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Pac-12 to reduce number of late kickoffs for football games, in addition to other end-of-year decisions

The Pac-12 announced on Tuesday that it will attempt to modify its TV agreements with ESPN and FOX in order to reduce the number of late kickoff times for football games.

The modification would allow Pac-12 Networks games to begin at 2:30 p.m. or 6 p.m. (rather than having the late game start at 7 or 7:30 p.m.) and overlap with the previously exclusive time windows for games on ESPN and FOX.

The conference estimates that this change will reduce the number of “late” kickoffs by as many as four.

Also: the league announced that beginning in the 2016-17 academic year, schools will be fined when their fans storm the field or court. The first offense will incur a $25,000 fine, with a $50,000 fine for a second offense and a $100,000 fine for a third.

Additionally, the Pac-12 announced that it will begin hosting and airing eSports competitions -- i.e. competitive video gaming -- on its campuses. The games and formats have yet to be determined.

“eSports is a natural fit for many of our universities located in the technology and media hubs of the country,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Pac-12 Networks’ commitment to innovation as well as its natural tie to our universities and established media platform make it the perfect organization to develop the framework for eSports intercollegiate competition.”

The Pac-12 also released its report on student-athlete time demands, which you can read in full here. It’s 22 pages long and pretty dense, but the primary concerns enumerated by athletes seem to be lack of free time and/or lack of sleep. There is also much space devoted to discussing “voluntary” activities and workouts that, as everyone knows, are never really voluntary at all.

Here is the full release from the Pac-12 regarding the aforementioned initiatives.

SAN FRANCISCO-- The Pac-12 CEO Group – made up of the presidents and chancellors of Pac-12 universities – has reviewed the Conference's report on student-athlete time demands and authorized its release, the Conference reported today. Also during its annual Board meeting, the CEO Group took action to reduce night football games, added fines to the conference policy on court and field storming, and announced that Pac-12 Networks will commence eSports competitions in 2016-2017.

The CEO Group has stressed the importance of rebalancing time demands of student-athletes as part of the overall effort to modernize intercollegiate athletics. The new report takes a comprehensive look at the issue, reviews recent national and Pac-12 surveys, synthesizes direct feedback from student-athletes gathered on a Commissioner-led listening tour of all 12 campuses, creates a list of best practices seen in action on Pac-12 campuses, and lays out several possible legislative solutions.

From February to April of this year, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott visited all 12 universities and met with more than 250 student-athletes representing more than 30 sports. The tour reinforced that for the most part, Pac-12 student-athletes are very pleased with their college experience and their opportunity to compete athletically and succeed academically at the highest level. The tour also revealed many positive, collaborative practices taking place on Pac-12 campuses, and one goal coming out of this process is to share best practices both inside and outside of the Pac-12.

The tour and surveys of student-athletes also uncovered some areas in which rule changes may be appropriate. The report outlines potential legislative solutions that the Pac-12 is considering in the form of NCAA Autonomy proposals, full Division I council governance proposals, Pac-12 Conference-specific rules or guidelines, and/or best practices.

“Having our voices heard throughout this process has been so important, and I firmly believe that the Pac-12 is poised to make good decisions that prioritize student-athlete welfare,” said Pac-12 SAAC Chair and Pac-12 SALT member Rollins Stallworth, a football student-athlete at Stanford. “We want to compete at the highest level on and off the field, and I’m proud to be part of a conference that is making sure we have the time to do just that.”

Night Football Games

The presidents and chancellors approved a recommendation from the Pac-12 Council to modify the Conference’s TV agreements with ESPN and FOX and reduce the number of Pac-12 Networks Saturday night football games (start time of 7 p.m. or later). Under the modification, a Pac-12 Network game can now start either at 2:30 p.m. or 6 p.m. local and overlap with an ESPN or FOX exclusive TV window. This change is expected to reduce the number of Pac-12 Networks night games by as many as four contests.

“The Pac-12 has some of the most loyal fans in college athletics and we appreciate our television partners working with us on this important issue for fans,” said Rob Mullens, University of Oregon athletic director. “The increased exposure and revenue from our contract with ESPN and FOX has been instrumental to our success, but we continue to work hard to minimize as much as possible the negative impact late start times have on our fans who travel great distances to see our teams in person."

Court and Field Storming

The presidents and chancellors also approved a recommendation from the Pac-12 Council to add an institutional fine schedule to the Conference court and field storming policy. Starting in the 2016-17 academic year, fines will be applied to institutions as follows: $25,000 for first offense, $50,000 for a second offense, and $100,000 for a third offense.

“The Pac-12 Council carefully considered this policy and its impact on our fans who loyally support our teams,” said Mike Williams, Director of Athletics at the University of California, Berkeley. “This enhanced policy underscores the importance our universities place on the safety and welfare of our student-athletes, officials and fans, and will allow us to educate staffs and fans on procedures going forward.”

Pac-12 Networks & eSports

Finally, following an internal review of the growing interest amongst Pac-12 students in competitive video gaming, the presidents and chancellors approved Pac-12 Networks to commence eSports competitions with Pac-12 universities this upcoming year. Teams from campuses will participate based on a specific game, and the competitions will include head-to-head matchups in studios as well as a tournament in conjunction with a Pac-12 championship event. The game titles and event formats are still to be determined, but will be announced in the coming months.

Intercollegiate competition in egaming is in its initial stages, but Pac-12 universities are increasingly involved through passionate student groups competing in competitions with popular games. eSports is also closely tied to academic departments at Pac-12 universities such as computer science, visual and cinematic arts, engineering and others.

“eSports is a natural fit for many of our universities located in the technology and media hubs of the country,” said Scott. “Pac-12 Networks’ commitment to innovation as well as its natural tie to our universities and established media platform make it the perfect organization to develop the framework for eSports intercollegiate competition.”

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