With the sports world on indefinite hold, cutbacks and budget adjustments are being made just about everywhere. The Pac-12 is no exception as commissioner Larry Scott will reportedly be taking a temporary pay cut.
According to veteran college football reporter Jon Wilner of The Mercury News, the cuts within the Pac-12 will not stop there. The conference will also be cutting back on pay to additional executive staff members. On top of that, Pac-12 Networks will be laying off 8% of its staff (which Wilner reports to be roughly 12 full-time employees).
The Pac-12 Network has had its share of problems as it was, but with no live sports to be airing or reacting to, the budget cuts with the conference’s network are not exactly surprising.
As for Scott, the commissioner of the conference is among the leaders in power conference commissioner salary. Scott was reportedly receiving a salary of $5.2 million when last reported last year. Only Jim Delany of the Big Ten was making more in his final year on the Big Ten books. As reported by Wilner, the salary cutback is scheduled to run through June at this point. What happens after June remains to be seen.
All things considered, the Pac-12 is in a pretty good spot as a college sports conference. But it could be better. Because the Pac-12 struggles to keep up with the likes of the Big Ten and SEC when it comes to revenue distribution, the rumblings about the future of commissioner Larry Scott continue to grow a bit louder. With Scott’s contract with the Pac-12 due to expire in two years, discussions about his future with the conference are beginning to dial in one key question; is Larry Scott the right man for the job?
According to a report from Jon Wilner of The Mercury News, Pac-12 leaders could come to a decision on Scott’s future by the end of the year. The reason for such a timeline, not surprisingly, may be inspired by the conference’s upcoming round of media rights on the horizon. The Pac-12 has media contracts that run into the spring of 2024, but media rights deals tend to be negotiated with current partners much earlier in advance.
Scott’s contract expiring two years before the next media rights package is expected to be lined up means the Pac-12 either needs to lock down Scott for commissioner beyond 2022 and let him lead the negotiations or cut Scott from the picture entirely and find a new commissioner in plenty of time before working on its next media rights deal.
“They can’t wait until 2022 to make a decision on Larry,’’ one anonymous source said to Wilner. “The future of the conference is at stake. By this summer, they have to know if he’s staying or going.”
Scott has received a fair amount of criticism since becoming the commissioner of the Pac-12. The conference has expanded to 12 members and added a conference championship game, but some felt the conference settled with Colorado and Utah after not being able to land the goldmine that could have been Texas and Oklahoma (and potentially up to four more to create the Pac-16). The Pac-12 launched the Pac-12 Network, but ongoing struggles to get more providers to sign on has suggested the Pac-12 overplayed its hand with its draw. Scot has also had to defend the Pac-12’s late-night TV schedule and instant replay integrity.
The Pac-12 renewed Scott’s contract in 2017 with one year remaining.
The Pac-12 is taking steps forward to be a more transparent conference when it comes to football officiating in 2019. As part of the promise to deliver a revamped protocol for communications related to officiating, the Pac-12 delivered an outline of just how the conference will handle postgame communications.
The Pac-12 will issue a public statement on any controversial calls regarding game-ending calls or no-calls that impact the result of the game, any call involving a significant error in officiating mechanics, any call involving an error in rules interpretation, or any other extraordinary circumstance (like, say, a marching band and fans rushing the field to celebrate while the opposing team is returning a kickoff). Not that this will make fans of any team feeling robbed of a victory feel any better, but it is good to know the Pac-12 will attempt to hold their officials accountable with instant clarification and interpretations should the Pac-12 Vice President of Officiating feels it necessary to speak publicly on the subject.
The public statements won’t be delayed too long either. The Pac-12 will share any public statements no later than the end of the day following the game, giving the conference time to carefully review the calls and situations as needed.
“We learned a lot from the independent review and I want to thank our subcommittee of athletic directors for overseeing this important work,” Scott said in a released statement. “We are committed to implementing the review recommendations to ensure that our officiating program is as strong as possible. Strengthened replay protocols and increased transparency are essential to this goal.”
The Pac-12 also released a new Centralized Replay Manual that explains the official process and procedures for official reviews. This new outline will go into effect this fall.
It’s important to note, these changes won’t necessarily mean the games are officiated any better, but the conference will at least be taking a baby step forward with trying to uphold the integrity of its officiating within the conference.
The SEC is also trying some new things to improve communication regarding officiating questions this fall. The SEC has already introduced a new Twitter account specifically for officiating clarifications and explanations.
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.