* The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season (and twice-a-week in the summer). This edition, from April 15, has been made available in archived form …
The Hotline returned to work Sunday evening following a multi-day break and discovered a slew of developments awaiting commentary and context. Several are included in the links below, a few will be examined later this week in the stock report, and one demanded immediate mention here.
Three schools filled basketball vacancies in the past month, and all three new coaches are white. That isn’t news in and of itself. The news, which comes courtesy of Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen, is this:
There are no African-American head coaches in the conference for the first time since the early 1970s.
Reading that fact in Hansen’s column stopped me cold, partly because it highlights the decades of diversity (starting with George Raveling at Washington State) and partly because of the jarring lack thereof at this moment.
“Identifying, developing and hiring minority head coaches is more of an issue in college basketball than the one-and-done rule or anything else. Think about it: the last time the Pac-12 didn’t have a black head basketball coach was 1971. That was when Arizona was playing at Bear Down Gym and Sean Miller was 3 years old.”
Just four years ago, there were four black coaches in the conference: Washington’s Lorenzo Romar, Washington State’s Ernie Kent, Cal’s Cuonzo Martin and Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins.
This season, there were two: Kent and Cal’s Wyking Jones.
(Hansen’s column includes data on other conferences and the concerning trend lines for the sport.)
In no way are we assigning responsibility to the three schools that just appointed coaches: UCLA, Cal and Washington State.
Each hired what it believed was the best option for its program; the campuses are under zero obligation to take what’s best for the collective — including, but not limited to, racial diversity at the head coaching level — into account.
But the situation stands in contrast to Pac-12 football, where five non-whites are in charge, and conjures an unsettling image of the 12 basketball coaches gathering for a hypothetical group photo.
The development also points to the larger issue of whether the conference office should take an active, official role in the hiring process.
The SEC has gone this route, as we pointed out recently, and the Hotline firmly believes Pac-12 schools should allow the conference office to place a small group of former coaches and athletic directors on year-round retainer to serve as advisors/advance scouts.
The campuses would make the final decisions, of course. But the advisory group could create a working list of potential hires, all based on school-specific needs, to guide the search in its initial stage.
This isn’t merely to keep diversity at the forefront of the conversation. Given the corruption across the sport and the ever-present financial considerations (i.e., buyouts), conference-paid advisors could only help the schools make the smartest decisions. — Jon Wilner.
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Several pieces of content have been published since the last edition of the newsletter:
• My ridiculously-early top-25 for next season was posted on Tuesday morning, following the national title game. Two Pac-12 teams made the cut, which will be updated after NBA Draft decisions: Oregon and Washington. I also considered Colorado and both Arizona schools. (Arizona’s recruiting class is loaded, but there’s far too much uncertainty at the moment.)
• The Hotline offered its opinion on UCLA’s decision to hire Mick Cronin: Sometimes, messy searches can lead to quality hires, and this just might be a prime example. Cronin will instill toughness and commitment to defense to a program that rarely lacks talent on the other end of the court. Pac-12 fans delighting in the Bruins’ stumbles should put the schadenfreude aside.
• Contributing columnist Brian Bennett offered his stay-or-go advice for the NBA prospects who have retained the option of returning to school. They have until late May to make a final decision.
Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form using the following hashtag:https://www.mercurynews.com/tag/pac-12-hotline-newsletter/
Why we need your support: Like so many other providers of local journalism across the country, the Hotline’s parent website, mercurynews.com, recently moved to a subscription model. A few Hotline stories will remain free each month (as will this newsletter), but for access to all content, you’ll need to subscribe at a rate of just 12 cents per day for 12 months. And thanks for your loyalty.
• MMQB’s latest mock projects three Pac-12 players into the first round of the NFL Draft. Washington State lineman Andre Dillard leads the way — as has been the case for months — with Arizona State receiver N’Keal Harry and Washington cornerback Byron Murphy also in the top 32.
• As for the NBA version, CBS Sports columnist Gary Parrish offers his view of the pecking order in the wake of recent early-entry decisions. Parrish has four Pac-12 prospects in the first round, three of them being one-and-dones, but none of them going in the Lottery portion.
• Strange but true: Utah’s kicking game remained a bit muddled as the Utes concluded spring practice with their Red-White game. The quarterbacks, on the other hand, looked sharp.
• USC finished spring practice on an upbeat note, which should be a given — except you never can tell with the Trojans these days.
• UCLA’s defense dominated the latest scrimmage in Westwood.
• The same was true at Stanford, where quarterback K.J. Costello was outplayed by the Cardinal cornerbacks in a format altered to account for the lack of healthy offensive linemen.
• In the Palouse, however, there were touchdowns galore.
• Washington linebacker Kyler Manu has 12 tackles over four seasons, yet he’s in the hunt for a starting spot on the rebuilt unit.
• Colorado isn’t close to full strength on defense, but new coordinator Tyson Summers is plowing forward with his scheme and approach.
• Could financial pressures force the top major college football programs to negotiate their own media rights deal, essentially following the NFL model? CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd considers the possibility, with input from former Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny.
All times Pacific. Spring games on Pac-12 Networks
April 17: basketball spring signing period
• Where the Pac-12 gave ESPN the cold shoulder when it offered to take over distribution of the Pac-12 Networks, one of its Power Five peers, the Big 12, has engaged ESPN in a warm embrace. The conference agreed to a sweeping deal that will place a barrage of content, including a select offering of football and men’s basketball games, on ESPN+, the not-so-new streaming service.
• John Ourand, the ace sports media reporter for the SportsBusiness Journal, is skeptical that the digital giants will make major plays for sports rights in the next round of negotiations. “They may wind up with a small package here or there,’’ he told Sports by Brooks. The X factor is Amazon. “My guess is that any digital company that really wants to be involved with sports will partner with a network to get it done.” If Ourand’s speculation proves correct — and the Hotline is in complete agreement — it would create a suboptimal reality for the Pac-12 in a few years.
• UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero indicated he’s discussing a contract extension with chancellor Gene Block that would keep Guerrero in place beyond the calendar year. L.A. Times columnist Dylan Hernandez spoke to Guerrero about the state of the Bruins and offers his unflattering opinion of the current leadership. “The Bruins’ beaten-down fans have to be collectively gasping as they imagine the indignities to which Guerrero could subject them to next.”
• Following Arizona’s spring game, Dave Heeke chatted with reporters on a variety of topics that included his interactions with the conference on policy matters, the quest to improve fan engagement and the early-stage plans to renovate the west side of Arizona Stadium, which is vital to football’s long-term success. (More on that topic here.)
• Utah received a gift of $17.5 million for the Rice-Eccles Stadium renovation from the family of car dealership mogul Ken Garff. The donation essentially ensures the project will move forward, because the Utes are now 90 percent of the way to their philanthropic goal. Another $40+ million will come from other sources (i.e., bonds). Current projections call for the renovation to be ready for the 2021 season.
• Mark Fox has been on the job for a matter of weeks, but Cal continues to lose players to the transfer portal. The latest to take the step: promising 7-foot-3 center Connor Vanover and guard Juhwan Harris-Dyson.
• USC wing Kevin Porter Jr. is entering the draft, as expected. (His contributions, however, were far less than expected.)
• Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley reportedly has agreed to a contract extension in the wake of speculation linking him to the St. John’s vacancy. The terms have not been made public.
• Utah athletic director Mark Harlan was highly bullish when asked for an assessment of coach Larry Kyrstkowiak and the basketball program.
• One of Oregon’s recruits was named junior college player of the year. Chris Duarte looks like an instant-impact arrival for the Ducks.
• Arizona’s Board of Regents continues to closely monitor coach Sean Miller’s status with regard to the federal corruption case. The BoR met late last week, in fact.
• A damning report late last week from the L.A. Times’ Nathan Fenno indicates UCLA athletic officials knew years ago about the pay-for-admissions scam, in which rosters sports were given to unqualified players in exchange for huge donations to athletics. In fact, the university conducted its own investigation and concluded the findings remove “any reasonable doubt that the contribution from the parents was obtained quid pro quo for the daughter’s admission.”
• In response to the news, UCLA offered a statement to Inside Higher Ed in which it “largely confirmed the report” and offered details of its actions.
• Given what we know, should Guerrero and a lieutenant involved in the unseemly plot, Josh Rebholz, be allowed to remain in their current roles? (And just wondering: What else might surface in coming weeks?)
What’s coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
• We’ll take an early assessment of the Pac-12 basketball order-of-finish for 2020 now that so many of the top early-entry candidates have tossed their names into the draft pool.
• The Hotline stock report, scheduled for Wednesday, will hit on a bevy of issues on and off the field/court that have surfaced in the past week.
• What a football coaching contract in the Big Ten says about football coaching contracts in the Pac-12. (A lot, and it’s not good.)
• A new podcast is in the works: Fox Sports and Pac-12 analyst Casey Jacobsen has a theory on what ails the Pac-12.
*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline
*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.
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