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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star Dec 2, 2018
Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)
At the Pac-12 championship football game Friday, commissioner Larry Scott told reporters the league "should be viewed as a media company and not compared to traditional major conferences."
Regrettably, it's almost as if there's nothing collegial about college sports any more.
Upon reading an Oregon newspaper's provocative four-part series on the lavish spending and dictatorial behavior of Scott, it became clear the Pac-12 has become Moneyball, a game of excess.
Scott has seized so much power that he has blown up what used to be a chummy model that generated goodwill and lifetime relationships.
The Oregonian's John Canzano reported the Pac-12 spends $6.9 million per year to rent a lavish downtown San Francisco space; by comparison, the SEC pays $318,000 in rent for its Birmingham, Alabama, offices.
Canzano described how the Pac-12 high command spent $3.1 million in expenses last year. The Big Ten spent $542,000. He quoted former Washington State athletic director Bill Moos saying "Larry likes extravagance; he runs the Pac-12 like the commissioner of Major League Baseball."
Canzano reported that at a financial discussion with Pac-12 athletic directors in 2014, Scott interrupted a dialogue with former Utah athletic director Chris Hill and told him and the other ADs that "you're lucky for what you get."
Predictably, Scott was greeted by a cascade of boos when presented the Pac-12 championship trophy to Washington football coach Chris Petersen on Friday night. And the happy Huskies fans had just watched their team win a berth in the Rose Bowl.
Is that what the presidents and chancellors of the Pac-12 really want? For its commissioner to be a bigger story than the year's most meaningful football game? For a commissioner to have a reputation as the most disliked person in the league?
Scott travels by private jet, with a driver, flanked by PR people, driven by an ego that surely leads the NCAA in "look how smart I am" chatter.
Here's an example of the excess: Scott created a "Pacific Rim initiative" in which he sends a Pac-12 basketball team to China each November, disrupting their preparation for the regular season.
So far, Arizona has resisted Scott's "invitation."
Maybe that game would work in August or September, but few coaches want to spend a week traveling in November. It is difficult to find a nonconference team willing to play in that game. But the game goes on, even without a nonconference foe.
Scott has ordered Arizona State to play Colorado in China in 2019. What a waste of time and money.
Scott is paid $4.8 million per year compared to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey's $1.9 million. He has a contract that runs through 2022. It doesn't seem likely his bosses - the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors who sanction this excess - will interrupt their day-to-day academic affairs to figure out a way to pay Scott more than $20 million to go away.
How times have changed.
In 2010, longtime Western Athletic Conference commissioner Joe Kearney was dying of cancer. Kearney moved to Tucson in 1994 after serving 14 years atop the WAC.
I met Kearney for lunch one day and as we were talking, he got a call from former BYU athletic director Glen Tuckett, who had just learned of Kearney's illness.
"Glen is flying to Tucson tomorrow to spend a few days with me," Kearney said, his voice cracking. "We have such a strong friendship."
Imagine something like that happening with the current commissioner and a Pac-12 AD of 2018. No way.
Either way, the league needs to restore its image. As Canzano wrote at the conclusion of his four-part series "the erosion of the Pac-12 brand - and trust - are at a breaking point."
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