SBD/December 2, 2011/Colleges

Pac-12 Championship Football Game Lacking Buzz In Its First Year

Inaugural Pac-12 championship game will be packed with Oregon fans
Friday night’s inaugural Pac-12 football conference championship game “can't be exactly what commissioner Larry Scott had in mind when he first envisioned the idea,” according to Jim Carlisle of the VENTURA COUNTY STAR. Oregon is “a 31-point favorite to beat UCLA, which fired coach Rick Neuheisel after the team's 50-0 loss last week at USC.” Fortunately for Scott, the conference “had the insight to hold the first game at the site of the team with the better record instead of at a neutral site,” and Oregon’s Autzen Stadium “will be filled almost totally with Ducks fans” (VENTURA COUNTY STAR, 12/2). In San Jose, Mark Purdy notes while "all tickets are sold," brokers are reporting "far less demand than for a regular-season Oregon home game." Tickets were available for as low as $23 on StubHub, with "more than 2,000 available." Purdy: "This can't be what the Pac-10 university presidents had in mind two years ago" when they authorized Scott to "go forth and seek new members -- so that the Pac-10 could become the Pac-12, create two divisions and qualify to stage a conference title game and earn more revenue" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 12/2). The game will air on Fox, and Fox Sports Media Group co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said of promoting the matchup, "It's a championship game. There's a berth in the Rose Bowl at stake. It's going to be a celebration of a champion, it's Friday night, no competition." Former CBS Sports president and media consultant Neal Pilson said, “The Pac-12 is not losing sleep over this first year, and I'll go out on a limb. The Pac-12 game will beat whatever Fox normally shows on Friday night” (L.A. TIMES, 12/2).

BRINGING IN THE BIG GUNS: In Portland, John Canzano wrote Scott has “gone tone deaf” when it comes to marketing the championship game. Scott talked about “the benefit of this game to the host school, the host community, and the local economy.” Canzano wrote “it's difficult to buy what Scott is selling while Autzen Stadium is getting stripped down and a public-address announcer that has never called a game in the stadium is being flown in from out of state to be Friday's big voice.” Scott arrived in Oregon Wednesday and said that he was “surprised to learn a couple of hours into his stay that Ducks fans were upset about having their stadium-voice guy replaced with a stranger.” Scott: “What we tried to do is balance the fact that there's a home field advantage with trying to create competitive equity. The field will look different. The rallying the crowd and how you call the game will not be as one-sided.” He added, "The guy we're bringing in has done Super Bowls." Canzano noted it will be Paul Olden, voice of the Yankees, “on the microphone for Friday's game.” The conference is going to let Oregon announcer Don Essig "complement" Olden. Scott said that the decision to remove Essig from the microphone for the championship game “was an attempt to balance the game out.” He added that he is “thinking of additional ways to get Essig involved.” Scott: "The last thing we want to do is upset the fan base and people who mean something to the community here" (OREGONLIVE.com, 12/1).
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