SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: July 1, 2022

Episode Summary

The day after the Big Ten's big deal and what's next; Pitch clock data shows impressive pace of play and momentum builds for A's in Bay Area.

Episode Transcription

This is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, July 1st. Yes, July 1st. We are starting the back half of 2022 going into the July 4th weekend. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for joining us. Well, what a day on Thursday, one that will be remembered in the history of college sports. USC and UCLA, two of the Pac-12's flagship programs were accepted into the Big Ten last night and the schools will begin play in the conference in 2024. Here's what I can tell you. I hinted yesterday that the new Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark would have to deal with upcoming realignment. I was told it was coming. I didn't know it would be this soon. The Big Ten and USC and UCLA had been talking for about two to three months according to sources. But over the weekend, I was told the presidents of both schools called the Big Ten and asked to apply for Big Ten membership.

They sent their request to the conference on Monday. The leaders of the Big Ten met on Wednesday night and there was general acceptance. The news did leak on Thursday and the conference leaders approved USC and UCLA on Thursday night. By all accounts, the Pac-12, the other schools in the conference and Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff were blindsided by the move and had no idea of these possible defections. So why the move? Well, obviously it's about the money of course. These schools see the upcoming Big Ten media deal and the $1 billion figure attached to it and they see big bucks. And now Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren has even more leverage in media rights talks that aren't completed yet. Soon after the news about USC and UCLA broke about joining the Big Ten, an Apple executive called the Big Ten with a simple message. It wanted to reengage in media rights talks.

So media companies that had spent months finalizing how much they could pay or would pay for Big Ten rights were going back to the drawing board to see how the addition of these two high profile schools would change their bidding strategy. So now it seems certain that talks about a Big Ten media deal will extend into August and may be completed after Labor Day. Remember, we had talked about the Big Ten planning to wrap up rights negotiations at some point this month, but now there's clearly more work to do. Fox Sports had already reached a deal to carry at least half of the Big Ten package. CBS was viewed as a front-runner to land a part of the package. There was Amazon, ESPN and NBC competing for a third part of the package. Apple and Warner Bros. Discovery are likely back in the mix.

So the addition of these two schools and the overall improvement of the quality of competition in the Big Ten means that the media valuation of these rights will certainly increase. Just think how deep this conference is now. The second and third choices of games are so much more attractive to networks each week with the addition of these schools. So what else and what now? Well, first, this is a huge win for Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren who will land two power schools in the conference and sign the richest media rights deal in college history in a matter of a few months. Kevin Warren has often been criticized during his brief tenure at the Big Ten, but the narrative around him will certainly change as it's clear, this is his moment. He has been positioning the conference for this apparently for a couple of years in building up the acceptance criteria for the Big Ten and ensuring the smooth acceptance of these schools.

For the Pac-12, wow, this is just brutal news for new Commissioner George Kliavkoff as he was preparing for his upcoming media rights negotiations for the conference and he was very bullish, but this move leaves the conference with Oregon and Washington as its two top schools. The future of the conference has to be considered in doubt. There could be discussions with the Big 12 about a merger or other schools could defect as well. So the big question is, what is the future of the Pac-12? I would not be comfortable if I'm the ACC or Commissioner Jim Phillips as the buzz is at that conference is very vulnerable for defections. And the question becomes, just how big the Big Ten and the SEC will get? Could you see two 18 or 20 school conferences? Absolutely. I heard from a number of sources last night, one side stressing that move of UCLA and USC, that's it for now.

But others said there could be a rush of schools moving all throughout July. So buckle up, but the mad dash of power realignment is here. And right now, the Big Ten is clearly having its big moment. A couple of other quick hitters before the holiday. We talk about how baseball really wants to improve the pace of play. Well, the early returns on the pitch clock experiment at the minor league level show it is really making a difference. Data shows that in the first year of use across minor league baseball, the pitch clock has reduced the average game time from three hours and four minutes to two hours and 36 minutes. The Washington Post reported that baseball matchups have not averaged a game time that tight of two hours and 36 minutes since the early 1980s. So that could do some real improvement to the pace of play.

Remember, pitchers have a certain amount of time to throw a pitch. Batters have a certain amount of time to get in the batter's box. And so this could really be huge jolt for baseball. Remember, Rob Manfred cannot unilaterally implement the pitch clock. It would come out of a new competition committee where ownership and management have the majority. So it's very likely to be implemented quite quickly. But what you're seeing is that this pitch clock is really working at the minor league level and could really improve the pace of play at the major league level, which has been one of the focuses of both management and players. So that is very encouraging news. Two other quick hit items. The LIV Golf Series teed off in Portland on Thursday. And by most reports, there were no protests visible nor any signage critical of the event. There were also no reported disruptions. So the golf event went off as planned on Thursday. We'll continue to watch the LIV Golf Series event in Portland over the weekend.

And finally momentum for the Oakland A's to stay in Oakland and the Bay Area continues as the team's plan for a new waterfront ballpark cleared a very important hurdle on Thursday. A commission okayed the $12 billion proposal saying there was enough land and space to build a complex that includes a new ballpark and housing, office space, retail and hotels. While this vote was a major win for the team and progress does continue to keep the team in Oakland, there are still tight deadlines to have a deal in place by the November election, which is the team's goal. The team's current lease at the Oakland Coliseum expires at the end of 2024. The team said it is still negotiating with Las Vegas, but this vote yesterday on Thursday marks more momentum to keeping the A's in Oakland.

So that is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, July 1st. I'm Abe Madkour. I hope everybody has a great July 4th holiday. I hope you get some downtime, relax, enjoy family and friends. There will not be a Buzzcast on Monday, July 4th until Tuesday, July 5th. Stay healthy, be good to each other, and have a great weekend.