Scott is the Real Deal


GUEST POST: By Sam Christensen aka @Sarkisianity

I’ll be honest, when Larry Scott was announced as the new Pac-10 commissioner in 2009, I was skeptical. Scott came to the conference after six years as CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association. On the surface those credentials didn’t exactly scream elite college athletics, however a little more investigation would’ve made his performance since then much less surprising. As WTA CEO, Scott increased total revenue by 250%, a feat he has recently put to shame by negotiating the most lucrative television deal in college sports.

The new deal for the Pac-12 conference (another of Scott’s creations) will begin with the 2012-2013 season. It comes on the heels of Big Ten Conference creating their own network in 2007 and negotiating a ten year, $1 billion dollar deal with ESPN. The Big Ten wasn’t alone, as the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 all finalized new contract agreements in the past few years. Clearly, the Pac-10 had to play catch up; and with the conference expanding to twelve teams, the timing was perfect. Scott not only caught the Pac-12 up to other major conferences, he passed them and set the standard for future TV deals.

The agreement pays the conference $3 billion over twelve years, or $250 million annually. Twelve years is a long time to be sure, but make no mistake, this is a home run for Scott. The deal will pay out approximately $21 million to each school every year. This is a monstrous increase from the current television contracts, also with ESPN and Fox, which only paid the conference about $45 million annually. In fact, all the media rights from the 2010 football season brought in just under $60 million.

To put this money in perspective, I’ve listed the money brought in by other major conferences’ most recent television contracts:

Pac-12: $250 million annually
Big Ten: $220 million
SEC: $205 million
ACC: $155 million
Big 12: $130 million

The deal splits television rights between two primary holders (Fox and ESPN) and their respective network families. This is good because it gives the conference a variety of outlets to air games on both network and basic cable channels. This should be especially welcome news for basketball fans still angry over several UW games not being televised this past season. No offense to Stanford student radio, but I’ll be much happier watching future visits to Maples Pavilion on television.

In addition the conference owns all rights and privileges to create a conference network sometime in the future. This is the primary distinction between the Pac-12 and Big Ten deals. Under the Big Ten deal, Fox owns 49% of the Big Ten channel. Unlike that deal, Scott retained complete ownership of the future Pac-12 network and announced plans to create a Pac-12 digital channel, similar to ESPN3.

It’s easy to say that Larry Scott has proved his worth as Pac-12 commissioner. Some may have grumbled when his vision of a Pac-16 super conference fell through last year and instead of bringing the likes of Texas and Oklahoma into the fold, we added Colorado and Utah. However, I think the new television deal should silence much of that skepticism, including my own. Though the duration of the contract may be a bit concerning, Scott’s ability to not only negotiate a record setting contract, but do so while retaining full control over a conference network goes a long way towards alleviating those concerns.

Aside from the obvious financial benefits, this contract raises the national profile and exposure of the conference. If this is the kind of result we can expect from those formerly associated with the WTA, then I’d like to be first to submit the Williams sisters as co-commissioner candidates once Larry Scott retires.