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Larry Scott's bold moves unveils new Pac-10

Larry Scott
Larry Scott
Ed Andrieski, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott walked away from his failed attempt to create the nation's first super conference feeling as if he sent a message about the future of his league.

"The Pac-10 that people got to know over the last week is the new Pac-10," Scott said Wednesday in a 45-minute telephone interview with The Associated Press, his first since Texas and four other Big 12 schools turned down a chance to join his conference.

"I think you will continue to see innovative, bold steps that we take to make the Pac-10 and our schools the best they can be."

A year after Scott left his position as head of the Women's Tennis Association to become Pac-10 commissioner — a hiring that made few national headlines — he nearly changed the landscape of college sports.

"There's a reason they brought me in," he said. "There's a reason they didn't go with a traditional candidate from college sports."

Scott said he never felt he had an agreement in place with Texas that would have led to the Longhorns, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M joining the Pac-10. And he said he holds no animosity toward Texas for essentially killing the deal.

"In my experience in professional sports and college sports, nothing's ever done until it's done," Scott said.

"We developed this plan with our eyes wide open," he said. "We knew that this would be seen as a very bold stroke and there would be all kinds of reasons why it might not be possible at the end.

"I think there was a sense that this was an incredibly compelling vision and certainly created a lot of excitement among the schools that we were talking to as well as our members. And it captured a lot of other people's attention as well."

The Pac-10 did land one Big 12 school in Colorado.

"We realized that there could be all kinds of complications in terms of pulling off such a bold move," he said. "That's why we moved first on Colorado as a beach head, to put a stake in the ground to keep available other options that we're very interested in in terms of expansion that might be more modest in nature."

Scott said when the news came down that Texas and the rest were not joining the Pac-10, he called Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to congratulate him for saving his conference.

The Big 12 also lost Nebraska to the Big Ten, but will remain as a 10-team league.

Scott said he believes the expansion to 16 teams failed for three reasons.

"Number One, I think there was a tsunami of Texas political pressure from Texas A&M and Baylor," he said. "Secondly, it's clear there was a great national fear that such a compelling plan would cause dramatic domino effects nationally, with other conferences."

Lastly, Scott added he was given strict parameters to work with by Pac-10 university leaders.

"My marching orders were clear. There are essential principles and values the Pac-10 holds true to that we were not going to compromise as part of trying to get a deal done."

Scott would not elaborate, but he did say Texas would not have been allowed to start its own television network and keep all revenues from it if the Longhorns had joined the Pac-10 — which they will be allowed to do in the Big 12.

"Schools ultimately make decisions for what's best for them," Scott said.

"We presented a vision of what the future of the modern collegiate conference might look like and I was absolutely thrilled with the reception that it got and the excitement that it created nationally and it really validated that it is a compelling vision."

Scott, an All-American tennis player at Harvard, spent six years as CEO of the WTA.

He was long an advocate for merging the men's and women's tours, he helped secure an $88 million, six-year sponsorship deal Sony Ericsson for the tour and was instrumental in getting equal prize money for men and women at the sport's 10 biggest events.

But he had never worked in college sports.

He was hired to inject energy and innovation into a conference that was getting left behind by the other major players in college sports, such as the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences. The latest figures show the Pac-10 paid its members between $7-$11.5 million. The Big Ten pays all its members almost double the biggest payout in the Pac-10.

"He thinks very strategically and very smart long term and as you well know it's all going to come down to how good of a media contract he negotiates going forward in the next 18 months," Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said.

The Pac-10 is exploring the possibility of starting its own TV network, like the Big Ten has, and is hoping for a payday at least similar to the reported $1.86 billion, 12-year deal the ACC just signed with ESPN when it negotiates a new television deal next year.

Even though he couldn't pull off the Pac-16, Scott said the fact that the Pac-10 attempted to make such a power play was a positive.

"If you want to say we've swung for the fences, we're thrilled," Scott said. "This is the second inning at best. You'll start seeing this summer some of our other plans and innovations start to be unveiled.

"At the end of the day, I feel good about the process."