Commentary on Pac-12 developments …
Rising: Utah’s budget outlook
Encouraging news surfaced this week in Salt Lake City, where athletic director Mark Harlan expects a somewhat diminished budget hit.
Instead of a pandemic-created shortfall in the $50 million to $60 million range for the current fiscal year, the revision calls for a $35 million deficit.
The Utes can thank football TV revenue for the reduction (approximately $5 million per broadcast, split equally among the members).
Their situation still isn’t good, but it’s not as bad as feared.
No two athletic departments handle their finances in exactly the same manner, so we’re hesitant to draw conference-wide conclusions based on Utah’s revision.
However, it’s not unreasonable to believe the downward revision at Utah is indicative of situations unfolding on other campuses.
Extrapolating from Harlan’s estimates, the total mitigation could approach $200 million across the conference, all of it rooted in the decision to play an abbreviated football season.
That’s hundreds, if not thousands of jobs saved, potentially.
To be clear: We aren’t judging the decision to play based solely on the dollars saved.
As with everything related to COVID, the calculation is complicated.
That said, the economics cannot be ignored entirely.
Falling: Oregon football.
For the third consecutive year, the Ducks must replace a coordinator.
In 2019, they hired Andy Avalos to run the defense, replacing Jim Leavitt.
In 2020, they brought in Joe Moorhead to oversee the offense after Marcus Arroyo left.
Now, Avalos is off to Boise State — as the head coach — and the Ducks are once again in search mode.
It’s a significant loss: Avalos was one of the top defensive coordinators in the conference. His work was central to Oregon’s 2019 conference title and Rose Bowl win.
The Ducks have the cash to find a capable replacement, as they showed a year ago when agreeing to pay Moorhead just under $1 million per year.
But continuity matters, and head coach Mario Cristobal must determine whether the Ducks are better off with another newcomer, or by promoting from within.
The latest name to surface, Zach Arnett, worked for mastermind Rocky Long at San Diego State and spent the 2020 season running Mike Leach’s defense at Mississippi State.
That alone makes Arnett an intriguing candidate.
For all his focus on offense, Leach has a history of making shrewd hires on defense.
Rising: Washington state quarterback depth
We used the lowercase ‘s’ because both Washington teams have increased their numbers in the quarterback room.
Let’s start in Pullman, where freshman Jayden de Laura won the job in 2020 over returnees Cam Cooper and Gunner Cruz.
Whether both backups stick around remains to be seen — we presume at least one will depart — but coach Nick Rolovich has fortified his depth with the addition of senior Jarrett Guarantano, a coveted transfer from Tennessee.
Guarantano not only adds maturity but the experience of having played against the best.
This season, he threw multiple touchdown passes against both Alabama and Georgia.
At worst, Guarantano is a solid Plan B, in case de Laura is injured or erratic.
At best, he replicates the success of another former transfer from SEC country.
Meanwhile, the quarterback situation in Seattle is fluid.
Kevin Thomson, who arrived last winter as a graduate transfer, is gone.
Jacob Sirmon is transferring to Central Michigan.
Ethan Garbers is headed to UCLA.
The turnover left Washington with one viable returnee, starter Dylan Morris, and a touted arrival in five-start recruit Sam Huard.
That’s not nearly enough dependable depth, so the Huskies turned to the portal for help.
Hello, Patrick O’Brien.
You’re forgiven for not knowing his background, so here’s a summary:
O’Brien signed with Nebraska but eventually transferred to Colorado State, where he spent three seasons and threw for more than 3,000 yards.
As a graduate transfer, he’s a safety net for the Huskies in case Morris regresses and Huard isn’t ready.
Falling: Arizona basketball
First came the self-imposed postseason ban.
Then the home losses to the Los Angeles schools.
Now, a season-ending injury.
The Wildcats no longer have the services of No. 2 scorer Jemarl Baker, who suffered a broken wrist in the loss to UCLA.
What’s left after three brutal weeks?
The same thing that has enveloped McKale Center for three years, only to an enhanced level: Uncertainty.
The Wildcats have a patchwork rotation that lacks cohesiveness, experience, high-end playmakers and a realistic chance to win the Pac-12 regular-season title … and has no shot at the NCAAs.
We’ll know by the end of the month if the flawed roster with little to play for can somehow withstand the hits and maintain focus week after week.
It could get very bad very quickly in Tucson.
And if that’s the case, the on-court performance will add a complicating factor to the university’s long-term calculation with coach Sean Miller.
The Pac-12 placed one team in the final AP top-25 poll: What that says and why it matters
Tyson Summers out as CU Buffs defensive coordinator
Ridiculously early top 25 for next season: Alabama isn’t No. 1, plenty of Pac-12 representation … what the heck?
Best of the West College Football Top 25: Why CU Buffs will be a Pac-12 pest again in 2021
QB Drew Carter ready to get started with CU Buffs
Rising: Colorado basketball
UCLA’s alone in first place, Oregon’s in the top 25, USC is sizzling and Stanford is quietly keeping pace.
But a fifth team is hovering: Don’t discount the two-loss Buffaloes as a contender for the regular-season championship or the conference tournament title.
McKinley Wright is playing as well as any guard in the conference.
Forward Jeriah Horne, a transfer from Tulsa, has made a consistent impact.
The shooters are shooting, the defenders are defending — it’s all so very Tad Boyle.
His team doesn’t dominate in any facet, but it’s not lacking anywhere, either.
The Buffaloes are steady, savvy and always well-prepared.
And with a home victory over Oregon and a road win at USC, they are quietly lurking in the conference race and compiling an NCAA-worthy resume.
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