The Pac 10 Gets Utah and Colorado Instead of a Super Conference
Looking at where we stand now with conference realignments, did anyone really lose? Some things could be better – especially for the fans, who may have gotten a playoff with the formation of a few super conferences, but is anyone worse off? The Big Ten got to 12 schools so it can have a conference championship football game and enjoy the riches of Nebraska’s fan base. The Pac 10 also got to 12 schools by adding Utah and Colorado. The Mountain West swapped Utah for Boise State – a slight upgrade in football, but downgrade otherwise, so it’s a wash. And the Big 12 loses two schools, yet finds a way to make a ton of money for the remaining ten teams. It’s not all that exciting, but, with all the conniving, negotiating and game playing, no one got screwed.Probably the main reason for that is that the commissioners running their respective conferences are all fairly new, smart, aggressive personalities that scratched and clawed their ways to a virtual standstill.
Larry Scott is one of those new commissioners. He has led the Pac 10 for less than a year since running the Women’s Tennis Association for six years. Don’t laugh. Scott, a former “professional tennis player” (he made $69,740, won one match and was never ranked in the top 200), grew revenue in the sports by 250% in that short time, making his athletes far richer in the process as well. So when the Pac 10 went looking for someone to shake things up, they turned to the Harvard educated executive, who tried to do just that. His result? For now, Colorado and Utah. But with a TV deal in the works and the idea of a super conference fresh in his mind, he may be done for now, but probably not for long.Larry Scott joined the Zone 1280 in Salt Lake City with the Gordon Monson Show to talk about Utah, the future of conference expansion,
The Pac 10 and the NCAA’s role in all of this.On what Utah brings to the Pac 10:
“What hits me today is the impact this means beyond athletics, what this means to the university, the faculty and having the governor here to talk about what it means to the state is terrific. We wouldn’t be here today if Utah wasn’t the prestigious academic and research university. When you think about the Pac 10 schools, that’s a hallmark. We’ve got some of the finest universities in the country. While the focus is often on sports and football in particular, the make up of conferences is often determined by academic affinity as well. That’s first and foremost. Athletically, the University of Utah has distinguished itself as having some of the finest programs in the country. The football success is obvious. Some of the stats rolled out today, some of our teams have learned that the hard way just how strong Utah is that’s for sure… The Pac 10 has won more NCAA titles than any other – 100 more than the Big Ten our nearest rival. That commitment to broad base sports excellence is something that’s very important to us. And lastly, geographically, it’s a great fit. With Colorado, we have a travel pair here. It moves us into the Mountain time zone with the best schools in the Rocky Mountain area.”
On if he thinks conference expansion has settled down:
“I think it has settled down for now, but I don’t think the idea of the super-conference has gone away… It was a very compelling vision. At some point in time, it will crop up again. You may see super conferences in the future. For now the dust has settled. The net result is that the Big Ten has gone to 12, the Pac 10 has gone to 12 and the Big 12 has gone to ten. If you can make sense of that, I think that’s going to be where it is for awhile.
”On how close we came to a super conference explosion in college sports:
“Things were actually moving along at a fairly orderly pace, really until the Big 12 issued an ultimatum to their schools and basically gave them a week to come back and tell them are you in or your out. That created a lot of harried discussions between the Big Ten and Missouri and Nebraska. And that’s when we moved on Colorado because, under any circumstances, whether the super conference was going to happen or not, we wanted to preserve this option which is the one we have today, which is Colorado and Utah. This was always in our focus – never wanted to lose sight of that even though we were working on parallel tracks. The other thing came very close.
”On how this plays into his new role as Pac 10 commissioner
“The reason I was hired when commissioner Hanson stepped down, they wanted someone from outside college sports. They wanted someone to take a fresh look, present a bold vision and have a growth strategy. There was a sense that, while the Pac 10 has been so excellent, being on the West Coast, we had to rest on our laurels a little bit, while other conferences and other schools were out there being very competitive and very aggressive. My mandate was to put together a growth strategy for the conference, especially in light of the upcoming media negotiations we have in 2011. We’re looking for ways to market the conference more aggressively. As part of that, I put expansion on the table. I said,’If we’re ever going to look at it, now’s the time.’ Once we lock into a TV deal, that’s likely to be for 12-15 years.
”And on the role of the NCAA in conference alignment:
“Conference alignment is really left for presidents of universities to decide. Not something the NCAA should legislate. The NCAA’s primary initiative is to run championships and set rules for an even playing field.”