Rarely does Chris Petersen get worked up over conference-policy issues in public. The Huskies coach is, after all, The Bishop, at least according to his Washington State counterpart, Mike Leach, and bishops usually do not speak ill of the church.
But the advent of a 7:45 p.m. Saturday start for sixth-ranked Washington’s game against Ca (3-2, 0-2) at Husky Stadium inspired him to a rare pique Monday over the Pac-12 Networks’ scatter-shotting of schedules.
Coaches and many fans have been kvetching since the 2012 start-up of the conference’s television show about awkward game times and the short notices given, so there was nothing really new Monday.
But Petersen did reach a fresh level of stridency.
“I just want to say again to our fans, we apologize for these late games, and also just reiterate it has nothing to do with us,” he said at his weekly press briefing. “We want to play at 1 o’clock. It hurts us tremendously in terms of national exposure. No one’s gonna watch our game on the East Coast that late. We all know that.
“We haven’t had a kickoff before 5 o’clock this season. It’s painful for our team, painful for our administration, and certainly and most importantly, for our fans.”
Feeling compelled to publicly apologize for what he thinks is dubious decision-making by his bosses is surprising for Petersen, and probably won’t sit well with the pope, er, Larry Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner who cooked up the scheme.
Asked whether he thinks raising his voice now will help, he said, “I don’t think they even kinda care about my voice, or probably any of the coaches’ voices. I don’t think there’s one coach out there, or any school in the West, that wants to play all their games at night. Everybody wants to play in the daytime.”
Petersen knows well the reasons for the schedule: By spreading games over multiple broadcast windows, as well as days, the network and its two national partners, ESPN and Fox, can sell more advertising, then pay the schools higher rights fees. The revenues in theory helped pay for the massive increases in facility construction and coaching salaries around the conference.
“We all know that everything we’re doing comes down to money,” he said. “TV contracts are big, and they tell us when to play.”
But when Petersen was coaching at Boise State from 2006-2013, the TV networks asked the smaller school in a smaller conference if it was willing to move its games around in exchange for national exposure to its blue field and winning ways. Petersen said yes, admitting Monday it probably helped the program in the long run.
“It was a little harder there because we were on so many different days,” he said. “That situation probably helped us because (no other schools) were playing on Tuesday or Wednesday. It kinda got people’s attention.”
The complaint by Petersen, and shared by most coaches in the conference, is a little hypocritical because the network revenues are largely responsible for making him the state’s highest-paid public employee, and the conference’s best-compensated coach, at almost $4.9 million annually.
Since the athletic departments at most schools, including Washington, are running annual operating deficits, his argument over scheduling might be helped if the coaches all agreed to cut back salaries 10 percent, or trim here and there an assistant strength coach position that earns $200,000. Then they might be able to operate in the black and negotiate with the networks for greater control over scheduling.
The industry in general suffers from a severe case of financial bloat, at all schools and all levels. Until all the beneficiaries of the bloat agree on an across-the-board diet, football’s corpulence will spread all over the clock and calendar.