Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is in an uncomfortable position as the face of the Pac-12. With his conference continuing to lag in the financial department compared to other power conferences and with continued struggles to generate the revenue hoped for with the launch of the Pac-12 Network in recent years, Scott and the Pac-12 are scrambling to find new ways to spark interest and revenue for the conference. In a conversation with members of the media during some spring meetings this week, Scott addressed the future of the conference and its current plans, and also touched on the subject of some sort of scheduling uniformity between the power conferences.
Scott voiced his support for the idea of every power conference requiring its members to play 10 games each season against other power conference competition. The idea being that requiring every member of a power conference to play 10 games against other power conference opponents would compensate for the fact that each power conference either has a different number of members or a different scheduling requirement in place.
For example, the 14-team Big Ten schedules a 9-game conference schedule and requires its members to schedule one additional non-conference game against a power conference opponent. On the other hand, the SEC and ACC each schedule 8-conference games and require a power conference opponent in non-conference play. The Pac-12 plays a nine-game schedule in conference play but does not require its members to schedule power conference opponents (although many end up doing just that anyway). Scott also made clear the Pac-12 was not about to change the way the conference handles its scheduling philosophy any time soon.
In an attempt to level the scheduling playing field by having each member of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC play 10 games overall against power conference opponents, you would be asking more from some conferences than others. And getting everybody on the same page might be a tall order that just will never be fulfilled. In requiring so many games against power conference opponents, you would be asking schools to be making some costly sacrifices by giving up s key home game, which for some schools is a massive revenue generator with the stadiums as big as they are.
Sure, it might make for great TV, and if that’s the case then the TV money may eventually win out, but it will also be cutting non-power conference schools off from some revenue opportunity as well. Fewer games to collect checks from power schools means a decrease in non-power conference revenue streams. The big conferences may not care about that impact though.
If nothing else, Scott’s on board with trying to improve the Pac-12 product, and that’s really all that he is supposed to be doing here.
Given a chance to let ESPN take care of the distribution of the Pac-12 Network alongside the ESPN family of networks that includes the SEC Network and will soon include the ACC Network, the Pac-12 opted to pass. According to a report from Sports Business Daily reporters John Ourand and Michael Smith, ESPN approached the Pac-12 about working out a deal that would extend the media rights package deal between ESPN and the Pac-12 for the better part of the next two decades, but the Pac-12 rejected the offer in hopes of securing a more rewarding media rights deal in the next round of rights negotiations.
The Pac-12 has constantly struggled with getting the Pac-12 Network in as many homes as they likely hoped when the network launched in 2012. Unlike other conference-branded networks, the Pac-12 has retained total ownership of the network, which seemed like a good idea at one point in time. But considering the massive windfall of cash that schools from the Big Ten and SEC get with their conference-branded networks as partnerships with FOX Sports (Big Ten Network) and ESPN (SEC Network) while the Pac-12 continues to have issues getting some carriers to get on board with the Pac-12 Network, perhaps total ownership and decision-making with regard to operating and distribution should be on the table for discussion for the Pac-12.
The Pac-12’s current media rights agreement with ESPN and FOX will expire in 2024, and a consultant has already been hired to help out with the negotiations to come. What exactly the media landscape will look like at that point remains difficult to predict. As more and more consumers are choosing to cut the cord, the oversaturation of streaming platforms leaves plenty of possibilities for what the future holds, including a brand new announcement from Apple today about their future Apple TV plans. The Pac-12 holding off and taking their shot in the next few years appears to be a gamble, but it may work out in their favor anyway. Even though the Pac-12 backed away from secure financial and distribution stability that would surely come with the helping hands of ESPN, the media rights numbers continue to increase every year.
The Pac-12 is still going to make out a pretty rewarding deal, but it will be compared against what the schools in other conferences receive from their various media rights deals. Some within the Pac-12 have grumbled about the payout the Pac-12 Network has yielded thus far, so this is a pretty interesting decision by the conference to not take the ESPN money now and run. This is the same conference that is hoping to get investors to shell out some cash to be a part of the conference as well.
The biggest question may be whether or not Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott will be around to see the new media rights deal be settled.
You would think the commissioner of the Pac-12 would know there is a printed copy of the conference’s instant replay procedure after being asked about it two weeks ago. It turns out, Larry Scott may have had no idea such a document existed.
On Saturday, Scott said he looked into the status of an official instant replay manual, only to say there was none in existence.
“I had a chance to look into it … there’s an NCAA rule in writing, but there is no manual,” Scott said. “I’m not aware of any manual that exists in our conference or nationally.”
Unfortunately for him, The Oregonian has obtained a copy of the document titled “The Pac-12 Conference Instant Replay Manual” and shared it for all the world to see.
As the Pac-12 continues to battle an image problem regarding the integrity of its officiating and replay system, Scott has tried to calm the nerves around the conference and suggest there is no issue with the integrity of how it manages football games form an officiating standpoint. However, a review of the conference’s unearthed instant replay manual may suggest otherwise.
Per The Oregonian;
A close examination of the 11-page publication could help explain why the conference finds itself embroiled in this instant-replay public-relations nightmare in the first place. The conference replay manual doesn’t include vital components of the instant-replay procedure, is ambiguous and leaves a wide berth for interpretation and instruction that comes from the Pac-12’s centralized command center.
This all comes after Scott and the Pac-12 attempted to explain why a targeting call in a USC-Washington State game was overturned, in which a replay official allegedly claimed to be overruled by a third party. An unwillingness for how the official ruling was made by members of the media has done nothing to suggest the Pac-12’s replay system or officiating is credible.
Now that we know there is an instant replay manual even if the commissioner didn’t, and how lacking the manual is in its details, it may be time for the Pac-12 to take a good hard look in the mirror and start clarifying some details a bit more moving forward.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott says the expansion fun could kick up some dust in the future, but he is unsure just how soon that may become a realistic possibility.
“I think it’s likely you’ll see more expansion, more consolidation over time,” Scott said Wednesday at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York, hinting at the possibility of 16 super conferences that have been dreamt up previously. Scott suggested the next round of media rights package negotiations could spearhead those discussions about expansion as conferences look to jockey for the best bargaining power with media partners. The Pac-12’s current contract is due to expire in 2024, to which Scott suggested “We’ll be in a very unique position.”
When the major shifts in conference realignment were at their hottest, the idea of a Pac-16 was a popular idea that would have added Texas and Oklahoma as well as a few other Big 12 members to the Pac-10. Reports of the Pac-16 becoming a reality were premature at the time, however, and the Pac-12 expanded by two with the additions of Utah and Colorado, which led to a rebranding as the Pac-12. The Big Ten added Nebraska at the time and later expanded to 14 with the later additions of Maryland and Rutgers. The SEC had added Missouri and Texas A&M and the Big 12 welcomed TCU and West Virginia. Moves from the power conferences left a ripple effect in the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, Big East (which led to the American Athletic Conference) and Sun Belt Conference as well as the death of the WAC as a football conference. Things were just about to return to normal until the Big 12 finally made some long-awaited moves to explore their expansion options. The Big 12 closed the door on possible expansion within its conference in recent months, leaving a number of potential Big 12 hopefuls feeling used and disrespected.
Scott also has a bright vision for the future of Pac-12 athletics, which he believes will one day have all Pac-12 sports being broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. That may be true, but the big question will continue to be just how many people will be watching, or be able to watch.
Next week a rather important vote will be held that could shape the future of the ACC and Big 12 when a vote on conference title game deregulation will be held at the annual NCAA convention.
For the ACC, deregulation would allow for the conference to change the way the ACC Championship Game is organized by allowing for the top two teams in the conference face in a head-to-head contest, stripping away the long-standing routine of sending respective division champions. For the Big 12, deregulation would open the door for a conference championship game despite having just 10 conference members. These are just the most common models expected to be explored and likely implemented by each conference if deregulation passes. Deregulation may have one big voice standing in the way; the SEC.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was asked about the upcoming deregulation vote on Sunday, and his response may not be received very well by some in the ACC and Big 12. Sankey is now on record saying he will not support deregulation the way it is currently constructed.
ACC commissioner John Swofford is beginning to show concern for the vote as well.
When the vote is held, each power five conference will have two votes, while Group of Five conferences will each get one vote. Deregulation may carry more headlines with its impact on the Big 12 and ACC, but every conference would be able to make changes to the way it crowns a conference champion as well.
The Big 12, more than any other conference, may be affected by the result of the deregulation vote more than any other conference though. If deregulation is not passed, the push to add a conference championship game in the Big 12 may become stronger, which means the conference would be in need of two more members. As such, fans of BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and whatever potential Big 12 candidate you want to stump for will want to keep a close eye on the deregulation vote. If the Big 12 can have its cake and eat it too with a conference championship game without expansion, most expansion talk should come to a close once and for all.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is also on record suggesting he wants the Big 12 to play a conference championship game, although whether he is on board with deregulation or not is unconfirmed.