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Hill: What does death of Pac-12 do to Las Vegas Bowl?

Updated August 5, 2023 - 6:20 pm

Las Vegas Bowl officials have a clause in their contract with the Pac-12 allowing them to reopen negotiations should the complexion of the conference be significantly altered.

While the announced departures of Southern California and UCLA last year certainly qualified and there were internal discussions about the future, there was no rush to go to the conference about an amended deal. There were more pressing issues, and the deal only runs through 2025.

But things change quickly in the college football landscape. This week, it was almost hourly.

“The plan was to always have those conversations with the Pac-12 at some point, but they were working on a media rights deal among other moving pieces, and we wanted to see what happened,” Las Vegas Bowl executive director John Saccenti said. “Now it’s a whole different ballgame. We didn’t lose two. We lost eight.

“We’re at a point where we have to have that conversation.”

4 teams scrambling

For all intents and purposes, the Pac-12 is dead — or at the very least on life support, just waiting for someone to sign the papers to pull the plug.

The four remaining schools — California, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State — are all scrambling for an off-ramp that probably looks something like the Interstate 15-to-Tropicana flyover that has been paritally imploded as part of the “Dropicana” construction project.

There’s really nowhere to go. And while the Pac-12’s brand name and tradition are incredibly strong, it’s probably not feasible to absorb the best schools from the Mountain West. Why would that league just allow its best members to walk?

So a merger between the two conferences appears to be the best hope. Could they use the Pac-12 name for the clout? Possibly. But that will be decided far down the road. Like way in the future in the new college football timeline … which means a few days.

Regardless of what happens, it’s hard to imagine Bill Walton ever again referring to the league’s carcass as the “Conference of Champions.”

So where does that leave the Las Vegas Bowl, which has been affiliated with the conference since 2001 and just began a deal to pit a Pac-12 team against either a Big Ten or Southeastern Conference team on a rotating basis?

Actually, it leaves the game in a fairly strong position. The Big Ten and SEC were drawn to Las Vegas because of the booming sports market and the exposure of playing in an NFL stadium with a national audience in a standalone time slot.

That hasn’t changed. In fact, the Big Ten’s western expansion makes Las Vegas even more valuable to the league.

That side of the matchup could easily stay the same, and ideally, the Pac-12 side of things could be replaced by the Big 12 or Big 18 or Big 20 — whatever that league ends up being.

The conference will be looking for more bowl affiliations with so many new teams, and the Las Vegas market would be ideal. That would also open up the possibility of Brigham Young, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State playing in the game, which would be a huge boon for the Las Vegas Bowl with so many fans already in the market or close enough to drive.

All of the movement could end up being good for the future of the Las Vegas Bowl. It could also make the game appealing as a potential College Football Playoff destination, but that’s all down the road.

Saccenti and his team will likely huddle early next week and start to sort through the options, but there is no rush. The dominoes are still falling.

There’s little concern about the bowl’s future, however. Allegiant Stadium and Las Vegas will keep the game relevant as long as bowls are a thing.

“The reality is we don’t have a plan yet,” Saccenti said. “Everything is so new and fresh. But we’ll be in a good position given we’re in a world class destination with a world class stadium.”

In a few years, nobody will even remember the Pac-whatever-it-was.

Bright side?

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it: Jimmy Garoppolo is not having a great training camp.

Could it be he’s readjusting to the Josh McDaniels system, or shaking off the rust from missing the end of last season, or still dealing with a foot injury? Or maybe the Raiders’ defense has suddenly turned into the 1985 Bears or 2000 Ravens?

Sure. All are possible.

But whatever the cause, the result has been concerning for Raiders fans, particularly those who now gasp audibly when another pass is intercepted or slips through the hands of a defender or just falls harmlessly to the turf.

But there is a silver lining. Remember the report from 49ers training camp in 2019 when Garoppolo threw five straight interceptions during one particularly agonizing practice?

The 49ers lost in the Super Bowl that season. Guessing most Raiders fans would gladly take that result this year.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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