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Pac-12 meetings leave issues unanswered

THE PAC-12 MEETINGS in Phoenix have wrapped, and the universal theme conveyed by commissioner Larry Scott and the athletic directors was that everything is headed in a positive direction. Another way to look at it is the participants talked at length about the league's revenue, with no new major developments.

Scott called the meetings "probably as positive as any since I've been here."

Okay. But among the issues still confronting the Pac-12: still no contract with DirecTV, lots of night games that fans object to and the Pac-12 Network payouts lagging behind projection.   

A deal with DirecTV would garner each school about $2-3 million and increase viewership by around 20 million, according to most forecasts.  Scott’s latest negotiations in September with DirecTV, which he reportedly took to the university presidents who in turn unanimously rejected it, fell apart after demands from new DirecTV owner AT&T.  That proposal would have required the Pac-12 to accept a significantly lower subscriber rate, which they would surely in turn have had offer to their current broadcast partners.

Scott said he is “still knocking” and hoping to restart talks with DirecTV, noting that the Pac-12 is short of its plans to have full distribution by now.

The Pac-12 Networks are in about 12 million households, compared with more than 60 million for the Big Ten and SEC networks. The Pac-12 is the only conference to fully own and operate its network without a broadcast partner -- it receives 100 percent of the profit, but it also covers all the costs.

"We like our model," Scott said. "Up to this point, there has been no more attractive option."

The increased number of night games were part of the league's $3 billion, 12-year deal with ESPN and Fox that began in 2011.  To get that $3 billion, the networks wanted a larger night game inventory.  A substantial decrease in the number of evening tilts would involve the Pac-12 giving back some money, which isn't going to happen.

But Scott said there would be a small reduction in night games this season in exchange for unnamed trade-offs with the media partners, the Arizona Daily Star reported. "I think we will see an incremental reduction," he said.

Scott said the TV deals netted a payout of between $23-25 million per school, accounting for roughly 25-33 percent of a school's athletic revenue.

There were four main rules changes announced, including that instant replay can now be employed for targeting calls missed - in all likelihood a helmet-first hit on Luke Falk at UCLA that went unpenalized was a prime example.  The other three: enforcement of blocking below the waist, giving coaches a 90-second timeout once a half and clamping down on what the league considers excessive eye black and banning writing on wrist bands, towels, tape, etc.

Scott and UCLA AD Dan Guerrero also reportedly talked through the brouhaha after Guerrero voted against the conference's wishes on a satellite camp ban and Scott subsequently calling him out publicly. 

“Everyone left today confident that we’re working toward the same goals,” Scott said. “We’re proud of the gains we made. It was a very positive discussion.”

RELATED STORY: Pac-12 goes the "no fun" route


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