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Pac-12 Networks president denies schools were promised revenues like Big Ten, SEC ventures

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Ask any Pac-12 fan what their biggest source of frustration is right now and more likely than not ‘Pac-12 Networks‘ will be at, or near, the top of their list.

That can at times be the same response given by the league’s athletic directors as revenues from the venture fall further and further behind rivals like the uber-successful Big Ten Network and SEC Network. With those two leagues pushing conference payouts over the $50 million mark as soon as next year, the Pac-12 appears in danger of slipping further and further behind on the finance front.

Speaking to industry publication CableMax this weekPac-12 Networks’ outgoing president Lydia Murphy-Stephans understands that the balance sheet isn’t quite the same out West but parity with the two other conference networks was never something that was promised to schools when the channels were formed several years ago.

“There is a gap between what Pac-12 Networks delivers and the Big Ten Network and the SEC Network,” said Murphy-Stephans in a Q&A with the magazine. “What has to be factored in is the revenue specifically from Pac-12 Networks is only one part of the overall revenue each university receives from the Pac-12. I understand there is frustration, though no athletic director or administrator was ever told the Pac-12 Networks would deliver the same or more revenue than what its peer conferences are currently getting from their networks.

“I don’t think it’s fair in any way to call out Pac-12 Networks as the source of the deficiency the universities or maybe those particular athletic directors or administrators are citing.”

Not exactly the kind of comments that will thrill some around the Pac-12 when it comes time to pay for facility upgrades or to give a coach a raise but probably pretty on the nose as to what was said back when realignment was getting hot and heavy around the country. Murphy-Stephans is leaving her post in the not too distant future so it’s not like she will have to massage some of these comments with Pac-12 administrators like her boss Larry Scott will likely have to do in the coming days.

Rich Rodriguez not overly thrilled with NCAA rule changes

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A bunch of new rule changes are set to take effect this football season, and Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez appears to be not-so-enthusiastic about some of the key changes. Rodriguez took aim at the new recruiting guidelines that include an early signing period in December and new rules regarding official visits. He was not complimentary, according to quotes provided by the Arizona Daily Star.

“December’s better than February, but it doesn’t solve the problems,” Rodriguez said when reacting to the addition of an early signing period in December. “I still think it makes more sense to have no signing day. I was one that voted against the December one, because I think there should be none.”

Rodriguez has been in favor of having no official signing day and instead allowing student-athletes to sign with a team whenever they are ready to do so. It remains to be seen just how much of an impact an early signing period will truly have on the game, but the expansion of the dates recruits can make official visits (beginning April 1 of recruit’s junior year, ending in late June) could be a negative change for a school’s budget, warns Rodriguez.

“Right now, you’re allowed 56 official visits. We only use 36. So we save the school money,” Rodriguez said of Arizona’s approach to official visits. “You kind of zero in on the guys you know (will come) by the time the official visits come. Now everybody’s going to use 56, because it’s so early in the process. So it’s going to cost schools more money.”

In addition to having concerns about how much schools will spend on additional official visits, Rodriguez also suggests the time is taken away from assistant coaches will take a toll.

“The life of an assistant and the work that they do now is already pretty hectic. Which is OK; they get paid well,” Rodriguez said. “But to have official visits in those months is way too much to ask for kids, coaches and schools. I think it’s a bad idea.”

When the acting president of the American Football Coaches Association comes out with this kind of reaction to the new rules, you cannot help but wonder how many other coaches feel the same way.

North Carolina confirms signing of ex-LSU QB Brandon Harris

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In late March, Brandon Harris announced that he had committed to North Carolina.  Friday, the quarterback’s new school made the move officially official.

UNC confirmed via a press release that Harris has signed his scholarship agreement with the university and will play football for the Tar Heels this fall.  The fourth-year senior, who has yet to use his redshirt, is scheduled to graduate from LSU this month, and will join his new team this summer.

Harris, who announced his decision to transfer from LSU in mid-February, had also considered, among others, Arizona and Texas.

After starting all 12 games in 2015 for the Tigers, Harris started the first two games of this past season. He lost his job to Danny Etling prior to Week 3 and never regained it.

The Tar Heels will be looking to replace one-year starter Mitch Trubisky, who left school early and was the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft.  Harris will join a quarterback competition that includes Logan Byrd, Nathan Elliott and Chaz Surratt, with the redshirt freshman Surratt the favorite to replace Trubisky at the moment.

Former MLB first-round pick Donavan Tate set to join Arizona’s football team as walk-on

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It’s not every day you can add a first-round draft pick to your roster but that’s exactly what Rich Rodriguez did this week at Arizona.

The only catch? Well, it’s a first rounder from Major League Baseball’s draft and not the NFL’s. The Arizona Daily Star reports that the No. 3 pick in the 2009 MLB Draft, Donavan Tate, is walking-on with the Wildcats and will be a quarterback for the team starting this summer.

Despite the lofty contract and expectations that came with being taken that high by the San Diego Padres, Tate never did live up to his early billing in baseball. He never reached the majors and spent most of the past six seasons in the minors as he dealt with numerous injuries. The Georgia native also had two stints in rehab facilities as he dealt with substance abuse in recent years.

The addition of a 26-year-old baseball player to the team is an interesting one at Arizona, which left spring football with no decisions being made on a starter between redshirt junior Brandon Dawkins and sophomore Khalil Tate (no relation). Although Tate hasn’t played football in nearly a decade, he was a superstar athlete coming out of high school and committed to North Carolina before the million dollar offer to join the Padres came along.

Arizona is bringing in two quarterback recruits this summer — including Rodriguez’ own son, Rhett — as well. The mix of all of them should make the battle to be the starting signal-caller for the Wildcats quite an interesting one when the team opens fall camp later this year.

Arizona adds future game against FCS juggernaut North Dakota State

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You would think by now that FBS programs would have learned to avoid scheduling a game against North Dakota State, but Arizona is the latest program to dare to schedule the Bison. Arizona will host North Dakota State on September 17, 2022.

Arizona is the third Pac-12 school on a future football schedule. North Dakota state previously had games scheduled against Oregon (2020) and Colorado (2024).

North Dakota State has won six straight games against FBS opponents spanning from 2010 through 2016. Victims along the way have included Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State, Iowa State and Iowa. North Dakota State is not currently scheduled to face another FBS opponent until meeting Oregon on the road in 2020, and the future games against Arizona and Colorado are the only other games against FBS opponents currently lined up.

Of course, scheduling North Dakota State may be more acceptable to some compared to some other FCS programs or even some FBS opponents right now given the recent string of success, but how good will the Bison be by the time these games against FBS opponents come up? Who knows for sure. The Bison were just blocked from winning a national championship last season, but they will likely remain a national contender at the FCS level in 2017.

Unlike the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC, the Pac-12 does not have a scheduling requirement for teams to play another power conference opponent each season. The conference also does not restrict its members from scheduling FCS opponents, as the Big Ten has recently moved in the direction of doing. Arizona will play one FCS opponent each of the next four seasons according to the current schedule (NAU in 2017, 2019; Southern Utah in 2018; Portland State in 2020).