The Pac-12 Conference announced last night that they came to a mutual agreement with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott to part ways with him after June 30th, 2021. He will assist with the transition to a new commissioner. The Pac-12 has languished under Scott, falling behind other Power Five conferences in television revenue and post-season performance in the key revenue sports. The Pac-12 could not continue under Scott’s leadership if it wants to remain a power in college athletics.
2021 will be a key season for the Pac-12 with a new television rights deal needing to be negotiated. That will be priority number one for the new commissioner. There are many other things that need addressed to help the conference as well. One thing the new commissioner should consider is moving the Pac-12 offices out of San Francisco to a cheaper area. Pac-12 officiating has been a perennial issue that needs addressed (I still do not know how Scott was not immediately fired for Woody Dixon’s overrule of the targeting call in the USC-WSU game in 2018).
Scott was the highest-paid conference commissioner, so the Pac-12 theoretically has the financial means to attract a top target.
With so much at stake, the Pac-12 needs to nail this hire. Many names have been floated and many more will be. Could the Pac-12 snag another Power Five commissioner like Greg Sankey of the SEC? Sankey makes significantly less than the Pac-12 was paying Scott (Scott made $5.4 million in 2018 compared to $2.6 million for Sankey according to the Austin American-Statesman). Sankey’s work leading the SEC has been fantastic, and the Pac-12 should at least see if he is interested. It would be a coup to land him though it is probably a long shot. Another SEC name that keeps popping up is Alabama Crimson Tide athletic director Greg Byrne. Byrne has Pac-12 ties and is from the West. He graduated from Arizona State. Prior to Alabama, he served as the athletic director for the Arizona Wildcats from 2010-2017. He was also involved in the athletic departments at both Oregon and Oregon State. One other name that could be very interesting is former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice has served in multiple roles at Stanford, so she has Pac-12 ties. She is well connected throughout the political, media, and football world and is a skilled negotiator. Rice was a member of the College Football Playoff Committee from 2014-2016. Some current and former Pac-12 coaches names have also appeared as potential candidates. However, I would oppose someone whose background is purely coaching because the Pac-12 needs someone who can negotiate media deals with the TV contract coming up.
Larry Scott led the Pac-10 to the Pac-12 by securing the additions of Utah and Colorado that kicked off the conference realignment that we saw in college football in the early 2010s. He also negotiated what looked like a very good TV deal at the time. However, he could not build on his early successes and help the Pac-12 keep pace with other leagues. Getting rid of Larry Scott was the one thing all Pac-12 fans, regardless of team, could agree on. Now that it has happened, we can’t all agree to “Fire Larry Scott” but hopefully all Pac-12 fans can agree that the conference nailed the new hire and trust in a positive new director for the conference. I actually met Larry Scott once. He seemed nice enough, but he gave me a total non-answer to my question on how he planned to fix officiating. Unfortunately, he had a lot of non-answers for solutions to the Pac-12’s issues.