Our quick-hitting recap of the top Pac-12 storylines from the week that was (and a few for the week ahead) …
1. Another new deal
Washington State on Wednesday announced a one-year contract extension for coach Jake Dickert that runs through the 2027 season.
Dickert led the Cougars to seven wins in his first full season after replacing Nick Rolovich and appears to be the right fit for the program, the school and the community.
“We have watched Jake Dickert reset the foundation of WSU Football that prioritizes family, selflessness, toughness, leadership and the total development of the young men on our football team,” athletic director Pat Chun said in a statement announcing the move.
The extension isn’t career-changing for Dickert or budget-altering for the Cougars, but it accomplishes three things:
—It underscores WSU’s faith in the second-year coach in a very public manner — and optics matter.
—It contractually binds the school to Dickert for five more years, thereby providing security for recruits.
—It keeps Dickert’s deal on the same timeline as his Pac-12 peers, especially those in the Pacific Northwest.
2. The contractual landscape
Dickert’s new deal means nine of the 10 coaches at the conference’s public universities are under contract through at least the 2027 season.
The exception is UCLA’s Chip Kelly, who’s a Pac-12 coach for one more year (before the Bruins move to the Big Ten) and is signed only through the 2025 season.
The list …
Signed through the 2027 season: Arizona’s Jedd Fisch, ASU’s Kenny Dillingham, Cal’s Justin Wilcox, Colorado’s Deion Sanders, Oregon’s Dan Lanning, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and WSU’s Dickert
Signed through the 2028 season: Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith and Washington’s Kalen DeBoer
(The terms for Stanford’s Troy Taylor and USC’s Lincoln Riley are not public, but both coaches are likely under contract until at least 2027.)
Why are so many schools so eager to sign deals into the late 2020s?
We see a confluence of three factors:
— Seven schools will have first- or second-year coaches in the 2023 season, and most initial contracts are for five or six years.
— Numerous schools like the trajectory of their program and want to lock up the head coach (to the greatest extent possible).
— These are perilous times for the Pac-12 and college football at large, which places a premium on stability.
3. Pac-12 Networks: The endgame
The Hotline reported Thursday that the conference won’t replace Mark Shuken, the president of the Pac-12 Networks who was terminated for his involvement in the Comcast overpayment saga.
That tells us the networks will cease to exist in their current form, as a linear television media company, when the current distribution contracts (with Comcast and others) expire in the summer of 2024.
Instead, the Pac-12 will own and operate a cutting-edge production studio, located in the East Bay city of San Ramon, that likely develops Olympic sports content for streaming platforms but definitely doesn’t require a president.
4. Big Ten makes a move
Because what happens in the Big Ten seems to have an everlasting impact on the Pac-12, for better or worse, the latest development is worth noting: The conference has settled on a search firm, Turnkey ZRG, to help find a new commissioner.
(Turnkey also assisted the Pac-12 in the search that led to George Kliavkoff being named commissioner in the spring of 2021.)
The timeline is key: The Big Ten search is expected to last deep into the spring, further calming the realignment waters as the Pac-12 works through its existential crisis.
5. NFL Draft: No surprises
The Pac-12 didn’t take any unexpected hits in the NFL Draft declaration game — none of the players who planned to return to school had last-minute changes of heart and submitted their names.
As a result, the conference retained many of its top underclassmen and lost only seven players to the early-entry process: USC defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu and receiver Jordan Addison, Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III, Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez and linebacker Noah Sewell, Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee and Oregon State cornerback Alex Austin.
We cannot recall an offseason in which the Pac-12’s talent scale tipped so heavily toward the returnees and away from the lure of Sundays.
6. Colorado’s rise
The Buffaloes are climbing the recruiting rankings under first-year coach Deion Sanders.
As of this moment, CU’s incoming class of high school signees and college transfers has jumped to No. 21 in the 247Sports rankings.
The group includes Cormani McClain, the top-rated prep cornerback in the country who is expected to sign a letter of intent with CU on Wednesday. (The Buffaloes already have locked up transfer Travis Hunter, the top cornerback in the high school class of 2022.)
The 247Sports database list 42 incoming players for the Buffaloes. Sanders has turned over half the roster.
7. March outlook: Cloudy
Halfway through the conference season, the Pac-12 is poorly positioned for NCAA Tournament bids. The latest Bracketology projections from ESPN have UCLA and Arizona in the field as No. 2 seeds, with USC and Arizona State on the right side of the bubble.
That’s a precarious situation: Neither the Trojans nor Sun Devils have much margin for error, creating the potential for the Pac-12 to finish as a two-big league.
8. Peeking ahead I: Pac-12 meeting
The university presidents are expected to gather Monday for a quarterly meeting with commissioner George Kliavkoff and conference executives.
The Hotline does not expect a vote on the media rights contracts or expansion.
Those issues likely won’t be resolved until the second half of February, at the earliest.
9. Peeking ahead II: Signing day
The traditional National Signing Day for high school seniors arrives on Wednesday, with three of the top 10 players in California and the No. 1 player in Arizona (tight end Duce Robinson) expected to sign letters of intent.
And as a reminder: The transfer portal is closed until May, but players currently in the portal can select a destination at any time.
10. QB prize
One of the top prospects to watch this week is Jaden Rashada, a four-star quarterback from the Bay Area who signed with Florida in December but has subsequently been released from his letter of intent.
Two schools are considered the frontrunners for his services: TCU and Arizona State, whose head coach, Kenny Dillingham, recruited Rashada to Oregon during his stint as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator.
Landing Rashada, who won’t sign another letter of intent, would be a huge victory for Dillingham and add another major talent to the Pac-12’s lineup of quarterbacks.
*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to [email protected] or call 408-920-5716
*** 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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