Count Huskies coach Chris Petersen among the rest of us bemoaning the disappearance of Saturday afternoon football at Washington.
The 12:30 p.m. kickoff and its attendant traditions — morning tailgate parties, commuting to Montlake on a boat, reveling in the most scenic stadium backdrop in the land — has become as antiquated as the wishbone offense. And Petersen isn’t pleased.
“We apologize for these late games,” he said Monday, referring to the 7:45 p.m. kickoff the Pac-12 mandated for his team’s Saturday night contest against California. “I’d also like to reiterate it has nothing to do with us or the administration. We want to play at 1 p.m. It hurts us tremendously in terms of national exposure. No one on the East Coast wants to watch our game that late, and we all know it.
“It’s painful for our team. It’s painful for our administration and we know certainly the most important part is for our fans.”
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It’s painful for everybody, but Petersen’s pain is mitigated by some substantial financial compensation. He stands to make $4.1 million this season on a contract that annually will average $4.875 million through 2023.
Petersen was able to negotiate that salary thanks to the 12-year, $3 billion television deal his conference arranged with ESPN and Fox in 2011.
The Pac-12 is swimming in dough, and coaches such as Petersen are the beneficiaries. There’s pressure to succeed, of course — a 7-5 record, worth a trip to the Who Cares Bowl presented by Indifference — won’t cut it at Washington. But all things considered, I suspect Petersen would rather earn $4.1 million coaching the Huskies in 2017 than $100,000 at a small school not tethered to a lucrative deal with ESPN and Fox.
Petersen is smart enough to connect the dots — television money translates into an annual salary for him well into seven figures — but he apparently is too pained by 7:45 p.m. kickoffs to consider the nuances of 7:45 p.m. kickoffs.
Under former commissioner Tom Hansen, the league that has swelled into the Pac-12 was a sleepy-headed underachiever disinclined to recognize its potential as a power conference. Then came Larry Scott, who evaluated the poor returns on the the bottom line and arranged the broadcasting rights deal from hell.
When the Pac-12 hooked up with the sports-network giants, Scott crowed about how the TV pact would “promote the conference, promote the brand.”
A college sports executive talking about a “brand” should have been a cue to exercise caution, but university administrators within the conference saw $3 billion on the table and needed about, oh, five seconds to conclude they were all in.
Petersen’s assertion that late kickoff times have “nothing to do with us or our administration” is nonsense. The UW took the money and soon put it to use, luring an accomplished coach from Boise State.
Petersen has been as stellar as advertised. He took the Huskies to a national semifinal bowl game last season, and chances of a sequel are excellent. The roster abounds with solid citizens, a few of whom will advance to the NFL.
If you’re a high school player pondering a scholarship offer from Washington, you can be assured your football career — and your life, in general — is trending in the right direction.
My perspective is as an outsider, so I’m not privy to Petersen’s specific motivational methods. From the evidence at hand — preparation, execution, results — I think he’s the best in the business.
But spare me, please, the whining about the late kickoffs. The Pac-10 hired Larry Scott to revive it from the doldrums, and Scott has delivered. His first move was to bring Colorado and Utah into a league “re-branded” as the Pac-12, and his second move was to arrange a broadcasting deal that gave television networks unimpeded control of the Huskies’ schedule.
Unimpeded control means all those dates designated as “TBA,” an acronym for “To Be Announced.” It’s a source of frustration for relocated Washington fans planning the occasional weekend trips from out-of-state, but at this point, frustration should be minimal.
Those “TBA” dates on the schedule are a code for “late night, get used to it.” One or two home games under the lights, per season, strikes me as a reasonable concession, but $3 billion TV contracts tend to compromise any definition of reason.
The TV deal enabled Washington to hire a terrific coach assembling a dynasty. If Chris Petersen is truly pained by 7:45 kickoffs, he can donate a chunk of his $4.1 million annual salary to the charity of his choice.
In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers are elsewhere.
John McGrath: @TNTMcGrath