Scott Finally Shown the Door
Much of America celebrated the departure of an incompetent, arrogant, egomaniacal self-promoter on Wednesday night.
No, not that guy. He left earlier in the day.
On Wednesday night, the Pac-12 Conference untethered itself from commissioner Larry Scott. The guy from women’s pro tennis who never understood college sports, never understood the needs and challenges facing coaches, athletes and athletic directors, never cared much about anything but his paycheck and his image as a self-proclaimed “visionary.”
A year and a half before his contract was to expire, the conference jettisoned Scott, the leader who has overseen the precipitous decline of the Pac-12 in the two sports that matter most to the fans of college athletics—football and men’s basketball.
The guy who was paid $5.3 million per year, more than the commissioners of the SEC and Big Ten combined. You know, the two conferences whose networks reach three or four times as many subscribers as the Pac-12 and whose leadership has produced annual revenues of $54 million and $45 million per school, compared to the Pac-12’s $32M.
The guy who signed a way-too-long 12-year TV deal with FOX and ESPN that looked pretty good at the time, but was surpassed—almost doubled in annual value—by the SEC and Big Ten.
The guy who thought a person of his stature shouldn’t have to work in an office in the suburb of Walnut Creek, so spent $7 million a year on new digs in San Francisco.
The guy who thought he didn’t need to have a major network partner for his new television network. So the Pac-12 went it alone and cratered, while the Big Ten, ACC and SEC Networks—all of whom partnered with either Fox or ESPN—thrived.
The guy who couldn’t get DirecTV to carry his network and then organized and advertised a boycott of DirecTV by Pac-12 fans…which went nowhere but thereby eliminated any chance they’d ever carry the conference network.
The guy who never met a microphone he didn’t like. Who would fly in to his conference’s top football game so he could hold a halftime “gaggle” or “availability” with the media, then leave before the game ended, often in a private jet.
The guy who cancelled the 2020 football season because of the COVID pandemic, then reversed course and started the season in November, meaning that the league had virtually no chance to get a team in the playoff. And it didn’t, for the fifth time in seven years.
The guy who touted new COVID testing that would be a “game-changer” and allow the league to play without pandemic interruptions. Instead, the league’s teams were beset with outbreaks, game cancellations and exiles from their campus for weeks at a time. In the end, Pac-12 teams played an average of only 5.4 games.
The guy who barely spoke to members of his own staff and laid off nearly 100 employees after taking his own bonus.
The guy who once summoned his employees to an urgent, all-hands-on-deck meeting to announce his new contract extension.
The guy whose football and basketball officials are recognized as the worst in the country and whose chief lieutenant was caught interfering with the review of a key play in a conference football game.
The guy who tried to bribe the Los Angeles Times into providing more Pac-12 coverage by making a big advertising buy. Instead, members of his staff leaked disparaging stories about him to the media.
Since Scott arrived in 2009, no Pac-12 team has won a national championship in football or basketball. ESPN commentators have described the Pac-12 as irrelevant, mocked its network, and joked about the Power Five Conferences becoming the Power Four.
Top West Coast recruits have been shunning the Pac-12 for the greener pastures of the SEC and ACC.
Football coaches have been leaving the Pac-12 for higher paying jobs elsewhere and a more realistic chance to pursue championships and playoffs.
The bottom was falling out.
As we’ve written in this blog on many occasions, it was time for Scott to go. Way past time.
Wednesday night the Pac-12 executive committee finally acknowledged the need to “bring in a new leader who will help us develop our go-forward strategy.”
The conference was generous to its diminished, outgoing commissioner. Scott will serve during a “transition” to June 30, then be paid for another year through the end of his contract in June, 2022.
The search for his successor will begin immediately. It is an attractive post because of the conference’s location, challenges, and potential, as well as the salary range that has been established.
Unlike Scott, the next commissioner must be someone with knowledge of, experience in, and an appreciation for college sports. Someone with the chops to negotiate a new TV deal. Someone who understands that while the conference’s fortunes are tied to football and basketball, its unmatched legacy of excellence in Olympic sports must be maintained.
Names already being bandied about include former NCAA Vice-President and West Virginia AD Oliver Luck (Andrew’s father), ESPN executive Burke Magnus, former Secretary of State and Stanford Provost Condi Rice, Ohio State Athletic Director and former Arizona State AD Gene Smith, WAC Commissioner and former Cal, Oklahoma and Pac-12 administrator Gloria Nevarez, Alabama Athletic Director and former Arizona AD Greg Byrne, and Arizona State Athletic Director and former NFL executive Ray Anderson.
Any of them would be an improvement over Scott, whose own reputation—deservedly—has taken a major hit.
True to form, Scott attempted to spin the announcement of his sacking as a “mutual parting of the ways” and “a great time in my life to pursue other exciting opportunities.”
Good luck with that.