SBD/Issue 196/Collegiate Sports

Pac-10's Scott Still Believes Superconference Concept Will Happen

Scott Believes Superconference
Model Will Happen Soon

Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott was sold on the idea of a 16-team superconference and even though it did not take shape during the recent round of conference realignment, Scott thinks it is only a matter of time. In an interview with SportsBusiness Journal this week, Scott said he thinks the superconference model "will happen sometime." Scott: "I'm not smart enough or experienced enough in the college world to know how long it's going to take before the next wave of change, but if an idea is good enough, it's going to happen." Scott said he received extremely positive feedback from broadcasters about a model that would have split the 16 teams into two eight-team divisions. That would have allowed traditional rivalries to stay in place, while creating blockbuster games across division lines, such as USC-Texas or UCLA-Oklahoma. By adding much of the Big 12 South, it also would have put the Pac-10 in important TV markets throughout Texas, which would have been critical to the conference's plan to launch its own network. "We were on the phone with schools, TV partners, prospective partners, and the reaction was very good," Scott said. "We would have had all of the benefits of being bigger without some of the implications, the way the divisions would have been structured. It basically would have been the old Pac-8 and the Big 12 South, and that was very comfortable for a lot of people." The divisional format in football would have called for seven games within the division and two more conference games in the other division, for a total of nine league games. "Judging by the reaction we got, this was a compelling vision that would have created a lot of value," Scott said. "You would think that a model that creates value and makes sense would happen eventually."

POSSIBLE RIPPLE EFFECT: The common sentiment was that the Pac-10's expansion to 16 teams would have caused ripples across the other major conferences. The SEC, Big Ten and possibly the ACC could have expanded to 16 schools as well, creating four superconferences. That model creates the scenario for a football playoff, even within the BCS system, with the conference champions playing in a final four and the two winners playing for the title. Scott is not convinced that such changes would have followed a Pac-10 expansion to 16 teams, nor had he allowed himself to think too far out about the implications. "That was not a factor in our discussions," Scott said. "I'm not sure it would have changed anything in the football postseason. I don't necessarily believe it would have led to four superconferences. That was not a goal or an intention. We were very narrowly focused on what's best for our members."

ENHANCING MEDIA VALUE: As things stand now with the Pac-10 expanding to 12 by adding Colorado and Utah, Scott still thinks the Pac-10 has increased its media value with the addition of Denver, the No. 16 TV market, and Salt Lake City, the No. 31 market. "It's a significant enhancement to our package, given our strategy going forward," Scott said. "It allows us the possibility of a football championship, which is a real benefit with what the game can provide to the overall package. And importantly, it's two top 50 media markets. Denver and Salt Lake City fit nicely with L.A., San Francisco, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle. We've done extensive analysis and we're convinced the addition of these two schools create significant uplift." Scott also is encouraged by the potential for the Pac-10's next TV deal. The current contracts with Fox and ESPN end in '11-12. He expects the incumbents as well as Comcast/NBC and CBS/Turner to show an interest. A business plan is being prepared for a conference network as well.

SHAKE IT UP: Clearly, Scott, the former chief of the WTA, was not brought in by the Pac-10 presidents to protect the status quo. One of Scott's more aggressive moves will unfold next month when the Pac-10 will fly its football coaches to the East Coast for a round of interviews in N.Y. and Bristol, Conn. Then they will return to Pasadena to meet with the West Coast media. A new conference logo and name are in the works too. "I think people are getting a peek at the new Pac-10 and the way we're thinking," Scott said. "The presidents made the bold step to bring me in from outside college sports and they've set the overarching vision, but you'll see us playing the role of leader and being proactive in the way we're communicating and marketing the conference."

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