What’s new with Neuheisel? Putting on a good face for the Pac-12

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Pac-12 photo by Kelley L. Cox/KLCfotos.com
Rick Neuheisel, far right, poses with Mike Yam, Summer Sanders, Glenn Parker, Curtis Conway, Ashley Adamson and Ronnie Lott during the first show on the Pac-12 Network on Wednesday.

Rick Neuheisel was about to hop into a make-up chair at the Pac-12 Network studios in San Francisco this morning when the moment hit him as he looked in the mirror.

“I mean, for God’s sake, what’s happened to me?” the 51-year-old with perpetual beach boy looks said with a laugh. “I’m never going to get used to this. I’m just a pig with spats.”

Last summer, when Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott officially announced that the conference would embark on its own TV network and multi-media venture, Neuheisel was about to start his fourth season as the UCLA head football coach. He could only imagine how this concept would help with things like nationwide exposure and future recruiting.

Before he knew it, Neuheisel was being recruited by the network.

Released by UCLA last November, he was a Pac-12 employee by March. When the network launched Wednesday, he was on the set with Ronnie Lott and Summer Sanders as the new faces and voices of this thing.

So far, not so bad, Neuheisel said.

“I know I’m new at all this, so maybe I’m not the best to judge it, but there wasn’t a fire, and nothing blew up,” Neuheisel summed up the first day of his newest TV career. “I did talk to my sister in Arizona, and she said there were some glitches when maybe the sound went out or something, but I’m sure when you’re starting anything like this, there’ll be growing pains.”

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Neuheisel recently joked to network general manager Lydia Murphy-Stephans that if someone’s resume requires that “you’ve either been fired or booed by every team in the conference, then I’m your leading candidate,” noting his head coaching jobs at Colorado (before it was in the Pac-12) and Washington from 1995 and 2002, prior to coming back to his alma mater at UCLA in 2008.

Throw in the fact he grew up going to Arizona State games – his dad taught at the school – and got a law degree from USC, and Neuheisel could have one of the Pac-12 regional channels named after him.

When Neuheisel got a taste of media work recently on the New York-based CBS Sports Network last fall, he couldn’t believe how the Pac-12 always seemed to get the short end of conversation.

Not any more.

“TV has its own language – there’s the A block, the B block, the C block when you’re doing segments at the start of the show,” said Neuheisel. “Gosh darn it, the Pac-12 was always in the F block, way in the back, just four or five minutes, enough time to maybe cover two teams, and that’s it.

“We don’t have to take that anymore – it’s like we’re in that Twisted Sister video. We’ve got all kinds of storylines in this conference. No producer is my ear telling me to wrap it up before we start talking about something in the Pacific Time zone.

“You wonder how the SEC became so powerful? It’s a direct correlation to how ESPN has been talking them up over the years, because they have a financial interest in them. So all the sudden, it’s a monster conference.”

For the record, ESPN is invested in the Pac-12, having signed a rights deal in partnership with Fox Sports that covers 12 years and $3 billion for the conference. Neuheisel still isn’t convinced that’s enough to make a network like ESPN change its focus.

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“I think they just want to be competitive in all the time zones, but we’re still not given the same amount of attention as the SEC or the Big Ten. Watch ‘(College) Game Day,’ and the Pac-12 will get one block, and it’s usually just about USC or Oregon.”

When the Pac-12 Network became the new kid on the block, it set up operations not far from the conference’s Walnut Creek offices with a staff of about 120 people. Strangely, it didn’t take advantage of the media operations experience in Southern California, where far more technical talent is available.

Not that Neuheisel will complain much about having to jet up and down to the Bay Area trips for his on-camera work, leaving his new family home in Manhattan Beach. His son, Jerry, also starts his freshman year at UCLA as a quarterback.

Neuheisel also has a media gig with SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation channel, and finds himself on the USC campus today for a live afternoon show while watching the Trojans’ practice.

That could get interesting once USC coach Lane Kiffin spots him.

“This (Pac-12) network is an exciting venture, but it’s really bittersweet,” Neuheisel admitted. “It’s disappointing this time of year not to be in a training camp, especially when you’re given what I thought was not the requite amount of support at UCLA.

“I take full responsibility for not moving the needle as far as getting more wins, but you need a partnership at this level, and there has to be a commitment, and that wasn’t the case.”

Maybe that’s the kind of stuff he can work into a mid-season analysis of the 2012 Bruins if they get off to a slow start under Jim Mora?

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Pac-12 photo by Kelley L. Cox/KLCfotos.com
Rick Neuheisel, right, talks with Washington State athletic director Bill Moos, left, during a break in shows at the Pac-12 Network studios in San Francisco on Wednesday.

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