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Volume 25 No. 155

Colleges

Scott believes the Pac-12 should be judged a media company rather than a traditional conference
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Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott defended the conference’s spending practices, saying that the league should be "viewed as a media company and should not [be] compared to traditional major conferences," according to Adam Jude of the SEATTLE TIMES. Speaking at a news conference on Friday ahead of the Washington-Utah Pac-12 Championship, Scott said there were a "lot of mischaracterizations” in a four-part series published last week in the Portland Oregonian that detailed the culture and spending habits at Pac-12 HQ. Scott: "I know we’re challenging to follow because we’re unique as a conference ... certainly when it comes to financial results and headcount. We’re actually a media company, and the way that all gets reported is all together and that’s very hard to parse." He added, "I know it’s very hard for someone to understand what the rent costs and what the headcounts are for a media company, for ESPN, the SEC Network, for FOX and the Big Ten Network. But trying to look at the amount of square footage that we’ve got and the headcount and the rental expense compared to another conference is just not an apples-to-apples comparison." More Scott: "What I can say with absolute confidence is not only are we comparable with other conferences in terms of conference operations, but we’re very, very efficient" (SEATTLE TIMES, 12/1). Scott said he knows members of the Pac-12 are "confident, that we operate very efficiently and that we are aligned in our strategy going forward." Scott: "We know where we’re going" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 12/1). In Portland, Ken Goe wrote "kudos" to Scott for "facing the music by holding a news conference." It has to have been an "uncomfortable week for Scott" (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/2).

NEED TO INVESTIGATE? In Portland, John Canzano noted in the wake of last week's four-part series, former Utah AD Chris Hill is "publicly calling for an internal investigation into the conference's expenditures." It is a "cry for help that Hill and other Pac-12's ADs tried on more than one occasion to make directly to Scott." Hill said, "When we have an expenditure or make a hire everybody knows it. If I can't defend it, I'm in trouble. If we had an extra half a million or million dollars to spend, I'd have to defend where I spent that." Canzano cited multiple current Pac-12 ADs as saying that they are "frustrated." Canzano: "Would the Pac-12 ever sell its prized television network?" Giving up control of the network and "selling to AT&T, Verizon, Facebook or Amazon might result in a Pac-12 payday that would level the playing field." Canzano: "Is Scott willing to do a deep examination and make changes? ... Can the leader of the Pac-12 effectively reconnect himself to the core mission of the conference -- promoting its members? Or is a six-year downward slide of the Pac-12 inevitable due to simple finances?" (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/1). Meanwhile, Washington State President Kirk Schulz tweeted, "I have read all of the articles -- and I am sure most of my colleague Presidents have as well. As Presidents -- we will certainly be discussing many of these issues. However, just because we don't tweet about these conversations doesn't mean we aren't having them" (TWITTER.com, 12/1).

Some pundits were not happy with the Conference Championship being played at Levi's Stadium
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MISSED OPPORTUNITY: The OREGONIAN's Canzano wrote the Pac-12 "deserved better than what it got on Friday night" at the conference title game that saw Washington defeat Utah. The game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara should have been "held at Husky Stadium in Seattle, and the football conference failed that one." The Pac-12 "claims to be both a media company and a sports conference." But on Friday, it was "all media company." The football brand is something that could have "received a shot in the arm on Friday night." A national television audience could have "seen 70,000 Pac-12 fans, rabid, enthusiastic, and best of all, invested." Instead, it "became a running joke." Friday night "looked like the Pac-12 fans were engaged in a planned walk-out." This game "needs to find a new home" (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/1). THE ATHLETIC's Stewart Mandel asked, "How did the so-called Conference of Champions fall this far into football oblivion?" Mandel: "How did the conference’s football fans become so disenchanted with their commissioner?" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/30).

BEATING THE WRONG DRUM? Scott said four is "absolutely the right number" when asked about how many teams should be in the CFP. But SI.com's Andy Staples wrote it was the "wrong answer from Scott, whose job is to protect the Pac-12’s interests and not the bowl system’s interest." The Pac-12 has had only two teams in the CFP in its five-year existence, and no league "needs an expanded playoff with automatic bids for Power 5 champs more." The league is "behind the other four leagues financially and in terms of football relevance." Scott should be "beating the drum to find a way to ensure his league has a chance to play for the national title." If the Pac-12 keeps "missing the playoff, it may become so irrelevant in football that some schools may go looking for a league that cares about football when the current round of media rights deals expire" (SI.com, 12/2).

Sources said there are numerous boosters, employees and alums who question the direction of the department
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As the Univ. of Maryland "tries to emerge from the football controversies that have rattled the entire campus, athletic department officials face a much more daunting list of challenges," according to Maese & Stubbs of the WASHINGTON POST. Some of those issues "go back years, others left in the wake of recent bullying allegations, dual investigations and the death of 19-year-old football player Jordan McNair." The obstacles "touch virtually every piece of the department, from raising funds to selling tickets to providing a safe environment for athletes." Four years into its Big Ten tenure, UMD still is an "anomaly compared with most other conference schools." It "lacks the fan support and booster dollars that buttress other athletic departments." Its mission and self-identity "haven’t always been clearly defined, and the internal culture at times feels stolen from a soap opera script." The report from the independent commission that probed the football program following McNair's death "found fault" with the way former UMD AD Kevin Anderson worked with some employees but also "drew attention to the way" current AD Damon Evans managed to rise up the ranks. Within a couple of years, the relationship between the two "deteriorated, and Anderson began to feel that Evans was seeking to take his job." The investigative report noted that Evans' calendar "revealed 24 meetings" with UMD President Wallace Loh in '16 and '17 that Anderson was "not aware of." While many boosters had "thrown their support behind" Temple AD Patrick Kraft to land the UMD post, Loh "gave Evans the job on a permanent basis in June, 12 days after McNair died." Even now, there is "no shortage of boosters, employees and alums who question whether Evans can effectively lead the department" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/1).