LOS ANGELES – The Pac-12 was the last Power Five league to unofficially begin the upcoming 2022 season, with a media day taking place on a Friday at Novo in Downtown LA, though media days were usually all smiles and eternal optimism. This special moment comes at a difficult time after USC and UCLA officially announced their intentions to leave the league earlier this summer and join the Big Ten in 2024.
However, the entire day was not over with off-field realignment questions. Key transfers and debuts for new coaches also dominated the storyline as the Pac-12 dominated the upcoming season.
Here are highlights from Pac-12 Media Day:
Things are getting tangled between the commissioners
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliwkoff made a cordial start, butIn a big 12 he claimed he was trying to “destabilize” his league – as recently as this week.
“The tinkering continues,” Kliavkoff told 247Sports. “The good news is that my president and chancellor and athletic director forward all those messages to me. I have a great collection of those messages.”
The Pac-12 and Big 12 are battling for equal media rights as the league’s contracts expire in 2024 and 2025, respectively. Last year many big 12 schools fought to join Pac-12, but now many big 12 schools have set their eyes on joining Pac-12 schools.
Kliavkoff said, “I have spent four weeks trying to defend against the grenades that have been trying to destabilize the rest of our conference from every corner of the Big 12.” “I understand why they are doing this, when you look at the media value between the two conventions. I understand, I get why they are scared.”
Kliavkoff initially made a plea for collegium among the commissioners, but eventually his dismay flared up. Things are only going to get worse as college football enters its most pivotal moment.
USC is embracing hope
The Trojans went 4-8 last season, but the Lincoln Riley hasn’t run as expected. The first-year coach insisted that his hopes for this season were nothing short of winning a championship.
“The reality is that if there’s no pressure, you probably don’t have as many opportunities as other people do,” Riley said. “You’ve got to see opportunities in it. It’s one of those programs and one of these cities that if you do it here, the sky’s the limit.”
USC has been perhaps the most scrutinized team in the country over the past several months following Riley’s controversial departure from Oklahoma. The Trojans put together the nation’s No. 1 transfer class, which included five-star quarterback Caleb Williams and Biletnikoff winner Jordan Edison.
There is no learning curve for USC and Relay. 2022 is the championship or bust.
Utah has earned everyone’s respect
While USC is the top on-field story, the Utes areTo repeat as the Pac-12 champion. Utes took 26 out of 33 first places in the Precision Poll and the opposing coaches spoke of his ability.
Colorado coach Carl Dorrell said of Utes coach Kyle Whittingham, “Obviously a guy I have a lot of respect for.” “They have a great staff and they recruit. They do things right.”
Utah won its first Pac-12 championship in 2021 after switching to quarterback Cameron Rising. Headlined by large volume production returns, strong running backs and tight-end rooms around the Rising. Now, the challenge for Utah is to keep things in perspective despite suddenly having high expectations.
“We are a program that is still working on our brand and trying to become a national presence,” Whittingham said. “But you have to earn that. No one is going to give that to you.”
Big Ten hangs like a cloud
Nearly every coach was asked about everything from the recruiting impact on the league’s long-term health to the shocking move to USC and UCLA in the Big Ten. Some coaches shunned that, saying the move was still two years away. Others gave a vote of confidence to the remaining 10 schools.
“I think the Pac-12 is going to be here and there for a very long time,” said Washington State coach Jake Dickert.
Whittingham claimed that after his long stint in the industry, nothing can surprise him anymore in college football. Oregon coach Dan Lanning wasn’t too concerned about where his program stood in the changing landscape of college sports.
“I’m not concerned with that front because I know how strong our brand and product is,” Lanning said. “I share a vision that our leadership and school at the convention share … Oregon is a brand that is national.”
new faces abound
Four new coaches will debut in the Pac-12 this fall: Riley, Dickert, Lanning and Washington’s Kallen DeBoer. However, coaches outpaced the number of transfer players reaching Pac-12 Media Day.
USC quarterback Caleb Williams led the group after entering the year among the Heisman Trophy candidates. FCS transfer Cameron Ward is also set to take the lead at Washington State when he followed Eric Morris, the former Avatar Ward head coach, who is now the Cougars’ offensive coordinator.
The transition could eventually be a good thing for many programs, especially ones like Arizona leading 1-11 last season. The Wildcats added former Washington State starter Jaden De Laura and brought in standout receiver Jacob Koing as their offensive rep on Media Day.
Ultimately the newcomers will set the limits for the Pac-12 in 2022.