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A closer look at how the Pac-12 TV partners schedule games

It’s a complicated system... And whether you like it or not, we’re stuck with it through at least 2024.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 07 Houston at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

During week one of the season, Washington State kicked off against Utah State at 8 p.m. in Pullman on the Pac-12 Network. That gametime is the latest the team had kicked off since at least the start of the Pac-12’s media deal in 2012, and most recently matched only by their trip to Hawai’i in 2008.

It was announced on Monday, that the Cougs will kickoff against Utah at 11:30 a.m. in Salt Lake City on September 25 with coverage on the Pac-12 Network. That is among their earliest kickoff times since the current TV deal went into place, beaten by only a handful of games, including the game last year, also at Utah.

That wild swing in game times might lead fans to ask how these things are decided. The answer? Well... It’s complicated.

Earlier this week, Jon Wilner of the Pac-12 Hotline took a closer look at the process behind how Networks select which games to air and when they will be played.

WSU’s game at Utah was the first of the Pac-12’s weekly media ‘draft’ to pick networks and game times. The first three weeks of the season, and other special non-Saturday games, are all decided well in advance, usually over the summer. But, in week four, the conference’s TV partners start using their 12-day selection window to pick games.

Every Monday, the conference holds an event akin to a draft, allowing their partners to select games. Depending on the week, Fox, ESPN and The Pac-12 Network all rotate the top overall selection. Yes, even the Pac-12 Network gets to make a top pick every once in a while. According to Wilner, who cites Pac-12 associate commissioner for broadcast and media administration Dustin Rocke, the conference’s network owns the top pick once a season and the second pick four times a season.

The network with the top picks sends an email to the conference and the other two networks. The other two networks follow suit and, finally, the conference goes on to inform schools of their game times.

But of course, it can’t be that easy. Fox and ESPN also get to protect two games each that they own regardless of their weekly position.

The two outside network partners also own the right to enact a 6-day selection twice a season, picking games on the Sunday of game week instead of the Monday the week before. However, teams holding a homecoming game cannot be subject to a 6-day selection, allowing the university time to schedule events.

There are other restrictions, including networks not being allowed to schedule day games for either Arizona team in September.

It’s a complicated system to be sure, especially for the network partners that also have work the Pac-12 into schedules that also include every other major conference in the country. Wilner does a good job laying everything out and his full article is well worth a read.

Pac-12 football: How weekly ESPN and Fox game selection process works
The networks determine the kickoff times for upcoming conference games each Monday, and their priorities don't always match the Pac-12's best interests.

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