Buffs AD George remains “bullish” on Pac-12

GREELEY — Technically, the conference the University of Colorado belongs to is still the Pac-12.

But make no mistake, the league’s athletic directors — minus the two who lead lame ducks USC and UCLA — are focusing all their energies and focusing on how the remaining 10 programs can move forward.

The question for everyone involved is whether to leave (join another conference), grow (add members to the Pac-12), or stay (stand as a 10-team conference).

But while all those options are on the table for CU, count Buffaloes AD rick george among those who strongly believe that the remaining 10 schools have the capacity and available resources to continue as a viable and relevant conference in an ever-changing college athletics environment.

“Our goal will be to maintain our conference alignment,” George said Wednesday. “I feel really good about the strength of our conference with all 10 schools. Just to make everyone clear, we didn’t lose a team that appeared in a CFP playoff game. We still have the strength of those teams that are in our conference. I can tell you that the announcements are aligned with where we think this needs to go. We’re optimistic about the future.

George made his comments during the annual Summer Media Roundtable, an event he usually uses to recap the past school year and address what’s in store for the Buffaloes.

Under normal circumstances, that means things like tallying conference championships won last year (the Buffs won a pair of Pac-12 titles, both in cross country), playoff successes (l CU’s women’s basketball team earned an NCAA Tournament berth) and achievements in the classroom.

The latter is important to the Buffs, as Colorado student-athletes produced a GPA last year that matched that of the entire student body — a first in George’s nine years at Boulder.

But all of those topics were mostly brushed aside on Wednesday as George spoke to the media for the first time since announcing about two weeks ago that two of the Pac-12’s most important programs would be heading to the Big Ten. in two years.

The abrupt and surprising departure of these two schools has undoubtedly created an atmosphere of uncertainty, not only in the Pac-12, but throughout the country. Coupled with the reported defections of Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12 to the SEC a year ago, the balance of power in college athletics has clearly shifted toward two major conferences.

But George thinks Colorado and the Pac-10 — whatever form they take two years from now — will still be a nationally relevant conference. That means a conference that will have a presence in the college football playoffs, particularly if the field develops as expected, while continuing to be a contender for championships in other sports.

“College athletics needs multiple conferences,” George said. “It is important that we have several conferences competing for the CFP and the national championship in all our sports, but particularly in football.”

George noted that the Pac-12 has opened its 30-day window for media rights negotiations with current rights holders. This will give the conference a solid idea of ​​the value it will have going forward as the 12-year deal enters its final two years.

Of course, that long-term deal — plus a mostly inefficient Pac-12 network setup that has been far more of a burden than a boon to the league — has left the Pac-12 trailing behind in terms of annual revenue. television rights. This will almost certainly be the lasting legacy of former commissioner Larry Scott.

But now, at least, the league can explore what might be available in the future, as well as discuss options for the Pac-12 network. When the 30-day window is over, the conference can then choose to explore the open market.

“I think our media rights have been undervalued,” George said. “Our tier two rights are extremely low because of the Pac-12 network. But I think there’s tremendous value in our league because we’ve been undervalued on our tier one rights and our tier rights. two. I think there’s a huge upside for us as a conference.”

One thing that has been emphasized in recent Pac-12 meetings, led by Commissioner George Kliavkoff, has been to resist the urge to respond irrationally. While the future is clearly uncertain, rash decisions that look promising in the short term could prove costly in the long run.

“We’ll just take it one day at a time,” George said. “That’s kind of what we’ve done. We’ve tried to stay the course through this and you have to do that. We feel really good for each other in our room as ADs and we’re lined up. We’re looking forward to it and we’ll see what happens over the next few days, weeks and months.”

George also touched on a variety of other topics on Wednesday, including:

Karl Dorrelfootball program of: “We have great expectations for this year. We have a very good football team. I think we have strong veterans coming back and we have very good young guys in this team. So I expect that we ‘ I will be bowling in December or January and I think Karl probably has the same expectations.”

– Title IX Celebration: CU Athletics is currently engaged in a one-year recognition of the 50th anniversary of the signing of Title IX legislation. The Buffs will host a women’s sports weekend Sept. 22-25 that culminates in brunch before the Colorado-Arizona State volleyball game on Sept. 25. CU will also induct four women into its Hall of Fame this year (Jane Frederick, Debbie Wilcox, Maria Grevsgaard and Yolanda Johnson), and recently announced that Betty Hoover and Peggy Coppom, CU’s beloved twins, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame’s Legacy Hall wing.

– Honor Salaam HOF: The Buffs will honor the late Rashaan Salaam’s selection for the College Football Hall of Fame in the Sept. 24 home game against UCLA. Salaam will be officially inducted at a ceremony in December in Las Vegas.

99th season at Folsom Field: This will mark the 99th season of football at CU’s venerable stadium. George also noted that next season’s 100th anniversary celebration will include home games with Nebraska and Colorado State.

— Budgetary issues: George said the Buffs will come out of last year with a balanced budget – an almost Herculean feat in light of the financial blow imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. “The coming year will be difficult, because we have debts that arise from the pandemic,” he said, “We only have six home (football) games this year. So it will be difficult, but you know, we always seem to find a way to make the budget work and, again, I feel good about that.”

George said football season ticket turnover has been strong, currently at around 85%, and he also expects strong ticket sales for students.

— NONE update: Until the Pac-12 redesign, the hot topic in college athletics was Name, Image, and Likeness activity. George said CU has 76 companies currently involved with CU’s NIL platforms, and they continue to grow each month. He also noted that among CU’s participating student-athletes, the split was 67 men and 65 women.

George currently sits on an NCAA committee studying how to create guidelines in what is currently a virtually unregulated NIL market.

This includes discussing what will and will not be allowed from a recall angle.

“What you can and can’t do,” George said. “What is tampering. We all know they are behind NIL and these collectives. You know what tampering and inducements are. We had to remind our members and then we started enforcing them in mid-May a little more rigorously than We don’t want to penalize student athletes, but it certainly disrupts our industry in a negative way… There are student athletes doing it the right way I think that’s a great educational experience for them. money in their pocket but when you use it to recruit, incentivize and traffic, that’s not who we are and we need to fix it.”

— Updating facilities: George noted that CU has hired Ryan Gottlieb as Senior Associate AD and Revenue Generating Officer. Among his duties, he will pursue naming rights for a variety of CU facilities, including the football stadium (the ground is Folsom Field but the stadium is unnamed), the CU Events Center and the Indoor Practice. Facility. CU is also upgrading the Folsom audio system, but the process has been hampered by supply chain issues.

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