Chatting with new Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott
LOS ANGELES --
The new Pac-10 commissioner has yet to visit every campus and last attended a college football game more than a dozen years ago, but he's already talking about something called the "West Coast advantage." He can't articulate what it is, exactly -- but it sounds a lot better than East Coast bias.
Scott, who replaced the retiring
Those strengths are welcome additions in the Pac-10, where, like in other conferences, there's a sense the SEC is pulling away from its rivals, at least in terms of revenue and exposure. What Scott doesn't bring to the job, however, is much knowledge about the business of college sports. Scott says he caught the "big bug" of Florida football while living in St. Petersburg, Fla., the last six years, but the last college football game he attended was Harvard-Yale. "It's a little different from the USC-UCLA rivalry," Scott said, "but it's a big deal in the Northeast."
In the months since being named Hansen's successor, Scott has tagged along with the longtime commissioner to BCS and conference meetings. He's paid courtesy calls to athletic directors like Florida's
Scott says he's already learned enough to know there's "a disconnect" between national perception of the Pac-10's strength, most notably in football, and the reality. "I'm a bit overwhelmed," Scott said, "by the sense that the Pac-10 has untapped potential."
Scott met with a small group of national writers for almost 90 minutes Wednesday afternoon in Los Angeles to discuss that issue and more. An abridged version of the session appears here.
The goal is to balance desire for revenue, desire for exposure, desire for a marketing platform, not just for football and basketball. ... There are many different ways to achieve that end. The Big Ten went one way, the SEC went another direction. And there may be other alternatives as well, including conferences doing things in more of a collaborative way.
It's early days for us. These are not ripe discussions. There will always be discussions -- it's so important -- but it will not really be ripe for another couple of years because we have existing (TV) agreements and we've got great partnerships in place (ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports Net through 2011-12).
And what's most important from my perspective is that careful thought be given. I need time to get established, to study our existing partnerships first, to get to know them and to really understand the opportunities and to work on any positioning for the Pac-10. I'm not sure right now we'd get our maximum value right now, if we were in the market right now. So I'm actually very happy at this time to sort of get my bearings, to really learn the marketplace and to take the time and do it right, whether it's with our existing partners or new partners.
Kidding aside ... I'm used to being a servant leader and recognize I work for in this case 10 institutions, 10 presidents with broad objectives. I think the leadership challenge is trying to develop a vision that's consistent with the wishes of the group that takes it forward. I've been very impressed with the discussions I've had with the presidents. There is a common purpose and vision.
First and foremost, the presidents look at it from an academic perspective. ... There's a certain prestige and status about the conference that's of utmost importance to our presidents and chancellors. Then, from a sporting perspective, a commercial perspective, there's all sorts of considerations, TV and all of that. I don't imagine this is something I will lead us to discuss before our next rounds of television discussions. I think that's the earliest I could imagine the topic being ripe for discussion.
I see that as a great thing to tap into. I come from a sport where you have greater marketing challenges. I mean, people are fans and they're interested [in women's tennis], but the passion is not quite as deep. So one thing I'm really excited about is bringing the skill set and the track record I've got in marketing a sport like tennis into an environment where it is so deep and it is so passionate and I see opportunities to tap into.
What I mean by that is since 2000, the better part of this decade, our conference has a winning record against every single BCS conference. And we're tied with the SEC for the best bowl record. So in terms of interconference play, where we stack up against each other, no one's got a better record than the Pac-10. That's certainly different than the perception I've had when I've been reading the media and listening to people talk.
The other thing that's surprised me is ... just how tough a (nonconference) schedule the Pac-10's got. I see a lot of dialogue about some of the 'laydown' teams the other guys have. ... That's the disconnect for me. The Pac-10 doesn't appear to be getting the credit it deserves for its schedule on one hand, and its track record and pedigree on the other. These are things that, as a newcomer, aren't being reflected in the national debate.
That's part of what I'm going to focus on and try to dissect and understand, because there's a disconnect. The Pac-10 is a hell of a lot stronger [than the perception].