Commissioner Larry Scott manages to pull Pac-10 together on issues of realignment and revenue sharing
It wasn't easy, but the Pac-10 came to an agreement on how to realign the conference for football and share TV money. The changes are a result of the conference expanding to include Colorado and Utah beginning July 1.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
SAN FRANCISCO — This is Larry Scott's world: A pivotal morning meeting of presidents of the new Pac-12 Conference at the elegant old Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill.
Nothing's too good now for the Pac-12, including marbled columns reaching to towering ceilings, elaborate chandeliers and ornate woodworking.
At a news conference, the new commissioner outlined the framework for the new Pac-12. He was going to get more specific on the basketball scheduling, but one of his underlings hustled him off to a plane, where he had another press gig in Eugene.
That was, of course, another opportunity to ply the wonders of the conference on ESPN, and by the way, wasn't it just perfect timing for Oregon to be the No. 1 team in the country in conjunction with all this?
No question, it's a new day in the conference, from the tour Scott led with his football coaches to the East Coast in July to media day at the Rose Bowl, to Thursday, when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger walked through the lobby of the Fairmont and he wasn't even the biggest deal here.
"If you had told me a year ago," said Scott, 15 months the commissioner, "that this conference would have expanded by two, that we'd have a championship football game, and have the level of commitment and support throughout this conference, and the level of optimism, I'd have been thrilled."
Today, there's no question Scott is a dynamic dude. Building consensus for something like revenue-sharing is no trifling achievement, and a tremendous boon for have-not programs like Washington State.
But even Scott would tell you there's something else at work in the league, something he probably couldn't have anticipated when he moved over from his CEO job with the Women's Tennis Assn.
"It's just a totally different culture and it's a very positive one out here in the West," said Scott Woodward, the Washington athletic director who once worked at Louisiana State. "People are very considerate, very positive, very goal-and-subject-oriented.
"In the South, it can become a tad ad hominem at times and I loathe that."
In other words, it can get personal. Remember the jabs and uppercuts they were trading in the Big 12 last spring?
"Even when we talked about expanding in the first place," said Elson Floyd, the WSU president whose last post was at Missouri, "we talked about whether they were academically good fits. I think that sets a fundamentally different tone from the Big 12 or SEC or any other conference. The Pac-10 is probably the most collegial conference."
Ah, you say, Pat Haden didn't sound very collegial when last week, the USC athletic director poor-mouthed a 7-5 vote by his colleagues on the divisional split that just became reality. That one had to gall Scott, who took pains Thursday to insist that everything the CEOs did was unanimous.
"I doubt you could get unanimous support on much of anything from the ADs," scoffed Michael Crow, president of Arizona State.
"They're not the decision-makers," Scott said. "I'm not going to comment on what their discussions were, or any straw votes that may have been taken, because they (the votes) don't matter at the end of the day."
Make no mistake, there could be some bones to pick down the road. It's not difficult to project Northwest schools feeling disenfranchised from Los Angeles. Indeed, Crow seemed to imply not everybody came out equal in this when he said, "From ASU's perspective, it's a very good outcome."
Meanwhile, the L.A. schools probably aren't as sunny about TV revenue-sharing as Crow and Scott made them sound. Max Likias, the USC president, declined my invitation to weigh in before Scott's news conference.
"I wouldn't describe any of the conversations as a fight," said Scott. "There was a very robust, spirited dialogue. These are very important matters. I'm just pleased with the way everyone came together."
The conference's great beauty is also its challenge. Its diversity brings many different agendas, and the league just added two more.
It's only going to get more difficult at the meeting table. So far, at least, there's been a minimum of invective spilled and shoes thrown.
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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