Thursday, October 13, 2016
Larry Scott Is Ruining the PAC-12, and Here's How
When Larry Scott took over as the commissioner of the PAC-12 Conference, nobody championed his arrival as much as I did. We are at a point in time, however, where that is no longer so. The conference has seen some gains under his leadership, that is for certain. What has transpired since the original gains, however, has shown a slow decline in the conference standing nationally, and the issues are fixable. Can he be the guy to fix the issues? First, let's examine the issues.
The first issue is that Larry Scott and the school administrators that he deals with were all too keen to go all in on the Power Five expansion craze, and the TV deals that came along with that event. What they signed on for, however, has turned into a debacle. The PAC-12 Network, while bringing in more money in the beginning, is now largely failing. There was no greater sign of that than when Larry Scott was forced to hire Alden Mitchell Budill, while forcing out Art Marquez as head of distribution.
The reality is that Marquez's tenure was largely a flop for the network. Distribution was severely limited to a varied few cable carriers, and he was only ever able to come to a deal with Dish Network for satellite subscribers, leaving a huge share of TVs dark to network exposure. Budill has come in, and in very short order has resolved several of those issues, including a forward thinking deal with Sling TV, an online streaming service. Still. however, is the issue with DirecTV, which still has not come to a deal despite their sale to AT&T. AT&T cable subscribers have been able to view the network for some time, but that has not transferred over to DirecTV at this time, despite the fact that DirecTV has had viewing deals with the Big 10 Network, SEC Network, and Longhorn Network, and even has baseline deals with the network that has carried Conference USA for years.
In short, with so many TVs dark to the network for years now, the PAC-12 is far behind the eight ball when it comes to how far the other networks have become in popularity. The network's decision to regionalize their packages add for more confusion as well for displaced fans of certain schools living in areas outside of their team's footprint.
Another issue, and this is huge, is that last weekend, for example, four out of five conference games started at 6PM or later on the Pacific Coast, meaning that they kicked off at 9 or later on the east coast. David Shaw has been yelling about this issue for some time, and it is killing the league on a national scale.
As I wrote in my article about Jim Mora last night, I grew up in and lived in the LA area for 28 years. I lived in New England for ten years. There is a considerable alumni group in and around Boston, and the huge complaint was that when the Bruins, for example, kicked off at 7:30PM, it was a 10:30PM kickoff on the east coast. Stanford played Boston College one season in Palo Alto, and you guessed it, it was a 10:30 EST kickoff, which totally and completely eliminates a huge share of audience.
What's worse is that most of the people who vote for awards and who are on the playoff committee also reside on, you guessed it, the east coast. Voters are not going to be watching football games that will not end until 2AM, which happens with regularity. If voters, award voters, pollsters, and playoff committee members are not watching these games, the PAC-12 product in both football and basketball is largely diminished, and also kills out of region recruiting, as recruits will not be staying around their TV sets that time of night to watch a game.
Larry Scott and the conference presidents are seemingly ok with this problem, as despite the outcry of fans and coaches, they continue to schedule late kickoffs with regularity, and the problem is getting worse. USC/Colorado last weekend was the only game played that was not under the lights. That is a disgrace. Basically speaking, 80% of the games played last weekend were likely not seen by a majority of the nation due to late kickoff times. That is not succeeding.
The PAC-12 is also largely screwed when it comes to New Year's Bowl participation. If the PAC-12 does not get a representative into the final four, you can believe that the conference will not play in any other NY bowl other than the Rose Bowl. The SEC, Big 10, ACC, and Big 12 have and still hold all of the bowl slots other than the Rose Bowl, with the second place team slotted for either the Holiday or the Alamo Bowls, which are not high profile games anywhere east of the Rockies when it comes to conference exposure. Again, the Holiday Bowl is a late night kickoff on the East Coast, and is in San Diego, meaning nobody in the east will be up watching. The Alamo bowl is largely considered a lower tier bowl by most, despite the PAC-12/Big 12 match up. By the way, the PAC-12 and Big 12 are the two lowest power conferences in our power rankings. That bodes well, does it not?
With a still lagging network with bad ratings continues to flounder, and with games kicking or tipping off later and later, and with beyond poor bowl agreements, Larry Scott's luster has faded, the league is sinking in terms of prestige, and is showing an all around decline. This has caused the national pundits to discredit the conference, and that cannot be accepted. These agreements are great if you are the Mountain West or Conference USA. Not in the PAC-12.
In short, I no longer believe that Larry Scott is the right guy to lead this conference. He seems not to understand the basic tenets in getting the most TV sets on his product, which is a direct result of bad ESPN and FS1 deals that force the conference football and basketball games to play at a time when exposure is at a minimum, not at a maximum, which should be leadership and business 101. This is not the women's tennis circuit, where Larry Scott came from, where getting on TV was the first problem, and everything else would fall in after that. The product is strong, but as a tree falling in the forest with nobody around, if the game is broadcast, but TVs are dark, does the event truly matter? Mr. Scott doesn't seem to get this point, and as a result, his product is diminishing in returns. When that happens, change is necessary. Larry Scott, in my opinion, has failed when seeing the larger picture, and therefore, is no longer the person to run this league.
As always, send me your thoughts on Twitter, @BiloFootball.