Hats off to Larry
It may sound cruel
The folks who hired him
Were a PAC of tools
He told you lies
He made fans cry, cry, cry
And you keep throwing money
At this fool, fool, fool
Hats off to Larry
He took a tennis ball
All the way from Florida
To a San Fran Taj Mahal
His network has died
Fans wonder why, why, why
You cannot tell Larry
Goodbye, bye, bye,
Goodbye![To the tune of Del Shannon’s “Hats Off to Larry“]
B1G Commissioner Jim Delaney had an idea that he took to his bosses, the Prez of the B1G member institutions.
“Let us form a network, a network dedicated solely to B1G sports, where we will be free of ESPN’s love of the SEC and make bank!”
“OK, Jimmy, go for it,” they said, ” but you will have to find a media partner who will put up 100% of the capital and fade 100% of the operating costs. Should you accept this mission, best of luck, Jim.”
The guys and gals in Bristol, CT laughed out loud at the idea of dedicated conference network, as did any and all media experts who piled on Jim.
But FOX, having scored with a new and kind of off-the-wall news channel, in what had to be a surprise even to Jim, said, ‘We’re In!”
Tens of millions of subscribers later, Jim’s network paved the way for ESPN’s ACC, LHN and SEC networks. (Two out of three ain’t bad, right Meatloaf?)
“Great Scott” and the Pac-12 Network
In 2012, not wanting to be left behind and seeing a chance to score (for himself, that is), the great Larry Scott thought, “I have never been a network executive. I have never bank rolled or managed a network. But after all, these bozos hired me to steer their ship. Why not sail into richer harbors for moi?”
“I’ll throw ridiculous numbers at these head-in-the-clouds academicians, like a Nolan Ryan fastball back in the day. After all, these bozos continue to believe that I wasn’t played by Texas and DeLoss Dodds and brought manna to the conference in the form of Colorado and Utah, right? These folks just love them some Larry! And why not? I went to Harvard where I captained the tennis team. These Ivy League wannabes go gaga for anything Harvard.”
“Mountain View, on the other side of the ridge, may have been OK for a guy like Tom Hansen, but I’m going downtown, Baby!”
No media partner? No carriage agreements with many of the major cable outlets? An alumni base nowhere close to that of Delaney? Fan interest nowhere close to that of the college football (CFB) idiot savants down south?
“Go for it, Larry!,” spoke his bosses. “Form the Pac-12 Network (hereafter, PN). In Larry, we trust! And thanks for finding us a bushel of money!”
Falling Short of the Mark
In 2012, the PN earned 30 cents a subscriber; the B1G, 37 cents. In 2017, the PN earned 11 cents a subscriber; the B1G 48 cents. But Hats off to Larry! In 2019, despite his network income projections being millions and millions of dollars short of projected income, Larry managed to leverage the Commish and Network CEO jobs into $5.8M per year. That’s more than SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey (you may have heard of this conference) and his entire staff earned in the same year. How many people can completely muff the mallard and get a pay raise? Brilliant!
In 2019, CFB media cartel, ESPN, offered to buy the Pac-12’s media rights and the woe-be-gone PN. (In fairness, the amount offered was not disclosed. So much for the Freedom of Information Act and public institutions, right?) The offer, that would have had the PN up on DirecTV and every other major cable network, was rejected. It was rejected in favor of a $500-to-$750M sale of partial Pac-12 media rights. A deal now off the table for lack of interest, although the investment banker shopping the deal did get paid. Wouldn’t want to ruin Larry’s rep, would we?
Larry made the decision to stiff-arm the guys and gals in Bristol knowing that the CBS broadcast deal with the SEC was coming to a close, with ESPN likely to pay big to step into Gary Danielson‘s shoes. Such is the case. ESPN is acquiring the SEC tier 1 broadcast rights from CBS. CBS paid $55M a year for these rights. ESPN will be shelling out $300M more per year than CBS did. ESPN already is the owner of the Big 12’s tier 1 rights and, as noted above, owns the ACC, LHN and SEC Networks. With folks cutting the cord, how much will be left over for the Pac-12 when the media rights deal comes up for bid in 2022? And, as also noted above, FOX owns the B1G Network. NBC owns the Notre Dame football broadcast rights and has no appetite to expand. CBS has already ducked. And seeing as how Disney owns both ABC and ESPN, you can bet that in prime time, ABC will be showing SEC games.
Had the ESPN media rights deal been done, Larry would have been out of his PN CEO job. This would have cost Larry millions in pay. No doubt Larry gave the offer a fair, unbiased look, right?
Does Anyone Want the “Conference of Champions”?
The current media situation leaves The Conference of Champions left to collect the crumbs from the table. And a deal with Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix is mere whimsy. But who knows? Perhaps Putin and his merry gang of hackers want in. Larry has painted the conference into a media rights corner.
In late 2019, AT&T announced that it was pulling U-Verse from the Pac-12 Network. Say goodbye to approximately half a million subscribers. And seeing as how AT&T also owns DirecTV, do not expect a deal with DirecTV anytime soon.
The PN recently announced its spring broadcast schedule. This spring, the only traditionally produced, fully staffed, on-site program on the schedule is the Ducks’ Spring Game. The rest of the spring games, if covered at all, will be off a monitor in downtown San Francisco. Compare this coverage with the ACC, B1G and SEC networks. Also, in-season, the PN has only one, half-hour weekly CFB program, starring two guys only their mothers can recognize. OK, maybe also the wives. The ACC, B1G and SEC networks? A daily show with Paul Finebaum, on air four hours a day.
Consider the above and add kickoffs after dark. East of the Rockies, if the games are watched at all, they are viewed by folks waiting for last call, insomniacs and folks with “Honey, it’s your turn to feed the baby” duties.
OK, now ponder the effect all this has on recruiting, on top of the conference being left out of the Playoff four out of six seasons. Let’s give a big “Shout Out!” to Mario Cristobal for the way he has been able to recruit in the midst of Larry’s self-inflicted wounds.
But, Hats Off to Larry! How many of us would not take the opportunity to make bank off of bosses stupid enough to hire us in the first place? Especially if the bozos, not wanting to lose face, refused to admit to the mistake and cut us off at the knees?
A decade and a half without a CFB championship. Over two decades without a basketball championship. But, rest assured, Larry will be touting those beach volleyball titles!
Sigh, and sayonara conference?
Georgetown, TexasTop Photo From Twitter
Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in digital marketing in Chicago, Illinois.
Jon Joseph grew up in Boston, Massachusetts but has been blessed to have lived long enough in the west to have exorcised all east coast bias. He played football in college and has passionately followed the game for seven decades. A retired corporate attorney Jon has lectured across the country and published numerous articles on banking and gaming law. Now a resident of Aiken South Carolina, Jon follows college football across the nation with a focus on the Conference of Champions and the Ducks.
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