Players are interviewed during the game, providing near-instant reactions to success or failure. Cameras in the replay booth show how officials decide to either overturn or uphold calls on the field.

What the Pac-12 intends to do with its broadcasts won’t go as far as the USFL and XFL. Access to coaches and players is being expanded but will still have limits. The conference doesn’t have to demonstrate familiarity, credibility, and legitimacy to fans and media.

Spring pro football leagues are a tough sell to mainstream sports fans accustomed to college football and the NFL from September through January. Especially when the level of play is subpar and rosters are filled with unfamiliar names, the USFL and XFL have to give fans more reasons to watch.

USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon are established national brands and regularly compete with the top teams in college football. Utah has played in the past two Rose Bowls, seen on millions of televisions during the New Year’s Day holiday. All five of those schools finished among the final AP Top 25 rankings of the 2022-23 season. USC quarterback Caleb Williams won the 2022 Heisman Trophy.

Yet the Pac-12 is promoting the gimmick of enhanced access because it needs to attract positive fan and media attention. Right now, most of the headlines the conference is generating aren’t flattering.

Notably, the Pac-12 needs a new media rights deal. Losing two of its most prominent schools, USC and UCLA, to the Big Ten in 2024 certainly isn’t helping with that. Rumors have persisted that Washington and Oregon could soon follow. Additionally, the Big 12 is reportedly eyeing Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah as possible expansion targets.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff is left to tout Colorado’s new head coach, Deion Sanders, as a selling point in a new media rights deal. Never mind that Sanders hasn’t coached a game in Boulder yet. The Buffaloes are also coming off a 1-11 season and have won more than five games only once since 2007.

If Coach Prime is as successful as Colorado hopes, how likely is he to jump to a better program and stronger conference? And as mentioned in a previous paragraph, even if Sanders sticks around, Colorado could be poached by the Big 12. How much value would Coach Prime provide for the Pac-12 then?

ESPN’s deal with the conference expires in July 2024, shortly before USC and UCLA defect, and reportedly has no intention of renewing. (ESPN could still agree to a package of lower-tier games for late-night broadcast windows, but Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports that doesn’t appear likely.) Fox’s agreement is up at the same time, though prospects of a renewal seem more optimistic. The network needs Pac-12 games to fill its college football Saturday inventory.

The options from there aren’t promising. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reports that current speculation has USA Network, part of the NBCUniversal conglomerate, as a possible landing spot. According to The Athletic, Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff believes that the conference’s next media rights deal will have a large streaming component with Amazon and Apple TV+ mentioned as potential partners.

A streaming partner might be good from a financial standpoint, helping produce some of the revenue that ESPN has cut off. But forcing fans to find your product and asking them to pay for another TV platform isn’t a good way to draw interest. It may well be a path to irrelevance and obscurity. That’s not going to compete with the Big Ten and SEC, or even the Big 12.

And as The Athletic’s Chris Vannini points out, how can streaming be expected to save a conference like the Pac-12 when it isn’t even helping TV networks (or standalone providers) right now? Disney is losing money with Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu. NBCUniversal has lost billions on Peacock, as has CBS with Paramount+. Maybe the Pac-12 won’t care about that because it got paid. But there’s little chance for growth.

OK, Lincoln Riley, Chip Kelly, Dan Lanning, and Kyle Whittingham could be interviewed during games. But they probably won’t say much interesting during a game. Caleb Williams, Bo Nix, and Michael Penix Jr. will be mic’d up during warm-ups. Maybe we’ll see coaches and players going crazy in the locker room at halftime. Just remember that Peyton Manning said most players only have time to use the bathroom and have a snack. There’s your compelling television.

What good is enhanced access for TV broadcasts or the star power of Deion Sanders if those game telecasts aren’t seen by large audiences? To say otherwise is desperate. That’s exactly where the Pac-12 is.

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ESPN Deal Used to Mean Stability for ACC, Now It Means Anything But

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It was April 19, 1775 when the first shots of war were fired on battlefields in Lexington and Concord that would send shockwaves across the world. Some brave soul among a group of rebel farmers and blacksmiths, doctors and lawyers literally pulled the trigger on what would become known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”. Indeed, the world would never be the same.

The college athletics version of that event was June 11, 2010. On that day, regents at the University of Nebraska officially applied for Big Ten membership and were unanimously approved by the other eleven schools (if the number in the conference name not matching the number of schools in that conference is something that bothers you, this column may not be for you). From that day forward, we have never really exited the “expansion era”.

One conference that has gone largely untouched in that time is the ACC. Only Maryland has left the ACC since 2010, heading to the Big Ten, and the conference has added Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville in that same window. That is significant when you consider only the SEC and Big Ten have avoided any departures in this era. Every other major conference has seen great turbulence while those three conferences have primarily seen only growth.

That trend may actually continue for the ACC and that may not be a net positive for the conference or the ACC members. This is thanks to the long term grant of rights deal the conference schools negotiated with ESPN. The grant of rights means ESPN holds the broadcast rights to all home games of the current ACC schools, and do so for the next 13 years. 

When the deal was signed in 2016, the 20 year media rights deal seemed like a win for the ACC, creating stability in a time of great instability. Now, what seemed like a “must have purchase” may be the impulse buy that the league schools regret for decades.

Put simply, the ACC has been lapped in the media rights race by the Big Ten, SEC and even the Big 12. At best, the ACC schools are working at a $10-15 Million per year deficit when compared to Big 12 schools. At worst, they are operating at a much larger $30-$40 Million annual deficit when compared to Big Ten and SEC programs. It would be a battle of monumental proportions for the ACC to compete on the same level as those other conferences at that large of a disadvantage.

The conference’s options are slim. ESPN has a deal that is locked for 13 more years, what benefit would it be to them to renegotiate just so the ACC can compete? For instance, it would require $140 Million annually from ESPN just to place the ACC in the same financial neighborhood as the Big 12 Conference. What would be the benefit to ESPN in doing that? 

The other option for ACC schools would be to bang the departure drum. Almost all legal analysts have painted a very grim picture for the schools that would be itching to leave. The exit fee is $120 million and may get the schools some nice parting gifts but does not give them their media rights. Their home game broadcast rights will still be a part of the ESPN deal with ACC. That greatly reduces a departing school’s value to any other conference.

Maybe ESPN is willing to broker a deal for a departing school if it is going to a conference, such as the SEC, that has a large rights deal with ESPN. If one of the schools desires a departure to the Big Ten, who has large deals with networks not named ESPN, one would have to think The Worldwide Leader would be in less of a deal-making mood.

Some league athletics directors, led by Florida State’s Michael Alford, are suggesting teams be incentivized for success. Breaking the code; rather than equal distribution, the power schools want a bigger share of the money. This is where Wake Forest points out that it is all they can do to exceed football expectations on their current stipend, what will become of them if that money shrinks? It seems that conferences and leagues that steer away from an equally shared revenue model have had a difficult time making that work long term.

Maybe the ACC teams that are ready to punch out could flash back to the period of time our country was in with the events we started this column remembering. They have a team in Boston, go throw some tea in the harbor and revolt, have a modern day Boston Tea Party. As it stands now, there are several ACC members that want to leave the party they are part of. Their only problem is they are all dressed up with nowhere to go.

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