If you thought the departing Pac-12 commissioner’s reputation couldn’t sink any lower, you haven’t been paying attention for the past four or five years.
If you thought Larry Scott couldn’t outdo himself in a one-man race to the bottom, you don’t appreciate his utter lack of self-awareness.
We’ll say this about Scott: He’s staying true to form until the very end.
Then again, that form is a big reason the end is coming on June 30.
In an interview published earlier this week by the Associated Press, Scott showed exactly why he is despised by so many Pac-12 fans and disliked on so many campus officials.
He showed exactly why he has generated so much negative publicity over the course of 12 years and why he has succeeded in so thoroughly damaging the Pac-12’s brand.
He showed exactly why the university presidents, in their search for Scott’s successor, indicated they wanted a “servant leader” who is “strong yet humble.”
Scott wouldn’t know humble if it offered him $5 million a year to wreck its reputation.
In his world, the servants are the campuses, not the conference office.
Here’s what Scott did in the AP interview: He blamed the schools for the Pac-12’s primary ills.
Yep, he put it all on the schools for not listening to his brilliance, for not blindly following his lead, for failing to execute on his master plan.
Scott declined to accept responsibility for the lagging football performance or for the wayward strategy that has left the Pac-12 far behind its peers in annual media revenue.
Asked about “failures” or “goals left unaccomplished,” Scott said this:
“I didn’t anticipate the amount of change amongst our leadership, presidents, chancellors and athletics directors that were really aligned about a long-term vision. And as we had change in leadership on our campuses, the focus became much more on short-term pressures. And in hindsight, if we had done shorter TV deals, even if it meant leaving some money on the table, I think our members would have appreciated being able to redo our TV contracts a little bit sooner.”
Also, he said this:
“If I could hit the rewind, it would have been shorter TV deals if I had a crystal ball and knew the short-term pressures and the reactions people would have to the SEC and Big Ten redoing their deals a few years before us.”
In other words:
My media strategy was bold and brilliant, but the presidents and athletic directors don’t have the patience to wait 12 years for the validation that I am certain will come.
Don’t blame me if they’re frustrated that each Big Ten and SEC school is collecting $10 million to $20 million more in media revenue than any given Pac-12 school, year after year after year.
It’s not my fault that the presidents and athletic directors believed my projections that the Pac-12 Networks would sign up with DirecTV and generate $5 million annually for each campus — instead of the $2 million they have been averaging.
If they would just listen to me, they wouldn’t fret over the impact the massive revenue disparity has on their ability to hire and fire coaches, to built support staffs necessary to serve the athletes, to expand recruiting budgets, to schedule for success and to help pay for the facility upgrades required to attract the talent necessary to win at the highest level.
Even if Scott is correct — and he’s not — you just don’t say that.
You admit the media strategy wasn’t perfect and you always want to provide more resources for the schools and you wish them luck in the future and you’re thankful for the experience.
You depart graciously.
Unless, of course, you don’t care.
And why should Scott care? He’s heading out the door having earned about $45 million in salary during his tenure at the Pac-12.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 Networks … his baby … have paid each school just $20 million over that time.
There are other instances in the AP interview in which Scott deflects blame or spouts his talking points, but we’ll address only one.
He was asked the following: “What do you think the Pac-12 could have done under you leadership to help better position the conference’s football programs to be more successful?”
Here’s the response:
“I’m sure looking back we could probably identify some small things we would have done differently, but all the strategies around football and other sports were in alignment with all of our schools and our football coaches. USC, Oregon, Stanford, Washington not getting to the playoffs more often or winning has very little to do with the conference office. Between compliance issues, coaching changes and other things, some of our traditional powerhouses have struggled the last few years, and that’s hurt the league overall.”
Scott is half-right. The conference office doesn’t recruit or call plays. Scott isn’t responsible for Oregon blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Auburn or for USC getting wiped out by Alabama. He doesn’t hire the coaches and assistants or formulate the game plans.
To some degree, Scott has taken too much blame for football, but only because he has been so public in his role, and so eager to take credit, that criticism is hurled his way willy-nilly.
But for Scott to suggest that HQ “has very little to do with” performance — that the overwhelming fault lies with the Trojans, Ducks, Cardinal and Huskies — is a misguided view of Pac-12 football writ large.
The conference office was responsible for a schedule that placed teams at competitive disadvantages, for the Friday night road games that, in 2017, derailed not one, not two, but three potential playoff contenders (USC, Washington and Washington State).
Scott himself was responsible for the process that led to the instant-replay officiating scandal that turned the conference into a mockery of a laughingstock of a dumpster fire.
Scott was responsible for a media strategy that left so many games on a network that so many fans, and recruits, are unable to watch.
He was responsible for a contract that resulted in four weeks worth of kickoff times being announced just six days in advance, making it difficult for fans and undercutting attendance and atmosphere.
He was responsible for a big game getting preempted by truck races, for staying in a Las Vegas penthouse, for paying executive bonuses during a pandemic, for an equipment truck sitting idle on the side of the road.
He was responsible for the fractured relationship between the conference office and the campuses, for the lack of trust and unified vision for success.
Scott has done plenty to damage the conference’s brand. And a damaged brand undercuts fan interest, frays campus alignment, undermines conference culture, hurts recruiting, derails football success — it impacts everything.
Major college football is an incredibly complex operation, akin to a living organism: To thrive, all the organs must function properly.
The conference office is vital to the collective performance. It’s the nerve center. It’s the brain.
And yet, for the past five or six years, the Pac-12’s brain has performed so poorly, a transplant is scheduled for June 30.
Beyond the fact that Scott is dead wrong to put the entire weight of the lagging football performance on the schools, you just don’t say that.
Unless, of course, you don’t care.
And why should Scott care? In his reality, the wallet is thick, the strategy is brilliant and everything’s just dandy.