The Pac-12 network is a big deal for football. Hypothetically speaking (get it together, Pac-12/Direct TV!), it will allow Cal fans across the nation to see every Cal football game. But realistically, most games (and the most important games) were already available to most Cal fans.
But if you’re a fan of women’s basketball, the change is going to be truly revolutionary for your fandom. The Pac-12 has announced the television schedule for 2012-13, and it’s pretty sweet. Last year, Cal had something like three conference games televised. This year there will be twelve*. Here are the games that won’t be televised:
Utah at Cal
Cal at Oregon St.
Cal at Oregon
Arizona at Cal
Cal at Washington St.
Cal at Washington
Two of the games that won’t be televised are weekend home games, so local Cal fans should be able to see those games if they want anyway. Also, I’m hoping Cal continues to stream home games that aren’t televised. If you’re a dedicated Cal fan, you should hopefully be able to watch at least a quarter of Cal’s Pac-12 games. Most importantly, all of the games against traditional Pac-12 powers Stanford, UCLA, USC and Arizona St. are televised.
Now, there is some bad news, and it’s pretty annoying bad news.
You may have heard a while back that the conference moved the date of the Pac-12 tournament a week earlier. This was so that the tournament wouldn’t conflict with the dates of the men’s tournament. As a concept that doesn’t bother me – women’s basketball will have their own weekend and the conference can market it separately. But it means that the regular season is a week shorter, and the conference has compensated for that by having rivalry pairs play each other twice in a week. That means that Cal plays Stanford back-to-back.
There are two problems with this arrangement. Firstly, it means that one of the games won’t be on the weekend, which will necessarily diminish attendance for one game that is traditionally a big draw for both fanbases. Secondly, it means that the two most important games in the entire Pac-12 season happen back-to-back. If one key player has a brief injury, she’s likely to miss both. If one team improves over the course of the season, they might not have the chance to show it against their rival. And thirdly, if Cal and Stanford are both as good as their fan bases hope and the rest of the Pac-12 is down, then we might have a weird situation where the conference race practically gets decided in one week.
If you’re going to force them to play back-to-back, at least I’d hope that it would happen in the latter half of the conference sched . . . nope. Of course not. Cal and Stanford play each other in their 3rd and 4th conference game, on January 8th and 13th. Well, hopefully the weekend game is at Haas Pavil . . . damn. Of course. Stanford AT Cal is on Tuesday night and Cal AT Stanford is on Saturday. Of freakin’ course.
Am I willing to accept these asinine changes in exchange for roughly quadrupling the number of games that get televised? Yes, yes I am. Am I willing to accept these asinine changes without complaining about them frequently over the next few months? No, no I am not.
From an actual competitive standpoint, the schedule isn’t too bad. Cal doesn’t have a road trip longer than two games and they avoid a trip to the desert that has given them trouble in the past. It’s a little frightening that the entire course of the Pac-12 season may be decided in a two week span in January when UCLA and USC visit Haas a week after Cal’s two game series against Stanford, but what are you going to do? At least three of those four critical early games are at home, which might give Cal an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the L.A. schools if things go well.
So now we know the path the Bears face, and we know how to watch it. Now we just have to wait around for another two months. 57 more days!
*For whatever reason, times and TV have not been announced for non-conference games. I would expect TV coverage to be significantly lighter for those games in part because they will be going up against football season and in part because the demand to watch Cal play Lehigh or CSU Bakersfield isn’t especially high. But we’ll see.