Pac-12: The Conference of Champions Goes Coast to Coast

Kristian SiutaCorrespondent IIMay 5, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 12:  Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott addresses the crowd after the championship game of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament between the Arizona Wildcats and the Washington Huskies at Staples Center on March 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

To say that the Pac-10 has transformed under commissioner Larry Scott’s tenure would be an immense understatement. Commanding the post at the “Conference of Champions” for merely 18 months, Scott has performed the ultimate makeover.

A new, progressive logo ushered in a new era for the conference, as expansion talks grabbed headlines last spring. Colorado and Utah joined the new Pac-12, as Texas and Oklahoma opted to remain in the Big 12—now with only 10 teams.

Colorado and Utah do not carry the same cache as the Longhorns and Sooners, but Scott attracted the 17th- and 32nd-largest media markets to his newly expanded conference.

With the additions of the Denver and Salt Lake City media markets, the Pac-12 has 10 schools represented in the top 32 largest media markets in the nation.

Although Tucson, AZ and Pullman, WA, are not in the top 50, both the relatively close Phoenix and Seattle-Tacoma, WA, markets rank 12th and 13th, respectively.

With more viewers being exposed to Larry Scott’s product, a new outlet was necessary.

The days of searching endlessly for your favorite school or much of the Pac-10’s athletic content are over, and never to be experienced again. 

As the Pac-10 tallied up championships on multiple playing surfaces, their product has been greatly undervalued in the past.

It was a rare occurrence to see a Pac-10 game on ESPN until just recently. The days of Fox Sports regional coverage are a thing of the past.

Incredibly, after all of the decisions, advancements and expansion into the new Pac-12, Scott might have reeled in the largest trophy fish of any commissioner in college athletics.

Although a statement of great magnitude such as that needs sufficient evidence.

However, the details of the Pac-12 Conference’s media contract are nearly unbelievable. 

Commissioner Scott partnered with media kingpins ESPN/Disney and Fox to cut a deal worth $3 billion over 12 years, according to the New York Times, eclipsing previously deals with the Southeastern Conference ($2.25 billion) and Big Ten ($2.8 billion).

Within moments of the announcement, athletic department officials erupted into unbridled jubilation. Champions were not crowned, but the playing field leveled out.

As the ink dries on this lucrative deal with ESPN and Fox, beginning in 2012 the Pac-12 will no longer unevenly split the $45 million revenue under the previous TV deal in the Pac-10, with the two Los Angeles schools receiving a heavy helping of the pie. 

Now, it appears each school will get its slice of the pie, worth roughly $21 million annually.

It is pretty easy to understand why school officials are toasting the commish: New deal, larger audience, new Pac-12 Network set to launch in August of 2012 and all the dollar signs.

Although the theory of “extra money” has been thrown around, many of the schools not named USC or Oregon are “financially challenged” and operating in the red. 

Once the clock starts ticking on this deal, many departments will have their own expansion plans in place on campus. This money will affect both revenue-generating sports and the Olympic sports.

Facilities across the conference will undergo face lifts and renovations and catch up to the state-of-the-art athletic facilities in SEC and Big Ten. 

Expansion for the conference has been covered nationally, and now fans will be able to watch the Pac-12 Conference on network television across the entire country.

No longer will a historic Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State be viewed by the few thousand in attendance, even if their records are a combined 1-21.

Alumni across the country can take comfort in a commissioner who signs a multi-billion dollar, multi-year contract for the betterment of the sport. 

Larry Scott thought of the universities, their fans and the best interest of the game while making these ever-changing progressive decisions.