Media Rights Threaten Student Athletes and the Environment

Media Rights Threaten Student Athletes and the Environment March 21, 2024

The demise of the Pac-12 conference this past year means unfortunate changes for student-athletes in ten schools. The changes will additionally affect the schools with which they compete. Why should media networks favor some college conferences over others?

The Pac-12 comprised teams that traveled across town, across the Bay, within the state, and a maximum of 1500 miles maximum between the University of Washington and Arizona State. The greatest distance was covered in 3 hours by plane.

Instead of working in sequence, Fox and ESPN guaranteed contracts with the Big 12 and did not offer the Pac-12 schools a similar deal.


Students playing sports in colleges and universities already spend much time practicing, lifting weights, and eating properly.

Traveling to compete also takes time. Instead of traveling a reasonable distance, ten of these West Coast teams will be playing teams in the Midwest and the East Coast. Traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast can be 4.5 hours with good winds and 6 hours traveling back.

Playing in other conferences puts more emphasis on the athletic aspect of college life while taking time away from academic pursuits. Colleges and universities are primarily places of learning and secondarily, institutions for playing sports.

The Breakdown

Male college baseball pitcher in the midst of throwing the ball.
Flying coast-to-coast for a three-hour game threatens student-athletes and negatively impacts the environment. Thank you to KeithJJ and for this image.

USC and UCLA, cross-town rivals, were the first to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. Later, the Universities of Washington and Oregon also joined that conference. While most teams are in the Midwest, some are in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

The dominoes fell quickly. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah joined the Big 12. This conference’s teams are primarily in the Midwest but University of Central Florida and West Virginia are farther away.

UC Berkeley and Stanford, just miles away from the Pacific Ocean, joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, where almost all the teams are in states bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Notre Dame and Louisville are exceptions.

This has left Oregon State amd Washington State to be the Pac-2.

Were the Moves to Other Conferences Ethical?

Student athletes will now travel almost twice as far to play single games or matches throughout their season. Meanwhile, the environmental footprint of their athletic departments will grow significantly.

Students’ Academics

If Arizona State flew up to play basketball at the University of Washington, 3 hours each way on a plane is far. To play the University of Maryland, however, these same students will fly five hours to and then another five or six hours to get back home. Additionally, they will be transitioning from Pacific time to Central or Eastern time.

I do not know why flying in an airplane is exhausting but it is. Students will be on a plane instead of spending time with friends or studying in the library. They will also be adjusting to jet lag perhaps multiple times a month.

Some students will be able to study on a plane but not everyone. Unless others are sleeping, it is difficult to predict what kind of distractions will conflict with study efforts.

Conference Changes and the Environment

I suspect USC and UCLA as well as UC Berkeley and Stanford, drove to the other school for games and matches.  Many of the other competitions necessitated flying. Eleven percent of emissions in the United States from travel are from planes.

One piece of advice for frequent flyers is to fly less often. ESPN and FOX refused to contract with the Pac-12. A consequence is that they increased the number and length of the flights these teams would take. The former Pac-12 teams’ competitors must also fly from the Midwest or East Coast to the West Coast. Moving these teams hurts the environment.

University athletic departments must keep track of the health, well-being, statistics and logistics of many students as well as transporting teams and equipment. I blame of the fall of the Pac-12 on the media rights people of ESPN and Fox for not covering a highly successful regional conference. The Pac-12 was environmentally sound and better supported the students’ academics.

In Conclusion

I grew up on the East Coast. I usually say this about MLB, but I think that some people based on the eastern seabord, cannot see over the Rockies to appreciate the athletics here. If they could, Fox and ESPN would have supported the schools that had a vibrant conference rather than forcing them out.

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