- College football reporter
- Joined ESPN.com in 2007
- Graduate of Indiana University
The Pac-12 will provide enhanced in-game and pregame access during broadcasts of college football games this fall, including in-game head coach interviews and having select coaches and players wear mics during pregame activities, ESPN learned Thursday.
With the support of the conference’s head coaches, the Pac-12 board of directors developed the initiatives alongside ESPN and Fox Sports and approved them during the league’s recent Spring Council meetings. An announcement is expected later Thursday.
The conference will also allow for cameras in the coaches’ booth without sound, extended handheld camera permission, and pregame and halftime locker room camera access. The additional content will be implemented throughout Pac-12 games on ESPN, Fox Sports and Pac-12 Networks.
“I’m sure they’ll have some key games that they really want to press on,” said Merton Hanks, the Pac-12’s executive associate commissioner of football operations, “but when you’ve got personalities like Deion Sanders in your league, you probably want to put a mic on him, right? I’m sure they’ll choose certain games to really highlight certain aspects and see how it resonates with the fan base.”
While the additional access will provide more entertainment, it won’t be as live as what XFL fans have seen, but it’s a step designed to bring college football closer to what other sports like Major League Baseball have long been doing. The Big 12 is also exploring the concept.
Hanks told ESPN there are additional opportunities for access the Pac-12 would like to pursue, but they aren’t currently approved under NCAA legislation. The conference didn’t elaborate on what more it is seeking to do.
“We’ll continue to work with the NCAA in that respect,” he said.
Hanks said the coaches have been supportive but recognizes it could be more difficult to grab some of them who also call plays during games.
“A guy like Chip Kelly, he’s seen this in part from his time in the NFL, he understands that it’s important to be able to do that,” Hanks said. “And he’s a playcaller, obviously, so we’re going to have to work with our playcallers. I think [USC head coach] Lincoln Riley’s another great example. We’ll work with those guys during the game. There may be certain aspects of availability that we will be able to pull off consistently, but the mere fact the coaches are supportive of the concept and are willing to work with us on that is a significant plus.”
Hanks said the league’s broadcast partners have been asking for more access for years. The conference has been looking for ways to comply while “ensuring the integrity of the contest” and allowing players and coaches to “go about their business” while simultaneously giving the viewers “a little different view of how this thing unfolds.”
The cameras in the booth are another way to do that, he said, even without the sound.
“I don’t think anybody wants their playbook blasted across the nation, but at the same time, you like seeing those expressions and what’s going on in the booth,” Hanks said. “We’re going to continue to press in that area and make sure we’re connecting with our fan base in every way possible.”
The Pac-12 is currently the only FBS conference that has committed to doing this in college football.
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