Commissioner Scott talks Pac-12 tournament, DirecTV deal
During Arizona’s 74-69 loss to UCLA Saturday at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott met with reporters to discuss the upcoming tournament, discussions with DirecTV and the Pac-12 network, conference realignment and more.
Q: Any precautions being made with Pac-12 tournament in Vegas this year?
Larry Scott: We take security and player welfare very seriously, but keep in mind we have the experience of having a bowl game in Las Vegas. We’ve been having teams go there for some time. We have the ability to talk to the athletic directors and football coaches about the experiences and talk to the other conferences [MWC, WCC and WAC]. And, really, people have not had a problem, but obviously there will be discussions with coaches and basketball operations directors beforehand about just being smart and doing the right thing, as they should do at any city they’re in.
How are ticket sales to the tournament?
They’re doing very, very well. I saw a report earlier [last] week and I think it’s going to look terrific from the get go and I’d be disappointed if it’s not looking like a sellout for the final weekend.
Can you talk about the improved strength of Pac-12 basketball this year?
It’s kind of a night and day difference between this year and last year. At this point in time, we’ve had five wins over top-25 teams out of conference; a year ago we had none, as an example. We’ve obviously had several ranked teams during the season; Arizona has some strong wins over top-ten teams.
I think that’s what was very lacking last year. We didn’t have a lot of notable wins against teams of other conferences and therefore the stock, or the resumes, for our conference after conference was not able to improve even though teams might have been worthy.
So this year is a completely different story. I think there is a good buzz about the conference, which is a combination of better play and just more visibility.
Is there any movement on the DirecTV and Pac-12 network front?
No new news. There doesn’t seem to be traction at the moment but long term I have a lot of confidence in the product that we’re putting out there and that we’ve got over 50 distributors that are showing it, including four of the top five. It gives me a lot of confidence about the future.
Is it essential to partner with DirecTV?
(Yes) to meet our ultimate goal, which is to reach all Pac-12 fans across the country. That’s why we did this, to get maximum exposure for our programs. So yeah, I won’t be satisfied until we have every distributor taking it. But by any measure, for the first year of a network … we’ve done exceedingly well and we went into it with realistic expectations.
I think anyone who’s going to start a network has to go into it with their eyes wide open and realize you can’t count on getting all of distributors from the beginning. It just seems to be the way it works unfortunately.
Did you anticipate missing an entire football and basketball season for DirecTV customers?
We anticipated the possibility of it. But I’m delighted with the number of distributors we have and the reaction I’m getting from the fans who can see it. But I know it’s frustrating for our fans, it’s frustrating for us, and we won’t stop working until we have everyone [showing] it.
How closely do you monitor conference realignments, such as the Catholic 7 schools, even if it doesn’t have a direct impact on the Pac-12?
I follow everything major that’s happening in the industry. I’m keeping track of what’s happening there. But we’re not thinking about expansion, so I’m not following it with the intensity as when we were carefully looking at [conference expansion] and it would have mattered what the conferences were doing.
Ultimately people feel there will be another major move with the conferences. Are there any concerns of being reactive, and not proactive, to conference realignment?
That’s possible, but I don’t see anything in the foreseeable future that would make us feel that way. Because by getting to 12 teams — and we had an option to go to 14 or 16 teams and chose not to — we looked at the possibility that there will be 16 team conferences. We looked at the scenario where the SEC or Big 10 might be at 16 teams. Given that we now have a 12-year deal with ESPN and Fox, a TV network up and running successfully, and we just did deals around a college football playoff for 12-years, a format that puts us right among the top echelon, there’s nothing I can tell about other conferences expanding that would put us at any type of disadvantage or business disadvantage at the moment.
Things could change, but I’ve looked at it pretty carefully and anticipated some different scenarios and I don’t see anything that would make us seem inferior. Frankly, we’re at the top of the pyramid right now in terms of what we’ve done over the past couple of years.