SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (publ. 8/16/2012, page A2)
A column by Monte Poole incorrectly reported revenue expectations for the fledgling Pac-12 Networks; that number is not yet known. The numbers cited -- $3 billion over the next 12 years -- refer to revenue that will go to the Pacific 12 Conference for its TV contracts with ESPN and Fox.

In the age of 5,000 TV channels, another debuts Wednesday. It's called the Pac-12 Network. And it's not a response to popular demand.

It's an admirable attempt to build a national audience and a naked chase for dollars.

Oh, I admire the ambition and understand the theory behind the formation of the Pac-12 Network. It will generate revenue -- $3 billion from TV over the next 12 years. It will raise profiles and allow the conference greater control in promoting its programs. If the Big Ten Network, entering its fifth year, can prosper, why can't the Pac-12?

As someone with an affinity for college sports, particularly men's basketball, I welcome the network and will be a regular viewer. I wish I could expect more company.

Put simply, not enough folks in the Bay Area and California care deeply about local college sports. Non-alums, locally or nationally, rarely identify with the schools. Almost no lives revolve around their athletic programs.


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Most local athletes don't grow up longing to wear the colors of Cal or Stanford or San Jose State. Few have bedrooms with signage of Saint Mary's basketball or USF baseball or Santa Clara soccer. How often do banners of local colleges fly from Bay Area homes?

The same applies, for the most part, to folks from Los Angeles and Phoenix and, to a lesser extent, even those in Seattle and Eugene, Ore.

Young athletes on the West Coast tend to dream not in the colors of local colleges but those of teams in the NFL or the NBA.

Pac-12 teams have plenty of fans. What they lack is thousands upon thousands of fans, far and wide, who follow and analyze every move.

And that's unlike much of the country. Here's an example: When Tennessee football coach Lane Kiffin resigned in 2009 to take the job at USC, TV stations in Knoxville interrupted local programming to deliver news of the "betrayal" via bulletin. Riots followed. Fires were set. Cars were flipped. Windows were broken.

Yup, those folks love them some Vols football.

Have we in California ever known a coach or a team capable of inciting such fury? Even Nashville, humming with the usual sounds of country music, barely blinked when a winning coach such as Jeff Fisher was fired by the NFL Tennessee Titans.

Youngsters in the south grow up wanting to wear the orange and white of the Vols. They want to be a Bulldog (Georgia) or a Gator (Florida) or a Hurricane (Miami) or a Longhorn (Texas) or a member of the Alabama's hallowed Crimson Tide.

Carolinians have to choose between hoop dynasties North Carolina and Duke, just as Kentuckians choose between Kentucky and Louisville. Loyalties must be expressed.

Folks in the heartland can tell you all about football at Ohio State or Michigan or Notre Dame or Nebraska or Wisconsin -- and basketball at Indiana or Michigan State.

These colleges are destinations, their athletic programs coloring the regional fabric, often dictating the temperature and wind speed of local society.

We have a different perspective. College sports for most of us provide a nice diversion.

The Pac-12, operating under the visionary leadership of conference commissioner Larry Scott, is trying to change that. This explains its control of the network and the $3 billion TV contract, in cooperation with Comcast, ESPN and Fox.

"This is going to be a major innovation and a new and exciting development in the world of college sports -- the first conference to completely own and control its own network," Scott recently said of the Pac-12 Network launch. "In tandem, we're going to be launching a digital network of multi-platform, multi-device networks that will reach fans via the Web, mobile devices, Internet-connected TVs and gaming consoles.

"The idea is Pac-12 content, anywhere, anytime, by any device."

Schools eagerly await the monetary deluge. The $2.25 million annual salary of Washington State's new football coach, the firebrand Mike Leach, more than triples that of his predecessor. Arizona's hired Rich Rodriguez at almost $10 million over the next five years. Washington lured Cal assistant Tosh Lupoi out of Berkeley not with a promotion but by tripling his salary.

Yet the Pac-12 reality is the men's hoops tournament playing to disappointing crowds at Staples Center in L.A. It's Stanford football wondering why it can't consistently fill its downsized stadium. It's the knowledge that no other FBS conference has experienced consecutive seasons of decreasing attendance.

By offering a product only a fraction of the TV audience desires, the Pac-12 realizes it is gambling. It also knows it will take some fancy seducing to promote growth.

I hope it works, thrives to such a degree that athletes are allowed to share in the wealth. But I can't help thinking a Gossip Channel might have an easier road to pave.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/1montepoole.