It’s funny, but this exact same thought posted at The Banner Society crossed my mind when I read Jon Wilner’s piece about the Pac-12’s severe revenue gap with the SEC:
We got here because Larry Scott considers himself an innovator who sees non-traditional angles. And Scott should lean even harder into that now to give the conference an advantage greater than all that television money the SEC and Big Ten are about to soak up: The Pac-12 should reverse course and fully embrace California’s new name, image, and likeness law.
Let’s say Scott gets the schools on board and convinces the state governments of Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah to fast-track legislation mimicking California’s. The Pac-12 gets to put on its best forward-thinking face and proclaim they’re the conference that puts athletes first, the vanguard bold enough to abandon the old, unfair model of amateurism.
They also give their schools a powerful recruiting weapon the rest of the Power 5 won’t have: the promise of actual, legal money. Sure, indoor practice facilities and fancy dining halls are great. But they’re not money! Five of the 10 best players in California this recruiting cycle committed to schools outside the Pac-12. Doesn’t it seem more likely they’d stay in the conference given the chance to make money off themselves right away?
The best thing about this recruiting tool: it costs schools almost nothing. Yes, there will be some administrative oversight required to make sure players are staying within the bounds of California’s law, but the actual money these would get wouldn’t come from an athletic department budget. It takes the revenue gap the Pac-12 is staring down and gives schools an increased ability to compete with their SEC and Big Ten counterparts without forcing the conference to find new revenue.
As far as NCAA objections go, Ryan Nanni goes on to point out there’s a lot of intertwining that would be difficult to unwind quickly… or maybe even at all.
No, the NCAA’s not going to like it. But the Pac-12 should paint the Association into a corner. Eight Power 5 schools have a non-conference game with the Pac-12 in 2020. Many more will want to schedule Pac-12 teams in basketball. The men’s and women’s basketball tournaments regularly feature a regional played on the West Coast. The Rose Bowl insists they must play on New Year’s Day, even if that screws the Playoff schedule up, so imagine how they’ll react when you tell them they don’t get a Pac-12 participant. Six other bowls have a deal securing them a Pac-12 participant. And then there’s the fact that all of these games are tied to … lucrative TV contracts.
No, it’s not gonna happen, not because it wouldn’t work, but because Larry Scott isn’t the bold genius he’s convinced his school presidents he is. Too bad; as a strategy, it certainly beats selling a piece of your conference off to a hedge fund.