Pac-12 staying optimistic


CULVER CITY, Calif. — News has a way of coming more slowly to the West Coast, and so it was Friday as the Pac-12 Conference staged its annual football media day, well after the SEC and Big 12 and Big Ten have created headlines.

No matter, some of us figured. The czar of his increasingly robust league, Larry Scott, would surely deliver some smoking quotes on the state of college athletics. There was even a whiff in the air that he had some welcome, long-awaited news on the conference’s impasse with DirecTV.

No, and no.

Scott is taking a conservative position on the flavor-of-the-month topic, NCAA governance, and the increasing national groundswell that it makes little sense for Washington and Whitman to be regulated by the same rules.

While he called for a “new vision” of a more nimble NCAA, he didn’t echo the siren sounded earlier this week by Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 commissioner, who said “transformative” change needs to happen.

“I’m an optimist,” Scott said, indicating he’s not of the breakaway-from-the-NCAA persuasion. “I think we’re going to be able to do this within the system.”

As for DirecTV, drat. Still nothing. And it’s obviously sticking in Scott’s craw, enough of an annoyance that he again called for fans to dump Direct — prominent in the first half of his state-of-the-league address.

“We’re no closer than we were last football season,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, it’s become clear they don’t intend to take the (Pac-12) Networks this year.”

DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said, “The decision is entirely up to the Pac-12. We would love to give the network to those customers who want it as there are a number of things the Pac-12 can do to make it work.

“Either lower the price so that it’s affordable to all of our customers or let us sell the network only to those who want to pay for it. There are many options to make it work. The ball is in their court.”

On its web site, DirecTV also had this statement:

“DirecTV wants to make Pac-12 Network available to the fans who want it. To do that, Pac-12 either needs to agree to a price to make it affordable for all our customers as we’ve offered and done with dozens of other sports networks, or allow Pac-12 fans to buy the network separately or purchase individual games on demand.

“Unfortunately, Pac-12 has refused all of these options. Regardless, we stand ready to agree to add the network if they propose a deal that’s fair.”

Scott suggested that fans who want the network switch cable providers if they have DirecTV, “as all our schools have.

“We just want to be candid with our fans … and give them ample time before football season to switch to the many providers that have the network,” Scott said.

As one of the beleaguered souls still suffering from DirecTV’s bullheadedness, I may not be unbiased, but the array of characters, styles and story lines that descended on Sony Studios here leads me to wonder if the Pac-12 has ever been more intriguing.

Yeah, the league has been more contentious. From 1994-2000, seven different programs went to the Rose Bowl. But only two of those won in Pasadena.

It looks different now. You’ve got a Stanford team that people are talking about as a national-title contender — yet a media pick to finish second behind Oregon in the Pac-12 North. (Just look at the foundation Buddy Teevens laid.)

Eclectic? The league has four head coaches with drawls.

You’ve got a Washington team that thinks it’s capable of winning nine or 10 games this year, except somebody needs to tell the Ducks, Stanford and Oregon State, all picked ahead of the Huskies.

There’s USC, in the curious position of lying in the weeds, selected No. 3 in the Pac-12 South. Maybe that’s because Lane Kiffin spent time last year doing things like deflating game balls and playing tricks with jerseys on opponents.

Even at downtrodden Colorado, there’s suspense in an ominous way, because the cash-strapped Buffs went out and named a new coach, Mike MacIntyre, and six months later, decided to fire the guy who hired him, athletic director Mike Bohn.

Of course, you’ve got Mike Leach at Washington State, always good for a raised eyebrow. That was Leach confirming Friday that, because of construction on their football-operations building, the Cougars will practice for the first 10 days of fall camp at Sacajawea Junior High in Lewiston (Husky fans: Insert punch line here.)

A Leach disciple, Sonny Dykes, has landed at Cal — Texas twang meets Telegraph Avenue. Somehow that doesn’t add up, evidenced by a story Dykes told CBSSports.com last spring about a recollection from Berkeley when he once attended a Nike camp there.

“I’m driving down Telegraph and I see this guy riding his bicycle totally naked,” said Dykes. “Well, except for his sandals and sunglasses.”

Bottom line: No above-the-fold newsmaking by the commish on this day. His league has pushed him to the back pages.

In Grays Harbor, the Pac-12 Network is on Comcast Cable’s Digital Prefered package, as well as several other college sports networks — including the Big Ten Network.

The network is on channel 430/431.

Information from the Los Angeles Times was added to this report.