Last year, Cal and Stanford finished in the top 10 in the same sport six times. No college rivalry in the country was as competitive in more sports than the Battle of the Bay.
But nationally, Cal-Stanford is a blip on the screen compared to Ohio State-Michigan, Duke-North Carolina and Florida-Florida State.
That might change soon now that the Pac-12 Conference has launched its own television networks, bringing the action to 48 million living rooms.
“I think people will get a better understanding of the incredible caliber of athletes that we have at Stanford and Cal,” said network analyst Summer Sanders, who won 11 Olympic medals and graduated from Stanford. “People fell in love with these Olympic athletes [this summer], now they’ll get to see them in action on the Pac-12 networks.”
Together, Cal and Stanford sent a total of 89 affiliated athletes and coaches to London and they brought home 33 medals (23 gold), more than all but eight countries. Broadcasting these Olympic sports, which the Pac-12 excels in will be a central focus of the networks’ programming.
The Pac-12 Networks will air 850 live events during its inaugural year and more than 75 percent of that content will feature sports other than football and men’s basketball.
Pac-12 Networks President Gary Stevenson said the exposure should only increase the conference’s dominance in Olympic competition.
“Just think if you’re a great volleyball player in New Jersey, you’ve got a chance to go to Nebraska ... you’ve got a chance to go to UCLA,” Stevenson said. “UCLA coach says to you, ‘Our conference is going to be on television 90 times next year,’ ... that may not change your decision, but I guarantee you it’s part of your decision.”
The networks should also be a boon to the football programs at Cal and Stanford. The Pac-12, outside of USC, has traditionally struggled to keep up in the national recruiting arms race, in part because they lacked the coast-to-coast exposure that conferences with national TV contracts, such as the South Eastern Conference, received.
But the network’s launch couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bay Area programs: Cal’s new stadium and athletic facilities will receive maximum exposure while Stanford will have an opportunity to stay connected nationally after the departure of Andrew Luck.
“Unbelievable timing,” football analyst and former conference coach Rick Neuheisel said.
But first, the networks will need to lock down a contract with DirecTV and Dish Network, which reach more than 30 million homes. They currently have deals with Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Bright House and National Cable Television Cooperative.
The networks will feature one national feed and six regional feeds, so here in the Bay Area the content will be geared more toward Cal and Stanford.