Commissioner calling the shots

Larry Scott has a good day to start Pac-12 Media Days Thursday.

Not a bad day for Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott Thursday. And how often have you heard that from these quarters.

And the criticism has been legitimate with the officiating over the years, the coverup of the Stanford clock operator who stole a game, the inconsistent decisions and targeting of players like Matt Barkley and T.J. McDonald for discipline.

More than that, there was always a sense that with USC on sanctions, and a desire to build up the other 11, what happened to USC wasn't much of a concern for the folks in the league offices.

Even though as was pointed out to the commissioner in an informal get-together after lunch Thursday, the only team to get it done for the Pac-10/12, the only team to earn the best-in-the-nation designation the last decade for a conference that wants itself to be thought of that way in the total sports spectrum -- including football -- has been USC.

Scott agreed. 'That's the next step, clearing that issue," he said.

The hopes were there for Oregon last fall after the Pac-12 picked off a Heisman Trophy, had a national high 16 All-Americans, won a record six bowl games and added another national high nine NCAA titles, the 14th time in the last 15 years the league has done that.

And now, the first year off sanctions, and USC is the pick of Pac-12 media voters to win it all. Not just the South. But to become the first South team to win the title since the league went to two six-team divisions.

"I'm excited about this season," Scott had said earlier. "Our coaches are the best in the country. Our schools are deepening their commitments to student-athletes and fans. And our national TV coverage is getting exposure to Pac-12 football in all pockets of the country.

"Importantly, once again, the Pac-12 will have the toughest schedule in all of college football. On top of a tough, non-conference slate that includes games against the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12 in the first month alone, we remain the only conference to play nine conference games and a championship game. I think it's safe to say our teams will earn their status on the field.

"Simply put, no one will have a tougher road to the playoffs than the Pac-12 Champion."

But the question arises then: Is that a good thing or a bad thing? How do the coaches react when he tells them that no one will have a tougher path to the playoffs?

"So far the guys are giving me the benefit of the doubt," he says of the coaches he was about to meet with. He tells them the tough schedules will get the Pac-12 champ in although a two-loss titlist would be iffy.

"I see it as an advantage . . . It was last year," he says of the league's scheduling philosophy. "They see it. I think they buy it."

A harder sell by far is the Pac-12's approach to its wholly-owned TV network. Larry still thinks that's the right way to go, that it gives the league the most flexibiity going into a future that's pretty much an unknown thing.

And Larry admits it. In the short run, he's hopeful that the AT&T acquisition of DirecTV plays out in the Pac-12's favor. The league has an in with AT&T but he knows that it won't be the highest priority in a $49 billion deal. And it won't hapen by the start of the season for the Pac-12 Network to be on DirecTV. But maybe before the year is over.

And he keeps hoping that the league will get its distribution into the same area code with the SEC, with its nearly 70 million subscribers and $10 mllion revenue per school, and the Big Ten with its more than 60 million subscribers and a $5 million distribution per school,

But at a mere 12.3 million subscribers and a revenue distribution of $1 million per school, there's a long way to go. But the commissioner notes how Disney boss Bob Iger last week talked of a direct consumer model maybe in ESPN's future. Which is the same place the Pac-12 could be with total ownership of all its distribution tiers.

But there's also this, as Scott admits the Pac-12 may be "playing catchup here . . . but once we get to full distribution . . . " There's the question. How do they do that? Or at least make a run at closing the gap at the Big Ten/Fox relationship? Or the SEC/ESPN deal?

"You could monetize the equity," Scott said of the possibility of finding a partner. "You could sell off a piece of it." You can do it if you own it. So there's that. We hadn't heard that before.

"We might decide we want more X," he says. Which is where this has to go. They have to get more than 12.3 million subscribers to be a true national player. And it's clear from what he said Thursday, Scott knows it.

Good to hear finally.

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