After Larry Scott gets done transforming the Pac-10 into the Pac-12, maybe we should send him to Washington to show our legislators how to work together to get something done.
Scott, the relatively new Pac-10 commissioner who took over in March of 2009, just pulled off a maneuver that many questioned could be accomplished. He got the presidents of 12 different universities to agree on a major overhaul to a college athletic conference that hasn’t seen a major change since Arizona State and University of Arizona joined 32 years ago.
First, he engineered the addition of two new teams to the conference, with the University of Colorado and the University of Utah coming on board next July. Then, he and the presidents and athletics directors of all 12 schools got together to figure out how to structure this new entity.
They announced last week that they were all able to agree on three primary issues: how to divide the schools into two divisions for football, where to play a new conference championship game, and how to share a bigger pot of money that will follow. Football will be the only sport requiring the split into two separate divisions.
The key to negotiating through the process was being able to keep the big picture in mind, rather than focusing on the individual interests of each school. There were topics that were hotly discussed and various compromises made along the way, but in the end the conference members appear happy with the end result.
“This has been a very thorough process that created a lot of discussion and has delivered results that we are all very excited about,” said ASU President Michael Chow, who was also chairman of the Pac-10 CEO group.
“There was a tremendous spirit of cooperation and compromise throughout the league during this process,” added Utah Director of Athletics Chris Hill.
Are you listening up on Capitol Hill?
The new Pac-12 should have long-term strength that increases the value of the conference, while preserving traditional rivalries and balancing competitiveness. And each school will profit from increased revenues.
There will be six teams in each division for football. The North Division will include Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, and California. The South Division will include the newcomers, Utah and Colorado, matched up with the Arizona schools and the L.A.-area schools (Cal, UCLA).
Established rivalries, location, and competitive balance were all taken into consideration in setting up the divisions.
Teams will play a nine-game conference schedule in football, with four games against non-division opponents. In basketball, the other major revenue-producer, men’s and women’s teams will play an 18-game conference schedule, playing each team twice.
All media rights will be pooled and arrangements are being worked out to spread the revenue evenly among the schools. That equality going forward was a key component of the final package.
There are two exceptions at the outset: Utah, the last school to enter, will have a phase-in period in which they will receive no revenue the first year, 50 percent in 2012, and 75 percent in 2013. Also, USC and UCLA will continue receiving an annual bonus of $2 million under an existing appearance-based revenue-sharing model until the league’s total revenue reaches $170 million.
A championship football game also comes into play, to deal with the split into two divisions. After much consideration and debate, it was decided that the game would not be held at a neutral field, but will be hosted by the division winner with the best conference record.
And, finally, there is still consideration for a Pac-10 television network, similar to a very lucrative network owned by the Big 10, which is expected to bring that conference more than $87 million next year.
The Pac-10, which was formed back in 1915 with just four teams (California, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington), has been a tradition-rich, stodgy institution that hasn’t seen any growth since ASU and UofA left the Western Athletic Conference in 1978 to become the final two teams.
Scott, who was considered something of a marketing guru while working as the CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, was hired away from the WTA to shake things up and come up with new, innovative ways to bring the conference out of its long slumber.
The expansion comes at a time when conferences around the country are shifting, with some expanding and others facing extinction due to team migrations.
The Pac-10 jumped to the forefront of this movement and is going to be handsomely rewarded for its vision.
So who wants to start the movement to send Mr. Scott to Washington?