Pac-12 Media Day full of tension, speculation, fresh faces

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“The goal is to win the Pac-12 championship. That’s been our goal. We work every day towards that,” said Cal head coach Justin Wilcox.

At Pac-12 Media Day, Wilcox gave praise to his players and coaching staff from the previous season while also giving some insight into how the team will carry itself  in the 2022-23 season. Wilcox was joined at Media Day in Los Angeles by sixth-year safety Daniel Scott and fifth-year offensive lineman Matthew Cindric, who spoke about their contributions to the team. Most importantly, they spoke on how the two will help develop younger members of the team, what a win against Stanford this season would mean to the team and how they will approach their week three matchup against Notre Dame.

Wilcox praised players and staff who overcame COVID-19-related adversity last season; he attributed their ability to prevail to strong team chemistry and their persistence to keep competing.

“There was some adversity along the way. That’s just how football goes, that’s how life goes,” Wilcox said. “Even though it’s not always fun at the time, it does teach them and us a lot of lessons along the way. Really proud of how those guys stayed together.”

However, the challenge for the Bears this season will be adapting to a completely new team look. There will be only 18 returning players that are credited with one or more starts from the previous season, but this is excluding the nine players that Cal acquired in the transfer portal this offseason.

“There’s going to be a lot of new faces playing for us. However, we feel really strongly about the talent on the team,” Wilcox said. “We have some inexperienced guys, but we have some really talented guys. Now it’s about putting it all together, creating some rhythm and getting into the season.”

Wilcox spoke briefly about what he wants to see from the offensive side of the ball this season and how the coaches could put the players in a position to be able to create explosive plays. He didn’t immediately state who would be the signal caller for game one against UC Davis on Sept. 3, but he praised both Jack Plummer and Kai Millner’s development as fall camp approaches.

Earlier in the morning, Commissioner George Kliavkoff gave his first remarks to the media regarding the news of UCLA and USC leaving for the Big Ten in 2024 — news that rocked the conference. He noted that the Pac-12 will continue its support of student-athletes while also adapting to the new and changing landscape of collegiate athletics. He added the successes that the Pac-12 has experienced as a whole over the last year then transitioned to what steps will be taken to ensure the success of the conference in the future.

It was during a question and answer session that Kliavkoff took a defensive stance on the future of the Pac-12. Many of the questions directed at the commissioner were about how the Pac-12 is handling the departure of the two premier Los Angeles institutions.

He spoke about a lack of collegiality amongst his peers and how he has been having to deflect blows from the Big 12, who have been allegedly trying to destabilize the Pac-12 in the wake of the UCLA and USC move.

“With respect to the Big 12 being open for business, I appreciate that. We haven’t decided if we’re going shopping there or not yet,” Kliavkoff said.

The commissioner stated that the remaining member institutions were committed to the success and survival of the conference. When speaking about the possibility of expansion, Kliavkoff declined to comment on what schools were under consideration to be added.

When coach Wilcox was asked about his reaction to the realignment news, he mentioned that he wasn’t overly surprised and continued by saying he is confident in the future of the conference. He had said in an earlier response to a different question that change was coming and that they would have to learn and adjust to it.

If there is any one takeaway from the 2022 Pac-12 Media Day, it is that the belles of the ball were certainly UCLA and USC. It seemed as if the two schools were at the tail end of the event’s agenda for the reason that everyone was looking for answers. It will be another test for the conference and its member institutions as they look to stay afloat in a new world of college athletics.

Emmanuel Macedo covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].