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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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June 9, 2008 3:06 PM

A few words from Tom Hansen

Posted by Bob Condotta

I just got off the phone a little while ago with Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen to confirm the reports that he is retiring.

Hansen did just that, saying his age (he's 70) was the biggest factor he's leaving.

"I don't have the same energy level that I did when I was younger and this is a very demanding job,'' Hansen said, also noting the travel requirements, which have gotten both greater and more difficult in recent years.

Hansen said he announced his retirement now so that the conference will have ample time to find a replacement --- he won't leave office until July 1, 2009.

Hansen said Pac-10 presidents (or CEOs in the conference vernacular to cover schools that have a chancellor or whatever) will form a search committee to bring them candidates, with the presidents making the final choice.

Hansen said he will be able to stay past that date, if needed, to get a new person in place. If a new hire is found earlier, Hansen will stay through July 1, 2009 to help in the transition.

Hansen said one of his major orders of business the next year will be to guide the conference through negotiations for a new BCS TV contract. "I wasn't going to leave while those activities were pending and not have the conference represented by someone with the experience of what has gone on before in the BCS,'' he said.

I used the interview to clarify exactly where the Pac-10 stands with its own TV deals, and get Hansen's response to some of the criticisms of those contracts.

The men's basketball deal with FSN runs through the 2011-12 season, a contract that also includes keeping the conference tournament at The Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Hansen said ESPN has never really been a viable option "because they have never had available time slots because of their other commitments that would fit our scheduling patterns. And because they didn't have good time slots, they never wanted to make an attractive financial offer. ... They would have given us Monday nights at 9 p.m., but some of our academic heads and presidents were not the least bit interested in that.''

That last comment reiterates a point I made in my earlier post on Hansen --- a lot of these things involve a lot more than him. He's an easy one to blame for some of these things, but if the presidents don't want to do it, it's not going to get done. As he told me at one point today "I don't speak as an individual, but I reflect the institutions' views.''

The basketball tournament remains in LA largely because that's where most of the sponsors for Fox and the Pac-10 are based. Until another city can make the tournament as financially viable, LA is likely where it will remain.

The football TV contracts also run through the 2011-12 academic year (so basically, the 2011 season) and now include 6-8 games a year on ESPN as well as the Saturday night ABC national package.

That means a new commissioner really won't be able to do anything about any of the conference's TV packages until the 2012-13 academic year. Hansen said the conference arranged to have both contracts run out the same year so that they could be negotiated as a package if so desired.

All the contracts for the Pac-10's bowls run through the 2009 season.

I asked Hansen about criticism that the Pac-10 has no Jan. 1 presence other than the Rose Bowl. He said the biggest reason for that is that it cannot be in a bowl that would run opposite the Rose Bowl "and none of the Western bowls will go early enough to get in front of the Rose Bowl. We've talked about it with a couple of our bowls of going that morning, but there are already four games (that morning) so the networks are either already taken or going against three other bowls, so they are not interested in that.''

Hansen pointed out the Pac-10 did have a deal to be part of a three-way rotation with the Cotton Bowl for a while in the 1990s --- that's where the No. 2 team went for a few years --- but that "the conference felt we were better off growing the Holiday Bowl. And ever since we did that, the Holiday Bowl has been sold out and has gone on to be one of the best ones on the West Coast.''

That's basically the conference's strategy now, to try to turn the bowls it is involved with in the West into major games. "We think the Emerald Bowl (in San Francisco) will grow quite a bit in stature,'' he said.

Hansen has also taken some hits for his outspoken stance against a plus-one system or a playoff --- such an idea will need the Pac-10, and consequently the Rose Bowl, to ever work. But again, he's mostly speaking for the conference presidents on that one.

"That's never been mine alone,'' he said, saying his role is to articulate the stance of the presidents as clearly as he can. "The conference presidents are not interested in expanding the post-season. They like and support the bowl system because we get 6-7 (Pac-10) teams a chance to play in the post-season.''

Hansen told the story of the growth of the Oregon Ducks the last 20 years. If there were simply an eight- or 16-team playoff system all along, Oregon might never have become more than it was in the mid-80s. Instead, it parlayed a few minor bowl berths into some bigger success, the kind of thing Hansen thinks wouldn't be possible in a playoff that would likely involve far fewer teams.

"A plus-one would inevitably grow and become a playoff and the bowls would go away,'' he said. "We think the BCS has made the regular season even better. Now, every game that is played is of interest in every part of the country. In the old days, you didn't hang on all the Big East or ACC games. Now, you'd better because (those results) may put you in a BCS game, or cost you one.''

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