Mailbag: Buy Utah football but sell UW, the TV network lineup, Gonzaga’s future, BYU’s present, partial shares and more

The Hotline mailbag publishes weekly. Send questions to and include ‘mailbag’ in the subject line. Or hit me on Twitter/X: @WilnerHotline.

Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Should we buy stock in Washington’s football team this season? Coach Jedd Fisch has turned some of us into believers in a top-tier bowl. Washington seems like such a resilient program. — @Moneyline_RAY

The Hotline had planned to address this topic next month — not only for the Huskies but every departing Pac-12 football program — but there’s no reason to wait.

A few teams are worth buying in their new conferences in 2024, but we would either sell or simply avoid most of them. And that includes UW.

Let’s dive in.

With college football teams as with publicly-traded companies, the decision to buy or sell is based on future value.

In this case, we are taking a short-term approach: Which teams have value in 2024, compared to market  expectations, and which do not?

The Hotline holds a negative outlook for Washington in Fisch’s first season, for a slew of reasons: The disruption caused by the coaching change; the massive loss of talent, especially at quarterback, receiver and offensive line; and the difficulties posed by life in the Big Ten.

The Huskies won 14 games last season and played for the national championship, but that’s not our standard in 2024. Our standard is winning eight or nine games and competing for a top-tier finish in the Big Ten.

And we don’t see that happening.

It could be a long fall on Montlake.

The same is true for Arizona, which is coming off a breakthrough season, has a new head coach (Brent Brennan) and possesses enough returning talent to be considered a Big 12 frontrunner.

But we foresee challenges for the Wildcats in the upcoming season, with the lofty expectations atop the list.

They enjoyed the benefits of a low-pressure existence last season. That dynamic changes dramatically in 2024. How will the players and new coaching staff navigate the role of preseason favorite?

In Tucson as in Seattle, our approach is the same: Sell.

That said, there are a few teams worth buying.

Oregon is loaded on both sides of scrimmage and should compete for the Big Ten title, but expectations are extremely high for Dan Lanning and Co.

We would buy the Ducks on the dip.

Utah is the most intriguing option of all, with the potential for a sensational return-on-investment.

The Utes were battered by injuries last season but have all the ingredients needed to win the Big 12, from coaching stability to a veteran quarterback (Cam Rising), stout lines of scrimmage and a proven culture.

(We believe injuries typically revert to the mean from year to year. Teams that are fortunate one season tend to get hit hard the next, and vice versa.)

Additionally, the Utes don’t play Kansas or Kansas State, and they host BYU, Iowa State and Arizona. In a conference defined by parity, their schedule is indisputably favorable.

As Big 12 champions, the Utes would receive a bye into the College Football Playoff quarterfinals — one victory from the sport’s final four.

Because of preseason expectations, Utah’s stock isn’t dirt cheap. But it’s not in bubble territory, either. And the potential return is significant. Buy the Utes.

Arizona State presents another buying opportunity, if only because the Sun Devils are the equivalent of a penny stock as second-year coach Kenny Dillingham attempts to revamp the roster.

As for the other teams, we would either sell (UCLA, Washington State and Oregon State) or simply avoid them altogether (Stanford, Cal, Colorado and USC).

We’ll reconsider the positions in late August.

Now that we don’t have to worry about the Pac-12 Network, is there a streaming service that carries all Big 12 and/or Big Ten games? Or will we need to subscribe to multiple streamers to watch football and men’s basketball? — @ZonaCatJetton

It will be a costly sports season for fans interested in watching all the departing Pac-12 teams, more so for cord cutters than subscribers to the cable bundle.

Here is the breakdown of network partners for the power conferences, by media platform:

— Broadcast TV

NBC: Notre Dame and Big Ten
ABC: SEC, ACC and Big 12
CBS: Big Ten
Fox: Big Ten and Big 12

— Cable 

ESPN/ESPN2: ACC, SEC and Big 12
FS1: Big Ten and Big 12
Also: ACC Network, Big Ten Network and SEC Network

— Streaming services

Peacock: Big Ten
ESPN+: ACC, Big 12 and SEC

If the full lineup is too costly, we suggest not bothering with Peacock.

The NBC streaming service reportedly will carry eight Big Ten games that cannot be viewed elsewhere. Of course, the Peacock-only broadcasts will include the Apple Cup, so Washington and WSU fans might feel compelled to pay.

But for the most part, fans can enjoy the bulk of the Big Ten season through the broadcast and cable networks.

And we should add this: Washington State and Oregon State will be available on all the networks listed above, plus CBS Sports Network, which will carry the road games against Mountain West teams.

You have written that Washington and Oregon are receiving a “half share” of Big Ten media revenue, but I have never seen it officially referenced as a 50 percent share. It was published as a fixed amount: $30 million in 2024, plus an additional $1 million each year. Is there solid evidence that this is a 50 percent share? — @Jalex0077

All the dollar figures reported by the Hotline are approximations — and that’s made clear in our articles — because the agreements themselves are not publicly available.

On a percentage basis, Washington and Oregon will receive paychecks that are roughly half the total distributed to the Big Ten’s full-share members. Whether the dollars equate to exactly 50 percent, we cannot state with certainty.

But in practical terms, the Huskies and Ducks are half-share members. The Big Ten’s media rights deal with Fox, NBC and CBS is believed to average about $65 million per school over the course of the seven years, starting below that figure and ending above it.

Annual payouts for the Pacific Northwest schools ranging from $30 million to $35 million will be approximately half the amount received by full-share members.

Have you seen what is happening with Brigham Young’s basketball recruiting in the wake of Mark Pope leaving? I can’t think of a better recruiting bump in the NIL world. — @vakaviti

First-year coach Kevin Young has done fine work retooling BYU’s roster since taking over for Pope in late April, with four-star forward Kanon Catchings as the latest example.

The Cougars also grabbed Utah big man Keba Keita and Rutgers forward Mawot Mag from the transfer portal and signed several high school players.

Overall, they have the third-ranked incoming class in the Big 12, according to 247Sports.

It could have been much, much worse for the Cougars after Pope left — and took star guard Jaxson Robinson with him to Kentucky.

Do they have enough pieces to compete for a top-tier finish in the Big 12, particularly with Arizona entering the fray next season? We’re a tad skeptical.

But irrelevance is unlikely, and that’s a victory for BYU given what could have unfolded with the roster.

Do you still plan to write about “direct pay” by the NCAA member schools and how that will affect the Power Five conferences? — Jim Varnell

The Hotline always keeps one eye on the money. We have been tracking conference revenue distributions for years and plan to closely monitor the payments made by schools to the athletes in the wake of the House vs. NCAA settlement.

That said, several unknowns make any conclusions difficult.

For instance, we know that the settlement terms calls for schools to share approximately $22 million with athletes, but we don’t know how that cash will be distributed across sports or within teams. And we don’t know that every school in the power conferences will choose to distribute the maximum amount.

For that matter, there is no guarantee Judge Claudia Wilken will approve the terms of the settlement that have been reported.

With so much to-be-determined in coming months, the Hotline has refrained from a thorough examination of which schools will be helped or harmed most by the settlement.

Was it a mistake for Oregon State and Washington State to be affiliated with the West Coast Conference for basketball? — @jimmy0726

The affiliation isn’t limited to basketball; it holds for numerous Olympic sports, as well.

And no, the Hotline doesn’t view the decision as a mistake. The Beavers and Cougars could not operate as a two-team conference in basketball as they are in football because of the logistics of the schedule.

That left two options: The WCC or the Mountain West.

We cannot claim to know the details of their discussions with the Mountain West but suspect the terms were far more favorable in the WCC. After all, the Mountain West doesn’t need the Beavers and Cougars.

(The MW took a hard-line negotiating stance with the ‘Pac-2’ schools in the football partnership and included a poaching penalty of approximately $10 million per school.)

OSU and WSU made the right strategic moves on several fronts under very difficult circumstances. There’s no reason to believe they whiffed on basketball.

What’s the likelihood Gonzaga joins the rebuilt Pac 12, and if so, would the school start a football program? — Jake Ingram

Football is not in Gonzaga’s future — of that, we are certain.

Predicting the school’s conference affiliation for basketball is considerably more difficult.

Yes, the Zags could land in a rebuilt Pac-12 as a basketball-only member.

Or they could remain in the WCC.

Or they could join the Big 12. Or the Big East (which makes more sense than the Big 12 on numerous levels).

Of those options, sliding into the Pac-12 is probably the least likely.

UCLA clearly needs an on-campus football stadium in order to attract the top recruits that produce winning football teams. Don’t you believe the UC Board of Regents and the new UCLA chancellor should make this a top priority? — @TerryTerry79

We have not heard a peep uttered about an on-campus stadium in eons and cannot imagine that’s on new chancellor Julio Frenk’s to-do list.

Nothing about an on-campus stadium works for the athletic department or the university, from the financing and the location to the, err, financing and location.

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How would UCLA pay for it, and where would UCLA put it?

Yes, there are many benefits to on-campus stadiums. But that’s hardly one of the chief reasons the Bruins have floundered on the field.

They were arguably the best football program in the Pac-12 in the 1980s and played exactly where they play today.

In your opinion, which conference got the most passionate fan base from the collapse of the Pac-12: Was it the Big Ten, Big 12 or ACC? — @MrEd315

Clearly, it’s not the ACC. Cal and Stanford fans are hardly passionate compared to their peers.

With regard to the Big 12 and Big Ten newcomers, the passion level depends on the sport in question.

The Big 12 is getting rabid fans with Utah football and Arizona basketball. Meanwhile, the Big Ten will welcome three well-supported football programs in USC, Oregon and Washington, but little in the way of basketball affinity.

UCLA has a rich basketball tradition, but we would not describe the fans as deeply passionate. There are too many empty seats in Pauley Pavilion for any other conclusion.

When are you taking summer vacation and where are you going? — @kmasterman

In fact, the Hotline will be shutting down for two weeks in early July to recharge before the football season ramps up.

Our vacation plans have been derailed by realignment the past two years, so the bar for interrupting family time next month — in order to respond to news — is fairly high.

Very high, actually.

Thanks for asking.

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*** 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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