PASADENA, Calif. -- Looking as confident and sharply dressed as any power executive in the real world, Larry Scott laid out the reasons Thursday why his plan to conquer the college sports world fell short this summer.
|Larry Scott says that 'Texas politics' killed his super conference plan. (US Presswire)|
• In the end, "Texas politics" killed his plan to add Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Colorado, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State from the Big 12.
• Contrary to what was widely reported, Texas' plans to start its own network was not a deal breaker in the school's plan to jump to the Pac-10. "[Inviting Texas] wouldn't have gotten that far if it was about a few dollars here or there or a TV right here or there," Scott said.
• The Big Ten "started the discussion about super conferences," that allowed Scott to attempt such a bold move.
• Texas "leaked" expansion plan as they were going into Big 12 spring meetings in June hoping to keep the Big 12 together.
Wearing sunglasses in the bright California sun, Scott was proud that his conference, "laid out a vision for the future that we hope will materialize at some stage."
In the aftermath of his Big 12 bid, Scott added that he doesn't believe 16-team super conferences are coming anytime soon, but that his conference's alignment could have worked. Travel would have been minimized by pairing the "old Pac-8" in one division with "keeping the band together in the Big 12 South."
"We're certainly not waiting around for that," Scott said. "I'm not expecting it to happen in any kind of foreseeable future. I don't know when it might be discussed again."
With his conference due to receive a large increase in revenues next year when its television deals expire, Scott has attempted to radically change the image of the conference. Coaches, wives and conference officials piled into two G4 luxury jets for a round of media schmoozing in New York this week.
The league unveiled its new logo sporting mountains, certainly in reference to the addition of Utah and Colorado. A promotional film shown to media started with a dramatic baritone narrator intoning, "... here on the western edge of the New World."
Landing the biggest deal failed, though. Scott said he got an education about Texas politics in trying to get Texas, the main target in the expansion plan. To do it, Scott knew he had to take some expansion chattel. The commissioner intimated that the Texas' legislature's debate over which schools came to the Pac-10 together affected the expansion process.
When it was mentioned that Colorado was included in the Pac-10 expansion, Baylor officials attempted to work state house politicos in Austin for inclusion. Similar political dealings got Baylor into the Big 12 14 years ago along with Texas, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.
"Texas and Texas A&M separating with Baylor created a tsunami effect," he said, "It got way too hot for the politicians."
The deal unraveled sometimes as he was in the air making campus visits to Big 12 schools in order to issue invitations. Scrutiny was so intense that there was a website tracking the progress of Scott's plane as it landed in various Big 12 cities.
In a whirlwind two-week period that started June 1 with Big 12 spring meetings in Kansas City, news broke of Scott's raid on the Big 12, Texas demanded an oath of loyalty from Missouri and Nebraska, Colorado left for the Pac-10, Nebraska left for the Big Ten and the Big 12 came perilously close to folding.
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The website Orangebloods.com was breaking most of the news during that time largely through unnamed sources. It went from being the first to report that the six schools were strongly considering the Pac-10 to detailing the hectic hours as the Big 12 saved itself with the promise of a windfall increase in future television revenue. Scott, though, seemed to suggest that the reporting was driven by a Texas source or sources with an agenda.
"We weren't trying to publicize what we were doing," Scott said. "We were going about it for four months quietly behind the scenes. It's really Texas [that] leaked the plan as they were going into those Big 12 meetings in Kansas City, I think, hoping to keep Nebraska, hoping to keep the Big 12 together."
Asked what person or persons may have leaked the information Scott said, "I don't know ... It could only be a small [amount of people] who knew what was going on."
When asked for a reaction, Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com refuted Scott's accusation that the info was leaked by Texas.
"Larry Scott is living in a fantasy world if he thinks DeLoss Dodds or Mack Brown leaked information to me," Brown said.
In early June, Scott was busy flying East making presentations and issuing invitations to those Big 12 schools. At times, he was trying to stay one step ahead of the expansion posse as the Big 12 considered its options.
"I know what it's like to be a fugitive," he said. "It was very uncomfortable."
"We wanted to get Colorado first," Scott added. "We knew there were some political efforts in the state of Texas that might derail it. Time was of the essence. In 24 hours it went from happening to not happening. In hindsight with a few months to reflect, fundamentally it was Texas political issues that derailed it."
Scott said as he boarded his plane in California, he thought the Big 12 schools were "absolutely committed" to the Pac-10. Texas' decision to stay in a 10-team Big 12 means conference schools will reportedly be reaping $20 million per school annually. That would bring the Big 12 even, for the moment, with the Big Ten. It was also the number reported that the Pac-10 could have earned with a 16-team conference.
"They're Texas for a reason," Scott said. "They're good. Damn good." Scott also said the Big Ten breaking the seal on expansion talk made it easier for the Pac-10 to consider forming a super conference. The Big Ten announced Dec. 15 that it was exploring expansion. That made it easier, he said, for him to attempt a mega move ahead of the Big Ten. For a few days, it seemed Scott had actually leapt over the Big Ten's Jim Delany in terms of leverage.
"Candidly, we were working on 12-team models," Scott said. "It wasn't until the Big Ten and Jim [Delany] started talking about maybe more, 16, that all this chatter over the airwaves started what-if scenarios. Frankly, I think that created a lot more openness and interest among the Big 12 South. Had the Big Ten not started talking about it, I don't know if we would have gotten so much traction."
Scott added that there was no thoughtful consideration of the future of college sports if his conference had grown to 16. He was not contacted by federal or NCAA officials with concern about the impact of super conferences. Some have questioned the tax exempt status of universities if super conferences emerged. This was strictly a Pac-10 business move. "There was no national Kumbaya," Scott said.
It has been reported that Texas was dissatisfied that it may not have been able to launch its own network if it joined the Pac-10. Scott said that issue was overblown and that something could have been worked out.
"At the end of the day I don't think it wouldn't have happened over a deal point, let's put it that way," he said. "There were bigger issues."