On the heels of news that its media networks are underperforming and its member payouts are sinking to the bottom of the Power Five, comes another financial question mark for the Pac-12 Conference. Why is commissioner Larry Scott staying in a $7,500-per-night luxury suite this week during the Pac-12 men's basketball tournament in Las Vegas?
According to The Oregonian, the ARIA Resort & Casino "comped" use of the 3,370-square-foot, two-level Sky Suites Villa featuring 24-hour butler service in recognition of the Pac-12's choice of Las Vegas as this year's tournament site. But the commissioner living large for four days is not likely to sit well with conference athletic directors, who have been questioning the league's finances — including Scott's salary and the annual rent on Pac-12 headquarters — for years.
"The optics of Scott’s choice for a suite this week in Las Vegas are awful, no matter the cost," writes The Oregonian's John Canzano. "Good leadership just wouldn't stay in that suite, even at a heavily discounted nightly rate. Soaking in a marble tub while the rest of the conference staffers and teams are slumming it across the street isn't a move that screams cohesion."
As reported by Yahoo Sports, Scott's annual salary of $4.8 million tops the combined compensation of his Big Ten and Southeastern Conference counterparts, and the Pac-12 pays $6.9 million annually for its offices in San Francisco. Yet, the Pac-12 consistently distributes revenue to its member schools that ranks near the bottom of Power Five conferences. According to USA Today sports projects reporter Steve Berkowitz, the $3.9 million doled out per school by the Pac-12 for fiscal year 2017 barely exceeded the Atlantic Coast Conference's $3.7 million, while SEC members got as much as $42 million. SBNation reports that for FY2018, Big Ten member Michigan stands to become the first among Power Five schools to crack $50 million in conference revenue.
Pac-12 athletic directors, dissatisfied with revenue distribution, have asked to review the league's finances, only to be told by Scott that they don't have the authority — that only presidents and chancellors can request such information, according to The Oregonian. Five years ago, when Utah AD Chris Hill asked about conference finances, he was reportedly told by Scott, "You're lucky for what you got."
Pac-12 athletic directors, presidents and chancellors will join Scott at a conference meeting Saturday at ARIA.
Much has changed since ADs last met with Scott in October. Regarding that "intense" gathering, Jon Wilner wrote Tuesday for The Mercury News in San Jose, Calif., "Frustration with unmet revenue projections, frustration with the sagging Pac-12 Networks, with misguided messaging and exorbitant spending and, above all, frustration with their lack of influence in setting conference policy and direction — with feeling like second-class citizens in their own conference."
"Over the past four months, the Pac-12 has undergone a mammoth change in how it operates," Wilner continued. "In the new world order, the athletic directors are setting the direction for the conference with the help of the Pac-12 staff and the blessing of the Pac-12 chancellors and presidents.
"From bad has come good."