Larry Scott: Either Lead or Get Out of the Way

Jon Joseph Editorials

Mr. Lawrence Scott

Commissioner, Pacific 12 Conference
360 3rd Street, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94107

Dear Mr. Commissioner,

As a graduate of John Harvard’s University, I am reasonably certain that somewhere along your educational path you studied the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The law that tells you ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ has to be one of the most stupid mantras of all time. Why? Because as the law that instructs every system – and individual, for that matter – is beset by entropy. No matter how sublime on the surface, every system is in the process of breaking down.

(The Bridget Bardot I slobbered over in the 1960’s, like this old scribe, has definitely suffered from the effects of gravity.) And The Conference of Champions is most certainly not immune.

I do give you credit where it is due, sir. You negotiated lucrative broadcast agreements, created the Pac-12 Network (PACN) and expanded the conference from 10 to 12 member institutions. The resultant additional income has led to sports facility improvements across the board and, in general, the hiring of better coaches in the ‘money ball’ sports of football and basketball. So it’s all good on the Left Coast right? Well, in a word, NO!

The "Commish."

The “Commish.”

The Pac-12 continues to fall behind the B1G and SEC in revenue and distribution to member schools. The PACN is a pale reflection of those robust conference networks. One would think that you would have locked up all meaningful cable and satellite providers before a network launch but such was not the case. One would think that, like the B1G Network with Fox and the SEC Network with ESPN, you would have joint-ventured with a network partner rather than going it alone.

‘The Pac-12 at Nite’ is a catchy slogan but with games kicking off at 7:30 p.m., the people who should count the most – the fans – are being screwed out of tailgating and have to watch games in the cold of the night instead of during a crisp afternoon in the fall. Have you sold the conference’s ‘soul’ for a few extra dollars?

It wasn’t your fault that the then-Texas AD, DeLoss Dodds, pulled the rug out from under you on the doorstep of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech joining the Pac-10 to form the Pac-14. After all, Dodds, in his hubris, managed to run off Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M. But did you have to then knee jerk to save face and add Colorado and Utah?

No offense to the good people of Boulder and Salt Lake City, but what has either school added to the bottom line or to the prestige of what was the Pac-10? Instead of playing a football round robin, we now have divisions and a championship game played on a skating rink of a field in front of many empty seats. I, for one, am disappointed that the Ducks do not play both UCLA and USC every season.

The Pac-12 has not won an NCAA basketball championship since 1997. USC won the last Pac-10 football championship in 2004, a victory over Oklahoma that was later vacated. ACC, B1G, Big 12 and SEC teams have won championships in both major sports since the Pac-12 scored a trophy. You helped design the current football playoff system that, in 2015, kicked Stanford to the curb. If the Cardinal had blown out UNLV at home in Game 1 instead of tripping to play and lose to the AP‘s ultimately ranked No. 23 Northwestern on the road, it likely makes football’s Final Four.

"Happier Times."

“Happier Times.”

Is this the scheduling message the playoff committee is trying to send – that strength of schedule is basically meaningless? Here is where Stanford, as the highest ranked of all Pac-12 football teams, shows up in the ‘big boys’ preseason top 25: ESPN 8; Sports Illustrated 11; Fox 12; CBS 14.

Oregon sweeping the men’s and women’s titles in the recently held NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships is nice, but even in an Olympic year these worthy accomplishments receive very little national media attention. And it is great to win baseball, golf, tennis and water polo titles. But, in the long run, if you are not relevant in basketball and football, the rest of the world couldn’t care less.

And it certainly does not help when six of seven Pac-12 basketball tournament teams go down before the Sweet 16. There have been two football championships played with a 4-team field. The two west coast conferences have been left out. Like the Pac-12, the Big 12 is falling behind the other three Power 5 conferences in income, recruiting and basic respect.

With all due respect, Mr. Commissioner, instead of focusing on Australia and China, in my humble opinion you need to beam down to planet Earth and take the following suggested steps sooner rather than later:

  1. Form the College Athletic Association (CAA.) The CAA would consist of the Pac-12 Conference and the Big 12 Conference.

The Pac-12 would consist of the existing North and South divisions.

The Big 12 Conference would consist of:

West Division – Kansas, Kansas St., Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas and Texas Tech

East Division – Baylor, Iowa St., Memphis, TCU, UCF and West Virginia

Larry ... start looking at new strategies for our conference!

Larry … start looking at new strategies for our conference!

COMMENT: This quasi-merger under the CAA umbrella eliminates Pac-12 academic concerns. The Big 12 would add the two most financially viable teams, but Memphis and UCF throw the gauntlet down in SEC + ACC country and opens up fertile recruiting grounds. With the additional Big 12 eyeballs, the CAAN would be carried by all of the big cable and satellite companies.

  1. Merge the PACN and the Longhorn Network (LHN)

COMMENT: The merged network to be branded as the CAA Network (CAAN) that will cover both conferences. Texas to continue receiving $15 million per annum from ESPN until the conclusion of the existing agreement. ESPN will hold an ownership position in the CAAN.

  1. Locate CAA, CAAN and relocate Pac-12 and Big 12 headquarters, into a more cost-friendly location. Operating out of San Francisco is absurd and unfair to the member schools.

COMMENT: Mr. Commissioner, if you do not want to move, I expect many a qualified candidate to show up to earn $3 million a year. Bob Bowlsby would be a perfectly fine replacement.

  1. Upgrade the in-studio and broadcast talent. Bring back Rick Neuheisel. Name Tim Brando lead announcer for CAA games. Tim to host a 2- to 3-hours a day call in talk show. Far more coverage for football including ‘B1G and Beyond’-like programming.

COMMENT: The one hour a week football show on PACN is a joke. With the exception of Bill Walton, PACN on air talent has zero ‘Q factor.’

  1. Play a preseason scrimmage against an FCS school. A Conference vs Conference Challenge. One other out-of-conference game vs a Power 5 or Group of 5 team. Nine conference games. A Pac-12 and a Big 12 Conference Championship game followed by a CAA Championship Game.

COMMENT: It would be very difficult to leave the CAA champ out of the mix in football. From a basketball standpoint adding current Big 12 teams would help the cause.

Thank you for your consideration of the above, Mr. Commissioner.

Your Obedient Servant,

Jon Arlington Joseph  

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