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Scott, Pac-12 focus on big picture

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Pac-12
Media Days
LOS ANGELES -- While fellow conference commissioners sound the
alarm about the state of intercollegiate athletics, while fans fret over the
protracted standoff with DirecTV over the Pac-12 Network, and while reporters on
the Paramount Studios backlot scrambled to find space to work and a reliable
internet connection, Larry Scott is taking the long view.
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The Pac-12 commissioner expressed optimism about almost every daunting issue
presented to him Wednesday afternoon, the first day of the conference's
newly-expanded football showcase, whether it was the introduction of autonomy
for the so-called "Power 5" conferences, keeping the balance between sports that
generate billions of dollars of revenue and those that operate at a loss or
cutting a deal with the nation's largest satellite television provider.
"All the focus is on what is wrong or the challenges and threats, but it is easy
to lose sight of all that is going well from my vantage point with 7,000
student-athletes in this conference," Scott said. "Generally the model is
working well. I don't think you design a system around a very small minority.
"I think there is a lot more going right than is going wrong."
However, it might take a while, Scott cautioned.
Getting the Pac-12 Network on DirecTV will almost certainly depend on the
proposed merger with AT&T, as Scott said an agreement with the current
management will not be settled any time soon and certainly not by the start of
the upcoming college football season. Instead, Scott is hoping that federal
regulators will sign off on AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV to end the stalemate,
though that could take years. AT&T has a sponsorship agreement with the
conference and its member schools, and its U-verse television service already
carries the Pac-12 Network.
"I'm much more hopeful that when AT&T buys DirecTV that we'll have different
kinds of discussions and outcomes," Scott said.
That won't soothe fans being bombarded with ads for the ESPN-backed SEC Network,
while indications abound DirecTV will carry it by the time Texas A&M
and South Carolina face off to open the season on Aug. 28.
The Pac-12 could have made a similar agreement when it launched its national and
regional networks in 2012, giving a percentage of ownership to ESPN or Fox so
they could use their power to force a deal with distributors. Scott persuaded
school presidents that complete ownership would produce even greater financial
returns, though it might take more time to establish nationwide distribution.
"Short term, it would have been much more expeditious," Scott said. "My goal is
what is going to make the Pac-12 the best and strongest conference 10 years from
now and not just three years from now.
"I'm convinced people will look back and ask how the Pac-12 did that, get full
distribution and still own its own network and be master of its own destiny."
That money could be used to fund full cost of attendance, one of several
proposals that has stressed the already-significant divide between the Pac-12,
Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference and the
other conferences that make up the Division 1 of the NCAA.
Scott expects a bid to grant more legislative autonomy to the "Power 5" to be
passed next month, with those conferences likely to propose changes as early as
January. Barring an unexpected breakdown, new rules that would expand the value
of scholarships could be in place for the 2015 season. Other ideas could include
better long-term health insurance and reducing the time commitments dedicated to
athletics.
"It still has to be approved by the NCAA board, but there has been a lot of
healthy compromise among the members of the NCAA," Scott said. "I think we have
got the flexibility to make important changes to the way student-athletes are
treated on our campuses, specifically the flexibility to provide more financial
support."
Big 12 commissioner and former Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby
predicted on Monday that the model will change dramatically, including drastic
reductions in or outright elimination of Olympic sports.
Scott disagreed with such dire pronouncements.
"I'd like to think maybe we'll sit here years from now and say I was naïve, but
I like to think there won't be dramatic change to the model. It will be
incremental and positive change, like we are about to do with autonomy for the
five conferences," Scott said.
What the view looks like years from now, how much it has changed will weigh
heavily on how Scott's dramatic transformation of the conference is assessed.
But at a salary of $3 million per year, Scott can afford to wait.
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