Utah Utes mailbag: Is the Pac-12 (Pac-10?) going to survive?

Plus: Commissioner George Kliavkoff gets ready to meet the media, Utah’s realignment resume, a season of sellouts at Rice-Eccles and more.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez | AP) Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff speaks during the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Los Angeles.

The Pac-12 is at a crossroads after losing two schools from the second-largest media market in the United States, and survival is not completely guaranteed right now.

We’re going to start this week’s mailbag right there.

Do you have a question for Utes beat reporter Josh Newman? Send it to him via a tweet, direct message him on Twitter, email him at jnewman@sltrib.com, or leave it in the comments section at the end of this article and he will answer them in his weekly mailbag.

Q: “How realistic is it that the Pac-10 doesn’t dissolve?” - @gorringe_chase

A: Pac-12? Pac-10? I see what you did there.

Let’s preface the following with the fact that everything remains fluid, and the Pac-12 remains inside a 30-day negotiating window for its media rights. The window is set to end on Aug. 4, but there could always be some news before that date.

The Pac-12 (Pac-10) has been tenuously heading towards survival. At this point, I think it is more a matter of, well, what does survival look like exactly?

What is this negotiating window going to yield? Is ESPN going to bid beyond the $300 million annually that is being projected? Whatever the number winds up being, does the league stick with 10, or does it go raid the Mountain West to get back to 12?

Assuming the media rights money is enough, and assuming Big Ten (or anyone else) doesn’t make a serious play for Oregon and Washington (they’re not, at least right now), they will stick around, which gives everyone else in the league a reason to stick around, at least in the short term.

What is the short term? For example: if this upcoming Big Ten media rights deal is for, I’m making this up, five years, everything will settle down for another two or three years. At that point, this realignment calamity could certainly fire back up, but for now, yeah, I think the Pac-12 (Pac-10?) is looking at survival in some form.

Any notion that the Big 12 is going to be the aggressor is, for now, pretty much unfounded, but if this Pac-12 media rights number comes back too low to stomach, maybe my opinion changes.

Yes, I heard the audio clip from Monday of a reporter from a Pac-12 market speaking on a podcast, blurting out an unfounded rumor he had heard pertaining to what ESPN’s annual offer to the Pac-12 may have been. The number this person blurted out ($24.5M) is insanely, insultingly low, even without the two Los Angeles schools.

The number makes no sense, at least to me, but on the off chance the number is correct, Utah president Taylor Randall and athletic director Mark Harlan should get on the phone with new Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, like yesterday.

Q: “How likely is it that George Kliavkoff has an ace up his sleeve that he reveals at Pac-12 Media Day? What could that be?” - @peaceloveutes

A: I touched on this in the last TribUte newsletter, but I don’t think Kliavkoff can walk into media day on Friday morning without something to offer everyone in the room and everyone paying attention at home.

News could break this week before we get to Los Angeles, but in the event it doesn’t, I don’t think there’s going to be some giant reveal from him, although that would make things nice and easy from a work perspective for your friendly, neighborhood beat writer, but I digress.

No one should expect Kliavkoff to give away the farm, but he has to offer something real about where the media rights negotiations are going. Frankly, what else does anyone want to talk about on Friday? One could argue that the Pac-12 is in the middle of negotiations to save its existence. Let’s talk about that.

Q: If the Pac-12 falls apart, how likely is it that Utah gets “left out”? - @utah_dev

A: Have we covered this? I think we’ve covered this, but let’s do a refresher.

Based on conversations around the landscape, including a small handful of people who should really know what’s going on right now, I find it hard to believe Utah is going to be left out in the cold in the, as discussed above, seemingly unlikely event at this juncture that the Pac-12 falls apart.

Why do I believe that? I outlined a few reasons why in this story from last week, but if you want something to worry about, yeah, the Salt Lake City TV market is growing, but it’s not as noteworthy as some other TV markets within the conference.

That said, I don’t believe this TV market is weak enough where it would be a major deterrent to Utah landing on its feet in the Big 12 or wherever else might be in play should the Pac-12 cease to exist.

This is getting tiresome. Remind me, when does Utah play Florida?

Q: “Will anybody ghost USC and UCLA, or is the headline too juicy to do that?” - @UteManG

A: Forgive me, you’re asking what is the media going to do with USC and UCLA? Are we talking specifically about Pac-12 media day on Friday?

Let’s go with that, Friday.

Nobody is bailing on media day Friday before Chip Kelly and Lincoln Riley speak. Just for fun, the Pac-12 has them going last, Kelly at 4 p.m. MT and Riley behind him at 4:30. That is not an accident, but rather an attempt to bury whatever is said. I can’t imagine any media member with anything invested in these two schools leaving (SEE: Everyone) is going to miss that.

For what it’s worth, Kyle Whittingham, Cam Rising and Clark Phillips III will address the media on Friday at 9:45 a.m. MT, so yeah, it’s going to be a long day.

Q: What was The U’s season-ticket renewal rate and is The U concerned that the ticket-buying public will follow the path of the schools, sell out to television, and just watch games from home? - @PdnewPaul

A: Per an athletic department spokesperson, Utah’s season-ticket renewal rate was “over 98%,” which is obviously a monster number and good news for the athletic department. It comes as no surprise, though. The renewal rate has been steadily above 90% for several years now, and there is no reason to believe it will dip, especially given the roll the program has been on since 2018.

As for the second question, let me ask, are you serious?

Utah has sold out 70 consecutive home games dating back to the 2010 opener vs. Pitt. With the exception of the potential Clash of the Titans with USC on Oct. 15, this season’s home schedule is not super attractive, but, and this is a spoiler, they’re going to sell out an 11:30 a.m. kickoff vs. Southern Utah, a mid-November game against middling Stanford, and all the rest of them in between.

As a point of reference, in June 2020, in the early days of the pandemic and with a football season far from guaranteed, the renewal rate was 94%.

The appetite to watch Utah football is not dissipating any time soon.

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