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Pac-12 Networks relives Conference history with 'Varsity Days'

Jul 11, 2013
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To begin the process of producing the Pac-12 Networks’ new series, Varsity Days, which premieres Monday at 6:30 p.m. PT, Director of Archives Patrick Phillips was sent on a series of field trips.

Phillips, in an attempt to acquire old and rare footage about the Pac-12, traveled around the conference to personally visit schools and forage through reels of film and find content for the new show.

Varsity Days is a 30-minute show that features rare or never-before seen footage of Pac-12 athletes and coaches. Each of the 20 episodes will focus on a specific year in the conference’s history. After visiting each of the institutions, Phillips asked them to ship the reels to the networks’ headquarters in San Francisco, where they were then sent on to be digitized.

“It was fun to sit down and see Ahmad Rashad or Dan Fouts playing at Oregon,” Phillips said. “You see a lot of great players who went on to have great professional careers.”

For the most part, Varsity Days is simply a collection of re-airings from originally produced programs of decades past. One episode is a reproduction of a season-review show from the 1951 Pacific Coast Conference football season. The shows are primarily season-reviews of the conference or specific teams, focusing on football and men’s basketball.

“It’s just fun to talk about the history of the Pac-12,” Pac-12 Networks producer Bob Schmelzle said. “Dan Fouts played at Oregon, but how many people out there have actually seen highlights of him playing there? For the networks, it helps embrace our history.”

“These are film reels that literally have been archived and not seen in 30, 40 and in some cases 60 years,” Pac-12 Networks programming director Dustin Rocke said. “For our fans that have seen it, it allows them to relive those moments. For the younger fans, it’s a chance to really learn a little about the history of the Pac-12.”

In addition to bringing the footage up to modern quality, the only other tweaks the networks made to the films was to add some notes in graphic form to provide historical perspective. Viewers might learn what the average American yearly income was the same year Stanford quarterback Jim Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy.

The first five episodes will be football season-reviews from the 60s and 70s, beginning with Monday’s show about the 1969 season. The shows are hosted by football analyst Rick Neuheisel.

“Bob and I have marveled at the quality of the old film,” Rocke said. “You think the quality is going to be really poor because it’s going back to the 60s and 70s. But it looks great. It’s not quite as defined, but the quality of these are right on par with what is produced today.”