Two words have kicked off the Larry Scott era as Pac-10 commissioner.
More than three months before he officially takes office, Scott has raised eyebrows and maybe some blood pressure with a three-syllable sentence fragment.
|Larry Scott arrives at the Pac-10 with strong marketing credentials. (Getty Images)|
Scott even hinting that the wall might come down is akin to Castro switching to democracy. That a tennis guy like Scott could be the agent of change in college football's postseason has the attention of the sports power brokers.
Any change is still a long way off. Scott admittedly doesn't know all the issues, or all the people, in his new job. The Women's Tennis Association CEO won't take office in Walnut Creek, Calif., until July 1. He hopes to attend the BCS meetings in Pasadena next month to at least shake some hands.
For now, it's news -- big news -- that Scott isn't saying he is in lockstep with the rest of his BCS brethren.
"I haven't had a chance to study any of the details," Scott said as a disclaimer, "so my comments shouldn't be interpreted as having a position one way or another. But the reason I was [hired] as opposed to an insider was to bring a fresh perspective."
Fresh perspective. Two more words. If the Pac-10 wanted an out-of-the-box candidate, it hit it out of the park. Scott has no Pac-10 ties. None. He's a Harvard man, majored in European history, speaks French and was once the 210th-ranked professional tennis player in the world.
It's his marketing ability and youth (44 years old) that make him so fresh. Scott made the WTA matter. Under his leadership, sponsorship bucks increased five-fold. The women earned prize money equal to that of the men. There was more than $700 million in new stadium investments.
Football fans, though, should be interested in this: As the No. 2 man at the Association of Tennis Professionals (men's tour), Scott once helped sign a lucrative deal with ISL, a Swiss marketing company. Ironically, 10 years ago ISL offered college football power brokers an eight-year, $2.4 billion deal to stage a playoff. Scott was not involved in the football deal that was quickly rejected. ISL eventually went out of business.
In terms of modern college athletics marketing, the Pac-10 has been stuck in the Paleozoic Era. The league was the last of the power conferences to stage a postseason basketball tournament.
It doesn't make sense that a conference that resides in major markets like L.A, San Francisco, Phoenix and Seattle lags behind the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 in revenue. The Fox Sports Net contract has meant the league was often putting its hottest commodities (basketball and football) on at bedtime for two-thirds of the country.
Is the Pac-10 underexposed?
"That is the perception," Scott said.
Another two words: Turning point.
That's how league presidents see this moment in time and space, Scott said. Whether the BCS changes or not, the Pac-10 needs to get more of a foot in the door revenue-wise. It certainly needs to improve its secondary bowl tie-ups.
Expansion is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed, whether it is adopted or not. The league could be leaving money on the table if it didn't expand by two schools and stage a conference championship game in football. The schools most often mentioned are some combination of Colorado, BYU and Utah.
"There is a strategic plan being put together for the future of the Pac-10," Scott said. "Whether [expansion] will make the list of things I think should get serious consideration remains to be seen."
The two words you don't hear these days out of the Pac-10 are "status quo." You get the feeling that everything is on the table. The Jimmy Kimmel Show presents the Rose Bowl? Pac-10-flavored Gatorade?
We're not ready for that yet (besides, what does a conference taste like?), but the Pac-10 is about to jump on the commercial bandwagon. No one argues that a playoff, even a modest plus-one, would make more money for all concerned. But something as modest as an extra game has been a non-starter with the Rose Bowl, Big Ten and Pac-10.
That's 21 teams and the game's oldest bowl out of the loop. What the BCS has succeeded in doing is making the Rose Bowl a letdown at times. If the Pac-10 or Big Ten champion is participating in the BCS title game, the game suffers -- at least in terms of hype. When the traditional game is staged, it sometimes suffers the same way as the other non-championship BCS bowls. It isn't the game.
The Rose itself came into the BCS kicking and screaming. When the bowl hosted its first BCS championship game in 2002, you heard murmurs from the Miami and Nebraska camps how they were made to feel a little like outsiders.
On the other hand, 10 years ago who could have thought we'd even see the likes of Miami, Nebraska, Oklahoma or Texas in Pasadena? The best Rose Bowl -- maybe the best game ever -- was Texas' victory over USC in the 2006 Rose.
Scott might succeed in turning kicking and screaming into acceptance.
Of what, though?
An eight-team playoff? A plus-one? Games televised during sunlight hours in the Eastern Time Zone? That funky-tasting Gatorade?
One (Delany) was named as the most powerful man in college sports by this website a few years ago. The other (Scott) is that tennis guy who doesn't know the issues quite yet but is armed with an agenda.
The two commissioners are related in that they are philosophical partners together in that axis.
Two more words: For now.