Larry Scott, Pac-12 Commissioner, is a man who knows what he wants to do with his conference. Does it always work? No. However, he is willing to take chances to make the Pac-12 be leader in the world of college athletics.
I talked with the Pac-12 Commissioner on Monday afternoon to talk about where the conference is, where it’s going, and about his former life as a tennis pro.
Question: For the first time ever, the Pac-12 topped the $500 million mark in revenue. What should that tell people about the Pac-12?
Answer: Well, it tells us that the Pac-12 is a very healthy conference. By going over $500 million it gives continued growth. It is a four percent increase over the previous year. On top of that, we had over $370 million in conference payouts to our member institutions. That is a eight percent increase. Positive revenue growth like this says that the conference is a preeminent league that will continue to get stronger as we move forward.”
Take this into consideration when you think about how much revenue the Pac-12 has taken in since it began it’s media rights agreements with ESPN and Fox. When the agreements started in 2012-2013, annual membership distributions have increased by 63% ($228M to $371M). The total annual revenue has also increased by 53%. It started at $334M in 2012-2013 and now stands at $509M. This media deal with ESPN and Fox has resulted in four times the amount of revenue compared to any other media deal that the Pac-12 had entered into before.
Being a commissioner of any sports league is a stressful job and you have to have a thick skin because half the people are going to like what you do, the other half will not.
Question: You get booed quite a bit when you are in front of the fans. What goes through your mind as the booing is taking place?
Answer: “This happens to everybody who is in charge of a major sports league. I am no different. I take it as a badge of honor when the fans boo. It is the nature of the business as well, so I can’t get to wrapped up in it.”
Question: What kind of impact will Chip Kelly have on the Pac-12?
Answer: “I think Chip will have a great impact on our conference. We all remember what he did at Oregon just a few years ago. The excitement he brings as well as the competitiveness it’ll bring out in our other member schools will be great. Chip could have gone anywhere he wanted too. The Pac-12 is a good fit for him and the culture that we have in the conference was also a good fit. He knows he can win in the Pac-12. It’ll be exciting for sure with Chip back.” Scott said.
Question: What about the hire of Kevin Sumlin at Arizona?
Answer: “ Kevin Sumlin is another coach that comes with an upward trajectory. He is an elite coach that comes with a lot of experience. He’s coached in a tough conference and at one of the biggest schools in Texas. He will certainly generate tons of excitement for Arizona fans.” Scott mentioned.
Question: What are your thoughts on the new “model” that Arizona State is using for it’s football program?
Answer: “It’s certainly interesting and exciting. Herm Edwards is breaking the mold with this new approach. Herm will bring instant credibility with his players and he will win over a lot of parents in the living room with how he approaches making his players better off of the field. I am looking forward to seeing how this approaches works for the program.” Scott said.
With the hire of these three coaches I would agree that the interest level has increased in the conference. The Pac-12 Media Days during the summer just got a little more interesting with these new coaches.
Question: How concerned are you with the FBI investigation into college basketball especially with Arizona being at the top of those investigations?
Answer: “I am keeping my eye on the situation. The Pac-12 has given recommendations to the NCAA, so I am hoping the NCAA takes those recommendations seriously. The concern I have is with the youth companies and youth leagues. There are lessons to be learned with this investigation, so lets hope the lessons are learned.” Scott said.
Question: The last couple years the Pac-12 has played football games in Australia and basketball games in China. Will that continue for the conference?
Answer: “This is something that will be continued. It is appreciated by the member schools. It lets the schools expand their brand.” Scott said.
Here is where I got a bit personal with the Pac-12 Commissioner.”
Larry Scott is a former All-American tennis player at Harvard. As a singles player on the pro level he struggled, but doubles was more his style.
Question: Why was your record for doubles (20-39) so much better than your singles record (1-18)?
After a brief laugh.
Answer: “I didn’t have good lateral movement. My speed wasn’t the greatest either. I was a big serve and volley type of player. I also played with some very highly ranked doubles players like Jim Grapp and Grant Connel who were some of the best tennis players I ever played with.” Scott mentioned.
Question: Have you ever been mistaken about an idea for the Pac-12?
Answer: “We try to be innovative, but at the same time you have to have patience. Trying to pioneer new ideas can be difficult. When we had the football title game on campus we thought we had something special. We didn’t. Having the men’s and woman’s basketball tournament in the same spot didn’t work that well, so we decided to put them in different cities. Some things work, some things do.” Scott explained.
Larry Scott is a commissioner that people disagree with on many things. However, he has been at the helm of a conference that has reached record numbers in revenue, put the brand of the Pac-12 in greater visibility around the country and the world, and is constantly looking for a way to be more interactive in the virtual world.
You can’t say that he isn’t trying.