2021 Pac-12 Media Days takeaways: New commissioner faces realignment, expectations excessive for Clay Helton at USC

New Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff laid out a transparent set of priorities for the convention Tuesday that emphasizes success in soccer and males’s basketball amid the shifting dynamics of faculty sports activities. Talking earlier than the league’s soccer Media Days occasion, Kliavkoff stated the Pac-12 “will make all of our football-related selections with the mixed objectives of optimizing CFP invites and profitable nationwide championships.”

No Pac-12 soccer group has certified for the Faculty Soccer Playoff since Washington made it after the 2016 season, and whereas Tuesday introduced loads of discuss for what lies forward on the sector in 2021, it additionally centered on the way forward for the convention as an entire amid a downturn of its nationwide relevance in soccer.

With Kliavkoff getting into his first soccer season as commissioner following the retirement of Larry Scott, the Pac-12 is at a essential juncture each on and off the sector. Can a dominant group emerge from the group of contenders that features Oregon, USC, Utah and Washington to snap the league’s CFP drought this season? What concerning the league’s total viability amid the struggles of the Pac-12 Community? Listed here are a number of the high takeaways from Kliavkoff’s handle and the appearances from the league’s 12 coaches.

Pac-12 enlargement?

On the new subject of convention realignment, Kliavkoff stated he believes the departure of Texas and Oklahoma from the Massive 12 for the SEC “strengthens our distinctive place as the one Energy 5 convention with groups within the Mountain and Pacific time zones.” He added that “we don’t suppose enlargement is required to proceed to compete and thrive.”

“That stated, the fallout from Texas and Oklahoma provides us a chance to as soon as once more contemplate enlargement, and we have already had important inbound curiosity from many faculties,” Kliavkoff stated. “We’ll work with our presidents and chancellors to judge these alternatives.”

If the Pac-12 does find yourself pitching any of the remaining eight Massive 12 members — or anybody else — on the potential deserves of becoming a member of the convention, it could tout a brand new initiative that Kliavkoff introduced Tuesday as a plus. Very similar to it did a number of years in the past with males’s basketball, the Pac-12 is launching a soccer strategic working group designed to determine how the convention can enhance.

Merton Hanks, the league’s senior affiliate commissioner for soccer operations, will lead the group, which is able to embrace the convention’s head soccer coaches and athletic administrators. Kliavkoff talked about that the league will have a look at scheduling methodology, each for league video games and non convention video games, in addition to the convention’s division construction and kickoff instances, amongst different issues.

“The mandate for this group is easy,” Kliavkoff stated. “Advocate adjustments to our soccer program with the purpose of optimizing for CFP invites and profitable championships.”

USC’s expectations

Expectations are at all times excessive for USC soccer, and that is no completely different in 2021 because the Trojans are a heavy favourite to repeat as Pac-12 South champion, incomes 27 of the potential 40 first-place votes for the division within the league’s preseason media ballot. Assembly or exceeding that bar could also be particularly essential for coach Clay Helton this season as he enters his seventh season.

Solely 9 of the 130 FBS head coaches ranked as a 4 or a 5 in Dennis Dodd’s annual sizzling seat rankings revealed this month, and Helton — together with Arizona State’s Herm Edwards — represented the Pac-12 amongst these within the hazard zone. After all, that is nothing new for Helton, who was truly in “win or be fired” territory as a “5” for final season’s rating earlier than getting downgraded to the “begin enhancing now” vary after final season’s 5-1 marketing campaign.

“You will be at USC and win each sport however one, and if it is the final one, it is checked out as a nasty season,” Helton stated. “That is being at a particular place. You may have an undefeated common season and win a Pac-12 championship sport and all people is unhappy. That is a particular place to be. So if you’re at a spot that is gained 11 nationwide championships, you already know the usual of excellence and you already know what’s demanded. We welcome that. We welcome it as gamers, we welcome it as coaches. That is why all of us got here to USC. 

“Our job proper now could be to get again to that championship sport and to win that sport as a result of we all know after we win that sport, it opens the doorways to the Playoff and the nationwide championship alternatives.”

QB battles for Oregon, Washington

North Division favorites Oregon and Washington every return quarterbacks with expertise who’re the frontrunners to start out their season openers, however each additionally welcome their highest-rated quarterback signees of the 247Sports period. So, naturally, quarterbacks had been a subject of dialogue for each Oregon’s Mario Cristobal and Washington’s Jimmy Lake as they made the rounds Tuesday.

Sixth-year senior Anthony Brown, a Boston Faculty switch, is the early chief for the Geese after taking up an elevated function late final season following three seasons of serious enjoying time at BC. Cristobal made it clear, although, that five-star signee Ty Thompson could have a chance in preseason follow, as will redshirt freshmen Robby Ashford and Jay Butterfield.

“Anthony will begin with those,” Cristobal stated. “He has earned that. He is performed an excellent job from a efficiency standpoint, management efficiency, taking up Coach Moorhead’s offensive scheme. On the similar time the freshmen behind him have performed a wonderful job as effectively. It deserves them getting a chance to compete for that place as effectively. We’ll make that occur. I feel it is an injustice to the sport of soccer and to our program and tradition to not present alternative. However that being stated, after we begin follow, Anthony will begin off with those, and he has earned that.”

Washington is in the same state of affairs as Dylan Morris returns for his third yr in this system after beginning all 4 video games final season and main the Huskies to a 3-1 file. Competing with him for the job will likely be five-star signee Sam Huard and Colorado State switch Patrick O’Brien.

Vaccine discuss

Washington State coach Nick Rolovich was the one one of many league’s 12 coaches not bodily current Tuesday after he disclosed final week that he has elected to not obtain the COVID-19 vaccine for “for causes which is able to stay personal.” Rolovich did take part remotely, although, and he shed extra mild on the place the Cougars stand as a group relating to vaccination charge.

Washington State’s squad is “roughly at 75% absolutely vaccinated or within the technique of getting absolutely vaccinated,” based on Rolovich. Against this, Kilavkoff stated two-thirds of the league’s 12 groups have a vaccination charge of 80% or higher with 4 groups exceeding a 90% charge or higher. 

The Pac-12 is planning to conduct common testing on unvaccinated athletes and anybody who shows COVID-19 signs, Kilavkoff stated. He stated the league remains to be contemplating what its forfeiture coverage will likely be this season however that the league is “leaning in direction of” going again to the pre-COVID-19 coverage of forfeits for many who cannot discipline a group.

Downplaying distraction

Just some months in the past, Arizona State was shaping up as a classy decide to win the Pac-12 South with coach Herm Edwards getting into his fourth season boasting a surplus of returning starters and a possible star quarterback in Jayden Daniels. However studies that ASU is below investigation for alleged recruiting violations seem to have zapped a number of the hype surrounding the Solar Devils. This system misplaced a dedication from four-star security Jaylin Marshall on Monday, the day after ASU positioned tight ends coach Adam Breneman on paid administrative go away amid the NCAA investigation. 

The Pac-12 media predicted Arizona State will end third within the division, regardless of a manageable schedule that features 5 convention dwelling video games. Edwards insisted Tuesday, although, that the investigation shouldn’t be a distraction because the season nears.

“Nicely, for us it hasn’t been a distraction in any respect, to be fairly sincere,” Edwards stated. “If you happen to watch our gamers work and our teaching workers, we’re enthusiastic about getting again within the constructing tomorrow. They’re there at the moment, however I will be again within the constructing tomorrow. Actually going ahead on beginning camp the 4th of August. I heard the native guys, you guys will truly hopefully get to attend follow, sort of see what it appears like. We’re a targeted soccer group. I feel it has rather a lot to do with the gamers that determined to come back again within the spring. That is sort of the place our mindset is true now, so far as what I do know, what I see and really feel concerning the gamers.”

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