Canzano: Big 12 talks with Fresno State while Pac-12 plots


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A few things for your Friday:

• The Pac-12 Conference has gone stealth in the last few days. My spider senses are tingling. There's a lot of outside noise, but the conference has tightened the inner circle.

• It could be that the conference wants Monday's joint statement of unity to do the talking. The Pac-12 was annoyed at some erroneous reports and misinformation that was clouding the space.

• A consultant who works closely behind the scenes with schools and conferences all over the country told me this week that "only about 50 percent" of what we see reported is accurate.

Regardless of whether it's the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC or Big 12… "that 50 percent figure holds up across the board," per the source. It's why you have to be careful with what you read and why I'm committed to giving you sourced, in-depth reporting and commentary that you can't get anywhere else here.

• The Pac-12 men's basketball tournament is set for March 8-11 in Las Vegas. The conference has to have something to talk about on the media rights front when that tournament begins. It's crunch time.

• Big 12 Conference commissioner Brett Yormark told Jon Wilner and me this week in our podcast that his conference was still looking to add members. Boise State sits in the Mountain Time Zone and hasn't been afraid to kickoff football games at night.

Would the Big 12 consider Boise State?

Yormark said, "I've been pretty transparent and intentional that we'd like that fourth time zone to create more value for our media partners… would I like to be a national conference in all the different time zones from a geography standpoint have the Big 12 flag all over the country? 100 percent."

• Keep an eye on Fresno State as an addition to the Big 12 Conference. I'm told the Pac-12 has only had "intermittent" contact with the Bulldogs. No visit. Nothing planned. I don't think the presidents and chancellors — especially the ones a few hours away in the Bay Area — in the Pac-12 view Fresno as a "must have."

• Fresno State and the Big 12 are talking, though. Yormark and Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval have had "multiple conversations" a source said. The Bulldogs would love to join a Power Five conference.

• Keep an eye on Gonzaga as a basketball-only addition for some conference, too. It has a great life in the WCC but appears restless. Would the Pac-12 add Gonzaga? Or the Big 12? It's why I asked Yormark about the media rights value of basketball in our conversation this week.

Yormark said: "When you think about basketball specifically, I do feel that basketball is undervalued in this industry… I just think it has been undervalued and it has been bundled with football. I think at some point in time that value proposition needs to change."

• The Pac-12 has kept Boise State at "arm's length" in recent months, per a source. Pac-12 has had very limited contact with the school. The Pac-12 appears far more interested in SMU, San Diego State, and some others.

• There are only 517,000 TV households in all of Idaho. Boise State also competes vs. a few Pac-12 schools for recruits and the academic profile doesn't fit the Pac-12's research-driven mission.

• For the Pac-12, the expansion decision will be driven by media value. The conference needs to add TV households and inventory to replace the loss of USC and UCLA. San Diego's TV market would add 1.13 million households. DFW would add nearly 3 million TV households. Yes, I know that neither school traditionally brings huge ratings, but again, expansion is about adding media markets.

• The Big Ten added Rutgers and Maryland once upon a time. Not because either had knockout football programs or huge ratings, but because they brought the New York and DC television markets.

• On that note, Houston has 2.45 million television households. It's why I keep thinking about Rice University as a possible Pac-12 addition. The academic profile of Rice fits. If the Pac-12 is serious about SMU, I wonder if Rice becomes the travel partner.

• UNLV? There are fewer than 1 million TV households in Las Vegas, but the Pac-12 may covet the market's sponsorship dollars. Also, it's a rapidly growing region that wants to be the "Sports Capital of the World." If the conference decides to add a fourth school, I expect the Rebels to get consideration.

• I saw multiple media reports this week that announced CBS and Turner were "no longer involved" in Pac-12 media rights negotiations. I had to stop and check whether I'd missed something. It was strange to see the CBS/Turner development reported as if it were breaking news. I've been told for months that neither network was ever seriously involved. I expect ESPN/Amazon to end up with the Pac-12's media rights.

One high-level industry source said: "I don't know that CBS and Turner were ever actually in."

• Telemundo, PBS and HGTV are also not involved, in case anyone is wondering.

Read more of columnist John Canzano exclusively at JohnCanzano.com.

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John Canzano is a sports columnist and radio show host. He's worked at six newspapers and has won 11 Associated Press Sports Editors Awards in column writing, investigative reporting and projects. He lives in Oregon and hosts a daily statewide radio show there. Read more of his content at JohnCanzano.com.

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