In response to Pac-12 rumors, Utah’s athletic director says ‘Give me a break.’ Good for him
Reacting to a piece by CBS Sports about the future of the Pac-12, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan called out the author Dennis Dodd.
What an end to a week filled with conference expansion chatter.
On Thursday, CBS Sports college columnist Dennis Dodd posted a dystopian report on the demise of the Pac-12 and the Big 12 readying itself to pounce.
That afternoon, former NFL and Utah quarterback Scott Mitchell declared on 1280thezone/KSL radio in Salt Lake City that the Pac-12 was done, over. His cohost Alex Kirry then said, “You heard it here first.”
Hours later, Utah athletic director Mark Harlan went to Twitter to call out Dodd, tweeting “Give me a break.”
It was as if Harlan was accusing Dodd of spreading “fake news.”
On the surface, this was a strong reaction from the Pac-12 management — a kind of push back, a sustaining of the letter of solidarity sent out last month from the league’s board of directors.
Harlan’s tweet could be taken as a voice from the so-called four corner schools of the Pac-12, the schools that are most often rumored to be listening to recruiting pitches by the Big 12 in multiple media accounts.
If anything, Harlan scored points for his concise, subtle rebuke. The tweet could have simply been a reaction to mounting media noise.
Apparently, Harlan, and likely others in the league, have had enough of the incoming artillery towards the Pac-12 from national media and Big 12 country.
And that’s admirable.
The only true and reliable "source'' yet to surface on the Pac-12's future. Utah athletic director Mark Harlan needs just four words to disarm the Arizona-to-Big 12 narrative. https://t.co/AvVBaHZ7Ch— Greg Hansen (@ghansen711) March 10, 2023
On the surface, Harlan represents Pac-12 loyalty. His tweet signaled to his school and fans that Utah is all-in on its ties to the Conference of Champions.
No doubt the Dodd piece stirred the pot in the Salt Lake City area and when KSL’s Mitchell went on the air with a declaration Thursday afternoon that the Pac-12 was baked, Harlan had to react. Good for him. Anytime we can hear from athletic directors and presidents it’s good.
But will it quell the storm?
The Pac-12 still hasn’t announced a media deal after nine months, and commissioner George Kliavkoff has kind of bunkered down at the league’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas offering no comment to reporters.
There is a long line of national media folks who are reporting the Pac-12 media woes are serious and financially dire, including Dodds at CBS, Andrew Marchand and John Ourand (Sports Business Journal), Pete Thamel (ESPN), Brett McMurphy of The Action Network, Max Olson of The Athletic, and the Los Angeles Times.
Critics are accusing Dodds and others of basically doing the bidding of the Big 12 offices and piling on the Pac-12 at a dire time. Dodds quoted “industry sources” in his piece, explaining the Pac-12 is on the precipice and the dam is ready to break.
Dodds opined with unnamed sources the following: “Three high-ranking industry sources in the last week told CBS Sports they believe Yormark is going to be successful in luring at least some combination of Four Corners schools. Some went farther speculating the Pac-12 was a couple of weeks away from dissolving.”
Could it be true that the Pac-12 has solidarity and loyalty and Harlan’s tweet is proof of that thinking? That everyone in the league is on the same page — to stick together no matter what, short or long term?
Or could two things be true: that there is a voice of solidarity but schools in the league are hedging their bets and investigating a shelter and life boat?
Yes, both could be true.
Which Pac-12 athletic directors knew of USC and UCLA bolting beforehand?
University presidents and athletic directors have long utilized a third party in negotiations when hiring personnel and coaches or when making changes in college expansion. That way, they could say truly that they have had no personal contact, conversations or talks with a coach, team or league.
But their representatives may have.
It would be nice if Kliavkoff would stage a roundtable media discussion in Las Vegas this week. It is extremely needed.