ASU president Michael Crow: Pac-12 had ‘great offer from Apple’

Aug 16, 2023, 7:31 AM

Arizona State University and Michael Crow ultimately budged from “fighting for the Pac-12 to the last ditch,” as he put it, because other league powers made their decisions before the Sun Devils.

The Arizona Wildcats reportedly leaned toward departing for the Big 12. While University of Arizona president Dr. Robert Robbins said he and Crow remained on the same page in wanting to stick together in any case, Oregon and Washington leaving for the Big Ten made the Arizona schools’ decision cut and dry. They ultimately departed for the Big 12 as the dominos fell.

Crow’s affinity and public support for the Pac-12 in the past couldn’t overcome the fact that only four schools currently remain in the conference.

However, had the league stuck together, Crow thinks the proposed media deal with Apple that was on the table, leading to a dissolving of the Pac-12, would have benefitted the conference.

“We had what I thought was a great offer from Apple,” Crow told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mike Broomhead on Friday for the Amazing Arizonans podcast. “Most of the fan base didn’t think it was a great deal but I don’t think they knew that much about it.”

What has been reported is that the Apple deal started with a guaranteed $23 million given to each Pac-12 school, according to multiple reports. Robbins called that figure accurate.

Crow was a believer that the Pac-12 would receive more than the base amount with increased subscription numbers, similar to a wildly successful deal for Major League Soccer.

“So basically what the Apple deal was is Apple would spend $500 million the first year to take all of the football games, all the men’s basketball games, all the women’s basketball games, digitally capture them and make them available to everyone,” Crow said. “You could play the games whenever you wanted to play them. That’s a huge, huge, huge thing.

“All of the data from those games would be available. You could zoom in on … the player, you could zoom in on great plays. You could be watching all the games at the same time if you wanted. There was going to be a fee for that (subscription) — and that was the big uncertainty — and then a guarantee of a certain income to the schools. And then a joint partnership going forward of anything above the guarantee would be a 50-50 split.”

Doubters of the Apple deal saw the base sum as far below the $31.7 million that Arizona State and Arizona will each receive in full shares with their move to the Big 12. Their new conference leapfrogged the Pac-12 to get a six-year, linear TV deal done with ESPN and Fox last October.

The Apple proposal certainly was different as it shifted the league away from the Pac-12 Network, which was limited in terms of accessibility across cable, satellite and streaming providers.

But there was uncertainty just how far above the base $23 million could be attracted via subscriptions. There’s a large asterisk comparing the Pac-12 to the recent MLS success on Apple: The pro soccer league received a major bump in subscriptions lately solely because of star Lionel Messi’s recent move stateside to play for Inter Miami.

Crow was not among those doubters for the Apple deal.

On Aug. 5, he went as far as calling it a “technological 23rd-century Star Trek thing” with some risk but an opportunity for reward.

“So from my perspective, you kept the Pac-12 together as a regional conference,” he told KTAR New 92.3 FM on Friday. “And then you’d have this whole new way to broadcast digitally all of your content.

“Most of us thought that was a pretty good deal, including me. Along the way, others didn’t think that was a good deal. At the last second, the Big Ten, working I would guess with their media groups (Fox, CBS and NBC), picked off two teams.”

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