Pac-12 Networks has announced its first three on-air personalities for the conference's network, which will launch in August 2012: Ronnie Lott, Rick Neuheisel and Summer Sanders.
As former Pac-12 student-athletes at USC, UCLA and Stanford respectively, Lott, Neuheisel and Sanders combined to lead their teams to five Conference titles, three Rose Bowl crowns and two national championships. Sanders, who has enjoyed a successful broadcasting career for the last two decades, will have a multipurpose role as a host and expert analyst for a variety of shows and events, while Lott and Neuheisel will serve as football analysts.
During a press conference this afternoon, Pac-12 Networks Executive Vice President and General Manager Lydia Murphy-Stephans mentioned that the network is expected to announce more of its on-air staff at a later date.
For those that haven't followed the Pac-12 closely over the years, this is significant for all Pac-12 sports given the lack of coverage - even locally - over the years. As an example from this past women's basketball season, Cal's near-upset of Stanford at Maples Pavilion was not televised anywhere.
For the 2012-13 athletics season, Pac-12 Networks will broadcast 350 total games nationally across all seven networks, including something "in the neighborhood of 50 women's basketball games," according to Pac-12 Enterprises President Gary Stevenson during the press conference. Further coverage will be provided by the regional networks, making the exact number of women's basketball games difficult to nail down at this point.
"Each of the regionals will have another 50 events from each campus," said Stevenson. "So for example, Pac-12 Bay Area will have those 350 core events plus 50 events from Cal and 50 from Stanford."
The fall broadcast schedule is set to be released in June and there was no timetable offered for the other sports, but the bottom line for women's basketball fans in regions with Pac-12 schools is that they should see more than the 40 games mentioned in the press release. Stevenson also alluded to the idea that there might be some limited flexibility in adding significant games to the schedule that weren't initially slated for broadcast, given appropriate advance planning time.
All three of these "faces" were clear that their roles have not yet been defined and there are a lot of details in terms of what kind of complementary programming they might participate in that has yet to be determined. Of these first three personalities, Sanders is the only one with basketball experience having covered the NBA, WNBA and hosted NBC's NBA Inside Stuff for seven years.
And Sanders also commented on a benefit of the network's launch beyond simply providing increased access to fans.
"High school students around the country will really, really begin to understand what these 12 universities have to offer and are all about and life as a student-athlete, which we know so well." said Sanders. "So it's a joy, it's a privilege."