We should all want to have the Pac-12 presidents as bosses. I’ve had some pretty great bosses in my life, and a few that really let me do my own thing, but I’ve never had a boss that gave me so much latitude to be so bad. And guys, let me tell you, Larry Scott has been terribly bad this pandemic.
This is Exhibit A out of Exhibit Whatever. Much like the tropical storms this year, I ran out of names for the examples and need to resort to the Greek Alphabet. Time and again during the COVID-19, Larry Scott has shown an absence of leadership, and worse than that, he has shown a disdain for direction. Giving out performance bonuses (what performance metric deserved a bonus?) and then firing half the staff, DURING A PANDEMIC, is villainous. Larry Scott making millions of dollars in salary and firing staff members is a little rough. And this is just stupid:
From 2018 990 tax returns— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) August 27, 2020
Big 12 $173,711
Look, these problems are well-documented. The Pac-12 as a conference has problems to clean up. The bone I have to pick is not with Larry Scott. He is a business executive, of course he is going to take the compensation and the perks that he can. The issue I have is with the Pac-12 Presidents that sign his checks.
This man is begging to be fired, and it hasn’t happened in 10 years. Because of the undying patience that has helped schools like Stanford, USC, and UCLA take academic leaps and bounds. Pac-12 stakeholders, like Phil DiStefano at the University of Colorado, have given too much latitude in a time where the conference is lagging in prestige and performance. Larry Scott deserves some credit. He pulled off a great move in 2011, pulling Utah and Colorado into a conference that needed to expand. He almost pulled off adding Texas, too. But that was 10 years ago.
After looking like a visionary of the media market and retaining 100% ownership of the Pac-12 Network (a move I still like), Scott has increased an already massive overhead and consistently taken the most selfish path. Every chance he had during COVID-19 to improve optics, he declined. Forget the bonus and the firings. The Pac-12 should have been the LEADER in COVID-19 testing protocols and keeping athletes safe. It is the most academically prestigious and research-prodigious sports league. Instead, they let their big friend, the Big Ten, call the tough shots. Then, they followed suit. I don’t know about you, but that is not worth a multi-million dollar salary to me.
Look, all is not lost. It looks like the seemingly endless patience of the Pac-12 schools has worn thin. A new report by Jon Wilner (the only reporter worth following in regards to conference news) has shown that some good steps are being taken. They are considering outside help to revitalize the Pac-12 Network, and that outside help is well respected. Scott is too expensive to let go now, but you can bet that his days are numbered. The Pac-12 also has a looming grant of rights negotiation, which could vault the conference back into the top tier of money-earners.
But past that, I have a vision of what this conference should be. The Pac-12 schools are surrounded by the next generation of media. Why is that not being leveraged? YouTube TV, Apple TV, Sling (which is partnered with the Pac-12), all of these options are used by a younger audience at SCALE. They also are a skip and a jump from the California schools and feature many alumni. Use them. Become part of their sport offering, a la carte. 5 dollars to watch one football game, 3 dollars to watch one basketball game, Olympic sports are free, subscription to full package is $10 a month. Look, I’m not a business guy, but that’d be an attractive sports package to me.
Move the headquarters to Las Vegas. I do not need to justify this one.
Position the conference to be ambitious. Take gambles that might not work, but don’t just sit on one that definitely didn’t. And for the love of God, get out of your own way. The Pac-12 uniquely owns every experience of the college sports experience. Extra ownership should lead to extra accountability. More skin in the game. Why is it the opposite right now?