Tag Archives: DirecTV

Pac-12 Football: DIRECTV, Media Bias, and Taking Control of Your Own Conference

I grew up on Pac-12 athletics, graduated from a Pac-12 school, and now write about the Pac-12 Conference. I am unapologetically a Pac-12 guy. I root for the teams in the conference and root for some a bit more than others, but in general I want the Conference of Champions to be what everybody is talking about. Does that always happen? Not at all. Do I see the good and bad in the conference? Absolutely. Do I pick Pac-12 teams to win their games? No doubt and I make no apologies for that. I want the best for the Pac-12 period. End of story. However, what needs to happen in this great conference to make it better? A few things.

When I was younger, the Pac-12 (Pac-10 at the time) on television was a very regional conference as were many other conferences. The Pac-12 didn’t have the television deal it has now, so exposure was fairly limited to the West. We knew that the only teams that were getting national play were USC, UCLA, and Washington, but the reason for that was they were the recognizable brands from the conference because of the winning traditions they had produced as a school in football. When the Rose Bowl game was on, we knew that the Trojans, Bruins, or Huskies were probably going to be in the game because they were the dominant figures in the conference. Things have changed.

With the creation of the Pac-12 Network, the conference has a much more national brand to it. More people can see their teams play in football than having to wait to see if their team makes a national broadcast, the games are streamed on-line, or they can keep up with the scores on a minute by minute update on different phone or computer apps. Getting the game highlights, information, or scores is just not an issue anymore. If it is, then you might just be living in a cave. However, not all of us can enjoy the Conference of Champions anytime we want and it is immensely frustrating.

If you subscribe to DIRECTV you know what I am talking about. I am one of those unfortunate people that does not get the Pac-12 Network because of the ongoing dispute between the Pac-12 and the satellite provider.

There was a glimmer of hope that something might be changed with the DIRECTV being bought by AT&T because of AT&T’s connection with the conference, but, alas, no such luck. Here is what sticks in my craw.

For a conference to be so concerned with increasing their national exposure they seem to be dragging their feet when it comes to actually doing that. Not having the estimated 3-5 million more viewers with conference football games is obviously not a positive for the conference and puts them at a severe disadvantage with other Power 5 Conferences like the Big Ten or SEC. Don’t get me wrong, those are great conferences in their own right, but I don’t really care how Northwestern, Michigan State, Mississippi State, or even Alabama does on a weekly basis. I care about how Oregon, Stanford, USC, and, yes, Oregon State look on any given Saturday. Pac-12 fans with DIRECTV are in the dark and somehow, someway, this needs to be resolved.

I want to take both parties into a room, get them seated, make sure they are comfortable, and then lock the door until they reach a deal that benefits both sides, but mostly gets the football games to the fans and increases television revenue for the conference. Get it figured out Pac-12 and DIRECTV.

Even without the DIRECTV exposure, the starting times for these football games have been an issue with coaches, players and fans alike. Being a guy who attends plenty of Arizona State Sun Devil games as a media member, the start times are atrocious. In the past few years, there have been starting times of 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m., and even a 8:30 p.m. starting time thrown in there for good measure. I like college football as much as the next guy, but why so late? It doesn’t make sense at all. Don’t tell me it’s for greater exposure.

Half of the country is asleep by the time these games start and even if the people on the East Coast are awake, they are not watching Pac-12 football. Just about guarantee you that. College football is fairly regional thing with fans. Unless there is some type of personal connection with a school in a different conference than the one they root for, they won’t watch it. Not that they hate the conference, but it doesn’t interest them. People in the SEC don’t care about what is happening out West, just like West coast fans don’t really care what happens in the Big Ten, Big 12, or SEC. It’s not where their allegiance lies. Many Pac-12 coaches have complained in the past year about the number of night games they have had to play.

Last season, UCLA, had to play on Thursday night in back to back weeks. Needless to say, head coach Jim Mora was not pleased.

“This is a complete injustice to our young men.” Mora said at news conference.

Rich Rodriguez, head coach of the Arizona Wildcats was even more upfront about a late starting time for his own Wildcats when they were to play at Washington starting at 8 p.m. Pacific time.

“I just don’t understand how this happens,” quipped Rodriguez, “At some point the conference has to have the ability to step in and say, ‘Hey, give this team one afternoon road game.’”

Stanford head coach, David Shaw, even chimed in on the issue.

“Sunday is the players’ day off, and it’s tough sometimes, getting back to their dorms at 3 or 4 in the morning from a road trip.” Shaw said.

Something has to be done because this is not fair to these players. I know people will say that this is one of prices they pay for playing big time college football, but less these same people forget, they also have school to contend with. These same players have papers to write, classes to attend, study groups to go to, tests and quizzes to pass, and any other number of things a student-athlete needs to do on a daily basis. It’s not fair to the coaches as well. Family time for coaches is affected, relationships can be affected by not spending time at home, and the coaches just need their rest too.

Pac-12 Commissioner, Larry Scott, has shown some empathy towards his football coaches and players, but has offered no solutions into what can done to solve this issue.

“I’m sympathetic to his concerns, but in some instances, there are things we can do about it and in this case there’s really nothing we can do. Our athletic directors and presidents and conference office agreed to give a certain amount of flexibility to broadcast partners to pick games and have nighttime broadcast windows. In exchange, we have blockbuster TV deals that have been incredibly beneficial to our schools and student-athletes from a resource and exposure perspective, and the trade-off is worth it.” Scott said during the football season.

In other words, deal with it coaches, players, and fans. The money is too good to turn down, so we will let the television networks dictate when we play our games. That is essentially what Larry Scott has told the Pac-12 and it’s fans.

When looked at on the whole, the Pac-12 is a great conference. Is it the greatest conference in the country right now in football? Probably not, but it is certainly towards the top. Most observers put it right behind the SEC in terms of football. Objectively, I would tend to agree with that assessment. The SEC has the hardware to show its number one in football. The Pac-12 is getting there with talent at the coaching level and at the player level, but now it’s a matter of putting it together to where the conference gets into the playoff system and wins the title a few times. People respect winning and it doesn’t matter if those people are fans or in the media. The Pac-12 hasn’t won anything in football since the glory run of USC in the mid-2000’s. The media does notice these things and will tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the conferences or teams that have won something of consequence multiple times in the past. The Pac-12 simply hasn’t done that.

The Pac-12 does battle some bias in the media at some level. People who think otherwise are just kidding themselves, but some of the issue is that the East Coast media have gone to bed by the time we get our football games rolling out here in the West. What people in the East tend to see are SportsCenter highlights and not the whole game filled with its own nuances. However, this is something that will always be there for West Coast teams simply because they are in the West. Can’t fault people for where they live, but the media back East have to take it upon themselves to watch games or at the very least tape some games to watch when they are awake, so that they can give an honest assessment of the teams out in the Pac-12.

At the end of the day, what can the Pac-12 improve upon? The issue with DIRECTV would be a good place to start for many people and then taking back a little control from the television networks with late starting times would be where I headed next. I know money rules all in college athletics, but it would be nice if the coaches, players, and the fans were taken into consideration at some point in this whole process of growing the college football game in the Pac-12.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: google

The Pipeline – August 29, 2015: A Firing, some Fines, and a new Television Deal

1. Illinois Fires Tim Beckman Seven Days before Season Opener

Our top news story in this week’s Pipeline comes from the University of Illinois.  (Never thought you’d read that, did you?)  Yes, the Illini have attracted national attention, at least for a couple days.

Head coach Tim Beckman was fired Friday afternoon just seven days before Illinois opens its season against Kent State.  Director of Athletics Mike Thomas dismissed Beckman due to the findings of an external investigation into the mistreatment of players.

Beckman is alleged to have deterred the reporting of player injuries, and pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and play through injuries.  There are also some questions as to whether or not seniors were treated fairly with respect to their scholarship status during the spring semester once they were done playing.  He has, of course, denied that the allegations are accurate, setting the stage for a future lawsuit.

These are very serious accusations.  And there must have been quite a lot of damning evidence to substantiate these claims for Thomas to can Beckman so close to the season opener.

Bill Cubit will take over for the 2015 as interim head coach.  He joined the Illini coaching staff in 2013 as offensive coordinator.

The issue of player safety became real for us last fall when Brady Hoke and the Michigan training staff failed miserably in protecting quarterback Shane Morris.  Excuse the video quality, but you should hear how Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham brought this to a live audience.  Now that a coach has been fired for mismanaging his players, it’s officially a hot button issue.

2. Fining College Football Players?

On Wednesday, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said some things he shouldn’t have about the possibility of fining players.  Athletic director Whit Babcock was quick to shut the idea down, saying Tech would be doing no such thing.

On Thursday a list of all finable offenses is spotted outside the Tech locker room.  A picture is taken.  The picture makes its way around the internet.  And Foster’s words are legitimized, proving that there was a plan in place to fine Hokie players for misbehavior.

Then, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville seconds Foster’s motion.  The AD in this case, UC’s Mike Bohn does not squash his coach’s idea, but instead agrees with him.

There’s some confusion about whether this is legal.  NCAA rules state that taking money from a student’s scholarship is impermissible.  However, there is supposedly some language in these financial aid contracts which states the school may subtract aid if the violations go against department policy or the student code of conduct.

I’m no legal eagle.  I’ll let the lawyers decide what exactly the contracts allow schools to do with players’ financial aid.  I can say that this will undoubtedly add another convoluted layer to the already complicated cake that is the controversy over compensating college athletes.

3. Pac-12 Network on DirecTV

As our own Mike Wilson wrote last week, west coast football fans might be able to relax soon.  After years of not carrying the Pac-12 Network on their cable package, DirecTV will finally give fans out west what they want.

DirecTV, which was recently bought by AT&T, began testing on Friday that appears to be the first step towards bringing the Pac-12 Network to their customers’ television sets.

Imagine the frustration of paying for sports packages you’re not interested in while your favorite conference’s network is unavailable to you.  This is what some fans have been dealing with since the Pac-12 Network’s inception in 2012.

Luckily for them it seems to be coming to an end just in time for the 2015 season.

4. Sarkisian Apologizes for “Inappropriate” Behavior

Steve Sarkisian addressed the media on Tuesday concerning his “inappropriate” behavior at a USC donor event last Saturday.  Apparently, he had too much to drink and had taken some pills he was prescribed.

The press conference was short, but notably odd.

There were unnecessarily personal questions about specifically what medication Sarkisian was referring to in his statement.  Rightfully, he declined to disclose that information.

When asked if he had a drinking problem, Sarkisian said, “No, I don’t believe so, but through Pat [Haden] and the University, I’m going to find that out.”

“I don’t know if I even need rehab,” Sarkisian said.  “That’s part of the process, and I credit Pat Haden for this, that he has put things in place for me to have meetings to figure that out.”

He was quick to ‘swear off’ drinking for the rest of the season, and clarified that while there was never any alcohol in the players’ locker room, it will now be completely banned from all USC football facilities.

The USC players had their coach do a set of down-ups, just as they would have had to do for breaking team rules.

The team has moved on and so should the media.  This was a big mistake, but it was not an accurate reflection of Sarkisian’s character.

5. Vernon Adams Wins Oregon’s Starting QB Job

Anyone who was following the quarterback battle at Oregon knew there was a good chance Vernon Adams would end up winning the job.  The Ducks’ week one depth chart was released on Friday, and sure enough Adams was at the top.

This is news mostly because it wasn’t news to those of us who were paying attention.

Adams is a graduate transfer student who played three seasons at Eastern Washington.  He put up the type of numbers you see from Oregon quarterbacks, throwing for 10,438 yards and 110 touchdowns while with the Eagles.  With Marcus Mariota gone to the NFL and the rest of the team in place, the Ducks needed a new quarterback who could step in and preform immediately.  In Adams, they’ve got just that.

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

Interestingly, Adams will make his first start against his alma mater next weekend when the Ducks host the Eagles.  That’s right, just three weeks after graduating from Eastern Washington he will take the field against his former team.

Ahh, what a glorious loophole in the NCAA’s transfer rules.

Pac-12 Notebook: Pac-12 Network, Oregon, USC, and Washington State

Pac-12 Network vs. DIRECTV

When the Pac-12 began their own television network, it was seen as a boost for the conference. It has been a boost to the profile of the conference and everybody connected with the Pac-12, but the one thing that has been hanging over the conference since the inception of the network has been the ongoing dispute with DIRECTV. The dispute has obviously been about how much it will cost the network to be put on the satellite provider. It has frustrated those Pac-12 fans that use DIRECTV as their television provider and has cost millions in lost viewership to the conference. However, things may just be changing for everybody concerned.

AT&T, the communications giant, has bought DIRECTV and with this purchase has put renewed vigor into the thought that the Pac-12 Network can finally be on DIRECTV. AT&T is already a major sponsor/advertiser for the Pac-12. The powers that be in the conference have said that getting a deal done is not a matter of “if”, but “when”. Customers like myself have been frustrated with the satellite provider because we are paying for other sports networks, while my own sports conference is not on DIRECTV. Rumors are saying that a deal will be done before the start of season, but I will only believe it when it is done.

Oregon

What is going on in Eugene? Oh, just a few things. One of them being that they have lost a potential 1,000 yard running back to their offensive attack. Thomas Tyner is gone. He injured his shoulder, had surgery, and his 2015 season is over. Big loss. Massive loss. Attach any adjective you want, but it won’t change anything for Tyner. The Ducks have many weapons with their offense to absorb the blow, however, it’s still a big loss for them. He may not have been the number one running back for the Ducks, but he was certainly a very close second. Is there any chance that Tyner comes back in 2015? No. If he does, he certainly could injure the shoulder again and it could end up being worse. Take 2015 to heal completely and come back at full strength in 2016.

Vernon Adams. How many of you are tired of talking about this guy and whether or not he will be showing up in Eugene? Well, we can finally stop talking about whether or not he’s there. We all know he’s finally showed up on the practice field for the Ducks. Now the questions being asked are about whether he can catch up and learn the high powered Oregon offense and whether or not he will start. I’ll answer those two questions right now.

Yes and yes.

As much as the coaches say that it’s a competition at quarterback with the Ducks. It’s not. You don’t bring in a guy like Vernon Adams and then tell him to sit. Adams may be a little behind due to arriving late to fall camp, but a guy that has thrown for over 10,000 yards in a career is not going to be a bench warmer. He’s going to start for the Ducks. Period. End of story.

USC

Things seem a little quiet in Trojan land the last few weeks. After a few little squabbles between USC and Oregon fans, players, and even coaches things have gone dark for the Trojans. You can assume that they are eagerly anticipating the start of the season and are waiting to throw around that Trojan swagger again after coming off the sanctions of the Reggie Bush era. The Trojans have the talent, experience, and the expectation to go into the college football playoff. Can USC get to the playoff? Yes, but it’s going to be tough. It’s just going to be difficult to get out of the South division of the Pac-12. They have their work cut out for themselves. Cody Kessler is going to be the leader of the group and has to stay healthy for them to have that chance. Having the Trojans relevant again in national college football talk is good for football and the Pac-12. It gives the conference a little higher profile. Let’s hope the Trojans can continue to bring that swag back to their program.

Washington State

Can the Cougars of Washington State get out of the cellar of the Pac-12 North? Good question. Yes, they can, but can they go higher than fifth in the division? Not sure about that. There are many things about this program that people question. Can Coach Leach finally turn it around in Pullman? Is Leach done as a coach? Is his offense going to work in Pullman? Police reports on the team seemingly are a constant occurrence. Are things out of control for the Cougars?

A recent report listed the Cougs at the number one team in arrests over the last 5 years. Many people would consider that fairly disturbing and it would be easy to agree with that, but is this the kind of stat that Coach Leach should be worried about? Yes. According to the report 24 of the 31 arrests were made after Leach was hired. Are they not doing their due diligence with these kids being brought into the Cougar program? It sure sounds like it. Washington State has been a school who has given second chances to many a player who have had checkered pasts. It seems like this kind of practice may be catching up with the program. Let’s hope they can figure this out in Pullman and turn things around and soon! This type of thing causes stress for the coach and distraction for the program. Coaches hate distraction. I’ve said that a few hundred times and will keep saying it. Distraction can kill a season and just might for the Cougars. Let’s wait and see with this program.

No NFL Sunday Ticket

The NFL season is about to start, and for the first time in many years, I am paying attention to what games are going to broadcast locally. When I had DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket, such things were of no relevance to me at all. I’m not even sure how much I should even care now, since I’ve dropped not only the subscription service that provides all out-of-market NFL games, but also the satellite company on the whole.

This is a pretty significant change for me, considering my only condition for a roommate back in 2005 was that he/she be willing to move to a place where we could get the holy grail of sports packages, which to this day, requires DirecTV. Prior to that, I had to drag my happy ass to a bar at 10 AM Arizona time on Sundays to catch my beloved Cleveland Browns, unless I was fortunate enough that their game was airing on the local CBS or FOX affiliate, which was never.


The problem is, my team has never been much of a draw in these parts, mostly because they’ve been terrible and haven’t yielded much, even in the way of Fantasy Football players for the casual fan. Sometimes, I was the only one in the entire sports bar that had any interest in a Browns clash with the Jaguars or Bengals, and there were occasional times that my game, and my business as a paying customer, didn’t even warrant a small TV in the corner.

It’s telling, now that CBS sort of seems like that bar manager that laughed at my request to show a Browns game, which wasn’t a problem when they were playing the Steelers. Last month, there were rumors that sounded official enough, indicating CBS’s intention of sending their #1 broadcast team to Pittsburgh for the Browns opener against Pittsburgh, but Awful Announcing let the air out of that one earlier this week, noting that the network’s commitment to that game hinged on the participation of one Johnny Manziel, who will not be the starting quarterback against the Steelers on Sunday.

To me, that A-Team of Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, and sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson suggested that this game would air in the early Sunday time-slot, unless it conflicted with the local team. The Cardinals are playing on Monday night and their only division rival playing at 1 PM Eastern on Sunday, the Rams, are on FOX. Of course, when Mike Pettine announced that a guy named Hoyer would start over Manziel, the under-appreciated Ian Eagle knew it would be him, and not Jim Nantz, on the call for Browns v Steelers in Western Pennsylvania to start the season.

I held out hope, before The506.com revealed their unofficial, but often accurate, viewing map. I thought, Browns-Steelers, it’s not the rivalry that I’d like it to be, but it still matters. As the page loaded, I saw pink in most of Ohio and Pennsylvania, but no match in Arizona, where we were covered in blue, which the color key said was the Patriots. The dream was dead.

506
I would not be so blessed as to have the game I want to see come to me free of charge. I started thinking about what bar I’d go to, something I haven’t had to ponder in a decade, but then it me. Why bother?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not jumping ship. I was born a Browns fan and I’ll most certainly die a Browns fan. It’s more likely that I’ll live forever than it is that I’ll stop loving the Browns. I’m just not sure I need to see them every week; is that blasphemous?

I’m just not very happy with the NFL right now, and keep in mind, this isn’t about the Browns losing Josh Gordon for the year to suspension. I have my reservations about the way we treat drug users in this country, but I really don’t want to take the focus off what really eats at me, the way the courts and the National Football League turn a blind eye to violent crimes.

Granted, it’s not an employer’s responsisbility to police their employees, even when the courts fail, but there is a certain level of accountability, in my opinion. If my bosses at the 9-to-5, a full-time consulting gig, ever saw me drag my unconscious wife out of an elevator, it would be curtains for me at that gig. If any of my clients caught wind of something like that, or something like vehicular manslaughter of a colleague, they likely wouldn’t care for my consultative assistance, but consumers of the NFL product have no such standard for decency, myself included.

Due to backlash over the 2-game slap on the wrist to Ray Rice, of unconsious girlfriend in elevator fame, the fearless leader of all-things-NFL decided 6 games without pay would be more appropriate for spousal abuse. Oh, and drunkenly ending the life of your friend and teammate, and offense committed by the Cowboys’ Josh Brent would equal 10 games away from this lucrative job. I feel someone should say something or do something to demonstrate that these are not acceptable consequences for such heinous actions, but all I can do is make noise.


I want to boycott the games. I looked into boycotting the sponsors, but I’d be cornering myself into a life of craft beers and farmers markets; the NFL takes money from everyone you know and every prouduct you buy. Plus, given the time I’ve taken to contemplate whether or not this is a Browns season that I can pass on, I don’t think a boycott could be considered genuine.

So, it’s funny. I’ve gone from the guy who does five televisions in the living room every (Saturday and) Sunday, to someone who might just as soon be working on his golf game while the masses are living and dying with every third and long. This isn’t jumping ship, but it is taking a break after 15 years on the observation deck. What’s there to see up there right now anyway?

Maybe it isn’t the Browns, but the overload. From the endless draft talk on Twitter, which starts around Game 12, which is better than the talk radio callers who are trying to start it during the pre-season to the constant fury of seeing Steelers stickers on vehicles all over the Phoenix Metropolitan area, it’s easy to get burnt out on this stuff.


The TV thing was a chore of sorts, too. We kept two in the living room all season, which was great for watching regular televison on the main TV during Monday Night Football, which I could see and not hear. There’s something bliss about not hearing Jon Gruden tell us how every player that participates in a game he calls, players best known as “this guy” or “this guy, right here”, is the best ever to play the game. We also bring out the bedroom TV and two old “fat-backs” that collect dust during the week and during the off-season.

I never needed six games, since I’d typically split-screen the main screen, at the same time, but I was paying for all of them, so I watched all of them. There’s only one I ever gave a damn about, and I would have paid an a la carte price to only watch that team win its four or five games per year. Of course, that was never an option; it’s all or nothing with Sunday Ticket.

Since the Browns have given me nothing, I have found that it’s time for me to choose nothing. Keep in mind, this isn’t me demanding better things from the team, but I’m just fatigued with the same sub-mediocre results every fall. It isn’t even necessarily about the money, I can make more of that, but I’ll never get the time back.

Alright, you can throw me off the blimp and into the pile of luggage now. I have no Sunday Ticket.