Everyone could see it coming, but nobody saw it happening now.
The Pac-12 is parting ways with commissioner Larry Scott, the conference announced Wednesday night. Sports Business Journal first reported the news.
Scott will remain on until June 30 to assist in the transition to the new commissioner; a national search is underway immediately. Scott's contract was set to expire next year.
“We appreciate Larry’s pioneering efforts in growing the conference by adding new competitive university programs and accelerating the Pac-12 to television network parity with the other conferences,” said Oregon president and Pac-12 executive committee chairman Michael Schill. “At one point, our television agreement was the most lucrative in the nation and the debut of the Pac-12 Network helped deliver our championship brand to US and global markets on traditional and digital platforms. That said, the intercollegiate athletics marketplace doesn’t remain static and now is a good time to bring in a new leader who will help us develop our go-forward strategy.”
Scott arrived as an outsider to college sports, working as the chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association when the Pac-12 hired him in 2009. He arrived with bold ideas, pursuing Texas, Oklahoma and others for a possible Pac-16 and pairing the move with a series of regional and national networks that would dominate the college sports landscape in the Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones.
He ended up with Colorado, Utah and an albatross around the conference's neck.
While the Big Ten partnered with Fox for BTN and the SEC and ACC would eventually go into business with ESPN for theirs, the Pac-12 wholly owned and operated its six regional and one "national" network. This meant the conference would reap all the rewards in the event the networks were picked up nationally, but also left the league exposed to all the risk in the event it did not. As we know, it did not.
The Pac-12 Networks were just a rumor for most of the public, but Scott was paid as if they were a success. He made a reported $40 million in his decade-plus running the conference; Scott made $5.4 million alone in 2018. All the while, the Pac-12 fell $250 million behind the Big Ten and $190 million behind the SEC -- in 2019 alone.
While the networks will be the first line on the obituary of Scott's commissionership, they were far from the only example of missteps and mistaken priorities under his leadership. Scott prioritized pushing the Pac-12 brand in Asia, while his conference fell into a distant fifth in America. It was on Scott's watch that the Pac-12's general counsel somehow oversaw the league's football officiating, weighing in on in-the-moment officiating decisions.
This past fall, Scott helped his conference become the first in college sports to secure a daily Covid testing agreement, and yet the Pac-12 was somehow the last to return to action.
And so it went for Scott's tenure, a 12-year run that began with a whirlwind and ended in a whimper.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.