Pac-12 appeals to former football stars to boost conference

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The Pac-12 draws on former football stars such as Brock Huard, Toby Gerhart and Lincoln Kennedy as it explores ways to improve conference fortunes on and off the pitch.

The conference announced on Monday the formation of the Pac-12 Football Alumni Council.

The squad includes more than 20 players and coaches from Pac-12 schools, including active NFL players such as San Francisco 49ers center Alex Mack (Calif.), Detroit Lions tackle Tyrell Crosby (Oregon), Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) and Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz (Stanford).

Led by Pac-12 associate commissioner and former NFL star Merton Hanks, the alumni council has already met twice.

A sort of football think tank, the council discussed a wide range of topics from football programming and recruiting to branding and marketing.

“We have so many substantive changes that need to happen over the next few months and years to come that it would be truly remiss if this group did not have a voice in these changes,” Hanks told The Associated Press.

The Pac-12 haven’t had a team selected for the college football playoffs since 2016, and they’ve been left out of the CFP for six of the eight years.

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff has stressed since his hiring last spring that improving conference football and maximizing CFP selections are his priority.

“The interactions I have had with him so far have been very encouraging. I think for the other members of this board as well. I think they felt the same sense of purpose and urgency,” Huard said.

A former Washington quarterback who currently calls games as an analyst for Fox Sports, Huard said his interactions with Kliavkoff were encouraging and helped motivate him and others to get involved.

Huard said the advice is more than a ceremony.

“It’s much more about the passion and desire to see and hopefully help positive change,” he said.

Because college football is in the midst of massive changes, from conference realignment to playoff expansion and less restrictive transfer rules to paid sponsoring athletes, Huard sees an opportunity for the Pac-12 to quickly improve its performance. position.

“I think there are more opportunities than five years ago to change your narrative and do it quickly,” he said.

Huard said board members discussed how they can personally involve the bases of former Pac-12 schools and encourage them to get more involved with their favorite teams. They talked about promoting programs to increase attendance and, perhaps more importantly, working to let recruits in the Pac-12 footprint know that they don’t have to leave the West Coast for playing college football at the highest level.

“This is a group that really wants to spend time doing what we can do to help (the Pac-12),” Huard said.

Former Southern California All-American Tim McDonald, who played defensive back in the NFL for 13 years, said the fact that former Pac-12 stars are selling the conference to rookies may send a message powerful.

“The Pac-12 has a lot to offer,” said McDonald. “I just think we’ve lost too many children.”

McDonald said that outside of the two formal Alumni Council meetings, he has had informal discussions with members about how they can fuel a Pac-12 turnaround. And the group is trying to get more Pac-12 greats involved.

“This is the ultimate goal,” McDonald said. “We want as many alumni as possible at the games to make sure the student-athletes feel us.”

The other members of the alumni committee are Scooby Wright and Brandon Sanders of Arizona; Eric Allen from the State of Arizona; Justin Forsett and Shane Vereen from California; Chad Brown and Mike Pritchard of Colorado; Mike Bellotti of Oregon; Steven Jackson of the State of Oregon; Toi Cook from Stanford; Johnathan Franklin and Marcedes Lewis of UCLA; USC Derrick Deese; Steve Smith of Utah; Dana Hall from Washington; and Jack Thompson from Washington State.

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