Opinion: Problems Lurk for Pac-12, Commissioner

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Copyright 2018 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)



Want another piece of evidence times have changed (as they always do)? One of my friends used to have a toy, a blow-up, hard-rubber clown that was weighted at the bottom. No matter how hard you slugged it, it bounced back. And always did. I thought about it Wednesday morning when reading about Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

I guess the toy's existence doesn't prove anything about the changing times. Believe it or not, it is still available for purchase. Who would have thought? I guess, in a way, it is even more applicable as a metaphor for Scott's recent tenure.

Who would have thought he would still be there, smiling, taking punches and bouncing back? After all, some of the recent blows would be enough to deflate most careers.

Wednesday night, the conference sent out a press release saying, in part, the Pac-12's athletic directors were endorsing recent changes in the replay system. You think? The group, meeting this week, agreed with Scott that changes had to be made. And that certain, unnamed, conference officials, were to be reprimanded. (Contrast this with the public nature the conference used during the day to reprimand and fine Arizona State defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales for his comments after the Sun Devils loss to Stanford.)

The litany of problems in the league office has grown recently, with the impetus supplied by controversy over a couple of replay calls - or noncalls - in USC's 39-36 win over Washington State.

But the recent kerfuffles are just the tip of a huge iceberg - in more ways than one.

The core of the problems was frozen in place long ago, from a TV contract that looked good at first but, over the years, turned out to be inadequate. OK, that's putting in mildly, isn't it, those of you who love your DirecTV? There have been other issues over the years issuing from Scott's domain, from a bounty put on a basketball coach to the proliferation of late-night football games. In a vacuum, none of the problems is enough to cause lasting damage to the commissioner, but add them up and it starts to chip away at his ability to lead.

Nothing illustrates that as to documents related to the replay incidents this season. Someone, probably connected in some way to the conference office, leaked a proprietary report from the game to Yahoo. That began the firestorm. And then, when Scott was making the rounds explaining the fixes he was implementing, another document was leaked to The Oregonian's John Cazano, making Scott look ill-informed - at best.

It's almost as if there is a cabal trying to push Scott out the door.

None of this is new, either. Such things happen all the time in all major corporations. It's just that most of us don't care about the behind-the-scene machinations at Kimberley-Clark or Charmin. All we want them to do is produce high-quality toilet paper.

And all most sports fans want out of their favorite Pac-12 school is it produces successful football and basketball programs. That hasn't happened, on a national scale, all that often under Scott's watch, either. It's not entirely his fault, certainly. There are a lot of reasons why the Pac-12 probably won't have a team in the football playoffs again this season or the basketball showing in the NCAA Tournament will be lackluster as it has been the past few years.

But the buck finds its way to his desk - literally, when you realize he made almost $5 million last year - as does the criticism.

Sooner or later, it will end up being too much. And change will happen. After all, after all the hits it absorbed, even the painted-on smile wore off the clown's face back in the day.

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October 26, 2018


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