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Start your morning with Buzzcast: The day after the Big Ten's big deal and what's next; pitch clock data shows impressive pace of play; and momentum builds for A's in Bay Area.

USC, UCLA accepted for Big Ten membership

The Big Ten presidents and chancellors formally accepted USC and UCLA's applications for membership Thursday afternoon. The schools' realignment will begin on Aug. 2, 2024, and "include all sports except beach volleyball, men’s volleyball and men’s and women’s water polo." USC and UCLA have been "flagship members" of the Pac-12 for "nearly a century." Their departure to the Big Ten "signifies a death blow to the notion of the Pac-12 as a competitive, top-level football conference and serves to bolster the Big Ten in its efforts to keep up" with the SEC. The Trojans and Bruins will boost the Big Ten to 16, and "there’s a chance the league will continue to add members." But sources said that "no other Pac-12 members are expected to be added to the Big Ten at this time" (L.A. TIMES, 6/30).

The Pac-12 issued a statement Thursday evening saying it was "extremely surprised and disappointed" by the schools' decision to leave, but it looks forward to working with "current and potential members" about the future. The Pac-12 was "silent about the move" until 5:15pm PT (ARIZONA DAILY STAR, 6/30). The Pac-12 was "clearly blindsided by two of its premier universities opting to leave together." As the conference "began to swallow this bitter pill, it also was wrapped up in damage control." Analysts employed by the Pac-12 Network were "pulled off scheduled local radio stations in light of the stunning news" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/30).

Apple looks to re-enter Big Ten media talks

By John Ourand and Michael Smith

Soon after the news about USC and UCLA joining the Big Ten broke, an Apple exec called the conference with a simple message: It wanted to reengage in media-rights talks. That call was emblematic of a chaotic day where media companies that had spent months finalizing how much they would pay for Big Ten rights were rushing back to the drawing board to see how the addition of two high-profile schools would change their bidding strategy. It seems certain that negotiations now will extend into August and may be completed after Labor Day. Originally, the Big Ten had been planning to wrap up its rights negotiations at some point in July.

The Big Ten was expected to be the first college conference to eclipse $1B in media-rights fees annually -- and that was before USC and UCLA said they would join. Fox Sports already had reached a deal to carry at least half of the conference’s package, and CBS was viewed as a front-runner to take at least a package of Saturday football games in the 3:30pm ET window. That left Amazon, ESPN and NBC competing for a third package. As late as this morning, Apple and Warner Bros. Discovery were not viewed as credible bidders. That could all change.

The move also makes the Big Ten more valuable to media companies by devaluing a Plan B for the companies that don’t get Big Ten rights. Yesterday, media companies left out of the Big Ten would have turned their focus to the Pac-12. But the defections of USC and UCLA have caused media companies to question the value of focusing on the Pac-12.

See more in SBJ Unpacks.

Key vote goes A's way for Oakland ballpark

By Erik Bacharach

In a big win for the A’s hopes of staying in Oakland, the S.F. Conservation & Development Commission on Thursday voted in favor of removing the “port priority use area” designation from Howard Terminal, allowing the A's new ballpark project to move forward at the port site. Twenty-three members of the 27-person committee voted in favor, meeting the two-thirds requirement to re-designate the site, which came during a nearly seven-hour hearing that included public comments from hundreds of stakeholders and community members. In May, the BCDC staff had recommended that its commission move the Howard Terminal ballpark plan forward, suggesting the new designation would not detract from the region’s capability to meet the projected growth in cargo.

“(Thursday’s vote) is very positive momentum for us and Oakland,” A's President Dave Kaval told SBJ. The A’s, whose Howard Terminal proposal includes a $12B waterfront development centered around a $1B ballpark, still need approval from the Oakland City Council on a final development agreement. A date for the council to approve such an agreement hasn’t been set. Kaval emphasized a sense of urgency in having that agreement taken up by city council before the group sees significant turnover later this year; Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, whom Kaval called one of the project’s biggest proponents, is nearing the end of her term.

See more in SBJ Unpacks.

Business-like atmosphere pervades LIV Golf event

Few attendees of the LIV Golf event at Oregon's Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club "talked about the controversy without being asked" during Thursday's first round surrounding LIV's Saudi backing. In fact, it "felt cheerful, busy and sunny -- like any other major sporting event." There were "no protesters visible nor any signs admonishing the tournament." No "obvious disruptions occurred." If one "didn’t know of the simmering conflict preceding the event, it would not be apparent that the tournament was mired in controversy for two months" (WILLAMETTE WEEK, 6/30).

LIV’s first event in London was "capped at 8,000 tickets, but tournament officials declined to give an attendance number for Pumpkin Ridge (it wasn’t crowded)" (USA TODAY, 6/30). There was "very little juice from the crowd, but the broadcast acted like it was Sunday at a major" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/30). The tourney began with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” blaring through speakers, and a "skydiver pulling a massive LIV Golf flag parachuted onto the 10th fairway." Greg Norman "stood on the first tee box, chatting nonchalantly" with Brooks Koepka (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/30).

Brett Eagleson, president of a group called 9/11 Justice, "headed a 10-person contingent of those who lost loved ones in the attacks to speak out against the Saudi funding of the LIV Golf event." The group gathered "a couple of miles from Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club." A few hours before the first round, members of 9/11 Justice held a press conference. The group also "traveled to the players' hotel in Portland on Thursday morning to discuss their position with any player they could find." They were eventually "stopped by security and turned away" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 6/30).

UFC shores up Fight Pass with new content

By Adam Stern

UFC is adding original content to its Fight Pass OTT product to add heft to the platform, including a podcast network and a new comedy show. The MMA property later today will announce “The Nosebleeds,” a new six-episode series with comedians Randy and Jason Sklar, who will commentate classic archived UFC matches from a fictitious “man cave,” as well as perform some original skits. The show recalls “Cheap Seats,” which the Sklar brothers used to host on ESPN Classic. UFC VP & GM of Fight Pass Crowley Sullivan, who formerly ran ESPN Classic: “It’s a great illustration of the willingness to try new things on the part of the team, and (UFC President Dana White’s) support of this project is as important as anything else. UFC Fight Pass has really evolved over the last few years and grown substantially in every way but from the perspective of content creation.”

The second aspect of today’s announcement is a new UFC Fight Pass Podcast Central, which will feature 10 shows at today's launch, with more to be added. It includes some pre-existing podcasts, like the popular "UFC Unfiltered," plus new ones. Other shows include one for gamblers; one that talks to MMA fighters about their love lives; and a fight analysis one hosted by ESPN commentator Jon Anik. Sullivan said that UFC got this idea because “it sort of hit us that there isn’t a single place out there in the podcast space where a fight fan can find and easily engage in a whole array of UFC/MMA-centric podcasts. So we said to ourselves, ‘Fight Pass’ should be the place.’” Fight Pass was one of the original OTT products in sports, having launched in 2013. UFC reports that last year it was up 30% in revenue from the prior year, while subscriber growth was up 25% and total revenue was up 21%.

Avs' victory parade draws estimated 500,000

Denver officials estimate that the Avalanche's Stanley Cup championship parade and rally drew "at least 500,000 people downtown on Thursday." Appearing on stage in "various states of inebriation," the Avalanche players "did not disappoint" the throngs of fans. Fans "clad in burgundy and blue leaned out apartment windows and cheered atop balconies" (DENVER POST, 6/30). The crowd started "spilling out of Civic Center Park as rain began to fall on a summer day." The Avs "brought life back to a downtrodden city that has felt abandoned since the outset of COVID-19" (DENVER POST, 6/30).

Meanwhile, a Denver couple this week "got the surprise of a lifetime when the Stanley Cup was mistakenly delivered to their doorstep." Kit Karbler said that the Cup was "accidentally delivered to his house in the Hilltop neighborhood, meant for Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog." Karbler recounted that the "Stanley Cup keeper knocked on the door and figured out that they were at the wrong address but let him see it, touch it and take pictures of the NHL’s most prized award in his driveway" (KDVR.com, 6/29).

SBJ Unpacks: The unsettled state of golf

Ahead of the PGA Tour John Deere Classic in Illinois and LIV Golf Invitational Portland, SBJ’s Josh Carpenter and David Rumsey spoke with Sports Illustrated's Bob Harig and Brendan Porath of The Fried Egg to discuss the current state of golf.

Colbert riffs on sports' Pride Month efforts

Stephen Colbert made note of the rainbow motif already used in NASCAR's logoCBS

With Pride Month wrapping up, CBS’ Stephen Colbert noted several sports organizations expressed their support. Colbert: “NASCAR tweeted ‘YASCAR’ for the launch of their Pride Month T-shirts. Good for NASCAR, though I got to say, NASCAR’s actual logo, already pretty gay. Of course, not all NASCAR fans are on board with it, with one tweeting, ‘no longer a fan of nascar after I saw this.’ Well, if you’re upset about NASCAR being gay-friendly, wait 'til you hear what RuPaul did to drag racing.” Colbert also noted FIFA has “issued a warning to Qatar World Cup hotels over LGBTQ discrimination, saying establishments are ‘required to welcome guests in a ‘non-discriminatory’ manner or face termination of contracts.’” Colbert: “You know you suck when the voice of morality is FIFA. That is like getting lectured on tolerance by Mel Gibson” (“The Late Show,” CBS, 6/30).

Speed Reads....

Suns G Devin Booker reportedly "will be the face of basketball video gamers next season," gracing the cover of NBA 2K23, which will be "the 24th installment of the popular video game series" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/30).

The NHL Jets confirmed that an “offer has been made” to TNT studio analyst Rick Tocchet to serve as the team’s new coach. Tocchet previously coached the Coyotes and the Lightning (WINNIPEG SUN, 7/1).

Quick Hits....

“His trade swings not just the balance of power, but the entire structure of the league is going to change when a guy of that magnitude gets traded” -- ESPN’s Zach Lowe, on Nets F Kevin Durant requesting a trade (“NBA Today Free Agency Special,” ESPN, 6/30).\

“Today was the final day of the Supreme Court’s current term, and I got to say, thank God. This must be how the Jets feel when halftime finally arrives. ‘Well, at least we get 15 minutes where they can’t kick our asses’” -- NBC’s Seth Meyers (“Late Night,” NBC, 7/1).

“Thank you, Colorado Avalanche for winning the Stanley Cup in, well, a landslide” -- NBC’s Jimmy Fallon, on his “Thank You Notes” segment (“The Tonight Show,” NBC, 6/30).

Morning Hot Reads: Air it out

NEWSDAY looks at the 35 years WFAN has been on the air: "Much else in sports media -- and sports more broadly -- has changed over these 35 years, and WFAN has played an undeniable part in that. The galaxy’s first known all-sports radio station was revolutionary in its time, and its greatest impact is hinted at in its call letters: WFAN empowered fans. ... WFAN altered the dynamic in the sports ecosystem, as players learned a startling truth: Many fans were even more ill-informed and negative than sportswriters were."

Also:

Twitter Me This....

Final Jeopardy!

Last night’s “Final Jeopardy!” category was “U.S. Cities.”

“This U.S. city now has 10 times the population of the other U.S. city for which it was named in 1845.”

Today's Back Pages....

The Morning Buzz offers today's back page sports covers from some of North America's major metropolitan tabloids:

N.Y. Post N.Y. Daily News Newsday Boston Herald Chicago Sun-Times Philadelphia Daily News
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